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In Finland, radical transparency is making waves in the clothing industry. With their seasonless style and Nordic grace, as a new brand in the market, iluut aspires to make ethical design more accessible to all customers. Who would deny introducing a pinch of minimal elegance into their wardrobe? iluut is comprised of a female trio, with their feminine enigma focused on building awareness of affordable slow fashion. Having just launched their web shop in early 2017, we wanted to know more about their journey towards the brave way of entering ethical fashion industry.
Describe iluut's debut collection in 3 words.
Timeless, traceable and affordable.
What are the attitudes circulating about sustainable fashion in Finland?
The Finns are paying more and more attention to making sustainable purchases, especially people living in major cities today show interest in buying clothes from smaller sustainable brands. However, iluut aims to expand further in Europe, and it’s great witnessing sustainable supply increase; there is something for everyone nowadays. We also think we have a great duty of educating people and building awareness of the difference between fast and sustainable fashion. We can’t wait for the day when sustainable brands really make a breakthrough and get a bigger market share. We are working hard for that.
What are the main complications you've faced when setting up iluut?
At the very beginning, it was very surprising how difficult it was to find high quality, sustainable woven fabrics that have been made in Europe. We wanted to find fabrics that are fully traceable; meaning they come to us directly from the farm. We truly appreciate full transparency, because we believe it could decrease fashion’s biggest ethical and environmental problems, such as use of child labour, unsecured working conditions, dangerous chemicals and industrial pollution. In summer 2016, we made a European tour and visited a family-owned Italian fabric manufacturer, Albini. We are proud to say that our customers have so far been very happy with the quality of iluut clothes. Currently we are looking for new sustainable fabric options for the dresses we are developing.
What are the benefits of a minimal capsule wardrobe?
Minimal style looks fresh from year to year, and it’s very easy to combine. That means you don’t need so many garments, because with less pieces you can create many different kinds of looks that last throughout the years. It cannot be a conscious choice to produce something that people won’t wear anymore in a couple of seasons, and that will turn into more waste.
Who and what were the main influencers and influences iluut took note of since its inception?
Our whole team of three ambitious women loves fashion, but thinks that making beautiful things shouldn’t harm people. Last summer, we were fortunate to meet a pioneer designer in sustainable fashion, Marina Spadafora. She has been designing for high-end Italian brands, such as Prada and Miu Miu, before deciding to become a sustainable fashion advocate and a part of the Advisory Committee of the Fashion Revolution global movement; always including a strong social and environmental focus on her work. We take inspiration from people like Marina; people who have started doing things differently to really make a change.
How does iluut differ from many other Scandinavian brands trying to conquer the ethical fashion market?
There are only very few fashion brands that open the whole process of each garment: where the clothes were made and who actually made them. This is something iluut focuses strongly on, and we encourage others to do the same. We have also recently started designing two Spring/Summer dresses together with our Instagram and Facebook followers. We believe people will appreciate the clothes even more, if they can contribute to the process. Our aim is to be an open and collaborative brand that brings joy and value to its end customers.
Choosing an angle to improve social or economic conditions in Third World is widely cherished by brands to make a change in the fashion industry. What's your social mission?
At iluut, we want to work with companies that care about their workers and are willing to invest in them more than just on an average, distant level. For example, when we were looking for an atelier, we were convinced of our choice after finding an Estonian atelier with seven seamstresses, who are paid 40% more than the average workers in the industry. We started working on iluut aside of our daily jobs, and our margins are still low because our mission is to offer affordable sustainable clothes for everyone. How to make our mission happen? We need to rise the volumes and we just took the first steps towards that by opening our web shop, iluut.com. You are warmly welcome to have a look and make sustainable purchases.
What's the best season to be seen in your garments?
Fashion world rotates on the basis of seasons. That’s something we’re thinking differently: surely we’ll have clothes for different times of the year, but we don’t offer seasonal collections arriving two times a year. On the flip side, fast fashion brings new clothes to the market every week, which means compromising the quality and generating a huge amount of waste - both because the garments are not durable and get thrown away, and also because of the unsold stock left in stores. To improve the cycle, our goal is to bring something new to the market only once in around a month’s time, without compromising quality or workers’ conditions. Also, making clothes with a slower approach and seeing what sells and producing according to demand, allows us to avoid producing waste.
What do industrial felt and fashion have in common? A beautiful harmony of effortless and durable design, as honoured by miDeer. Estonian slow fashion brand miDeer creates Nordic-style bags and accessories for every occasion. Their sleek designs are loved by men and women alike, serving as a seasonless and functional must-have for any urban fashion-lover. What’s it like in the world of miDeer?, we asked.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
How did the journey of miDeer begin?
miDeer stems from our goal to pay homage to Scandinavian simplicity and elegance. We make modern Nordic accessories, interior design elements and have also introduced a line for children. What first started as a hobby of designing meaningful items for personal use, quickly grew into an independent brand — a brand living its own rhythm and life. The whole process has been thrilling for us — a real dream come true! We were thrilled by the idea of curating our own designer label and sparking conversation through what we do. Aesthetics-wise, we’ve always been enchanted by the power of simplicity. The pure lines, clear contours… that’s why minimalism and functionality go hand-in-hand throughout our miDeer line.
The term ‘sustainable’ in design can be confusing. What’s your take on sustainable design?
For us at miDeer, practical, timeless, and slow fashion is super important. With this attitude and the aesthetics, we try to promote buying less, but good quality items that will last you ages. Our minimalist style enables our customer to mix and match with a variety of other styles as well.
How have you incorporated environmentally conscious principles into your work?
All miDeer products are hand-made in Estonia. It isn’t and will never be a mass-produced brand. We value collaborating with local artisans in our design process and embrace the tiny quirks of each single item. Secondly, we always pay attention to where our materials come from. Right now, we use excess pieces from a felt factory. This way we can reduce the amount of industrial material that ends up in the environment — by giving new life to the discarded leftovers. What makes our production unique is that we do not mass produce, but make just enough, so that we get to further reuse the materials by creating fashionable accessories. If we think about the future, then the miDeer’s shopping bags, in particular, can effectively replace plastic equivalents in a stylish manner.
How did you come up with such interesting name, miDeer?
We wanted to create something Nordic and minimalist, inspired by the Northern cold climate and the power of nature. To be honest, the logo came before the name. The deer’s horns are majestic, yet strong and powerful — perfect depiction of a unisex Nordic brand. Our name quite directly comes from ‘deer’. It’s something precious and unobtainable in nature, but you can grasp an equivalent feel via our products.
Unisex looks, felt and paper meet in your design. How did you decide to go down the route of such eclectic mix?
The main source of inspiration for the brand is felt, which already speaks to both men and women. A unisex-look wasn’t our goal on it’s own, it just accidentally turned out that way — our first [laptop] bag appealed to both [men and women alike], and then it clicked for us. Nowadays minimalism and unisex design are often seen side by side. The soft texture, yet stiff form of industrial felt make our products durable and help keep their shape. We felt that unisex was written in between the lines, as felt has both feminine and masculine qualities. We like to think that miDeer wearers are free-spirited, brave, fashion-forward people, regardless their age or gender.
What can we look forward to in 2017?
This year we will definitely focus more on fashion and accessories. miDeer will be creating new designs for people who lead an active lifestyle, yet value comfort. So there are great things coming up for the active urban dweller.
Despite being a small company, we want to become a player on the international arena. Clients in Berlin, London and Vilnius have shown keen interest, and we cannot wait to make our products more accessible all over Europe. We have a few exciting surprises in store, so stay in tuned and keep an eye on our website!
Looking for something to light up your interior design dreams? Something timeless, yet modern? Something bold, yet subtle? Estonia-based HIIS Design furniture stunned us with their effortlessly elegant design furniture made sustainably, with a dash of care and love. To shed light on HIIS Design’s innovative creations, young furniture maker Tõnis-Sander Maarits opened us a door to his creative workshop...
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
What’s your personal take on furniture? What makes a piece of furniture excellent?
The attractive outline, not only at the shop or in pictures, but in the interior where it’s used. Comfort and simplicity, while having down-to-the-tiny-detail design and quality combined, make a piece of furniture a great one. Something made from heart is not just another piece of furniture, but creates an exquisite experience in a room. Take a table, for example – it’s not just some thing to sit and dine at, but it creates a heartwarming shared experience with your friends and family. Good design can help enhance that feeling.
How does HIIS Design apply ethical practises in your workshop? What’s particularly important for you?
The most important thing in furniture manufacturing is that quality and timeless design [are there]. When a design piece lasts you ages, fitting in with the old and the new, it becomes an environmentally sustainable piece. HIIS Design is for someone who values quality and wants an enduring piece of furniture to bring into their interior that lasts for years. We aim to create furniture that can be the anchor-point in a room, around which you can design everything else.
As wood production can be harmful for our environment, we make sure to use FSC certified wood as our resource. For Hiis Design, it’s of high importance we use consciously produced wood to ensure forests lasts for future generations. That also reflects in our name (’hiis’ in Estonian translates to ’ancient grove’).
Is there a personal story… how did HIIS Design come to be?
As a young boy, I used to make ships and other toys in my father’s wood workshop, hammer and chisel in hand. When I was 13, we moved to a new house and I didn’t have any furniture in my new room. That’s when I decided to design and make my own furniture. I made a pretty good bed, which gave me more drive to build other things, like a closet. Every summer I used to earn pocket money from furniture making and restoration. At first, in 2013, fresh out of university, I started my own custom-made furniture workshop, but I always felt like it was not enough for me to build things designed by other people. I began to experiment more with my own designs and one thing led to another, as they say. In spring 2016, HIIS Design was brought to life.
With regards to environmental protection, how do you imagine the future of furniture design?
Endurance is what makes furniture environmentally friendly. An oak table will last generations, unlike a cheap mass produced equivalent from melamine. A toxin-rich piece of furniture will last 10 years at most. But an oak table will last you until a new, baby-oak is growing, reducing environmental damage. More materials will be used, of course, and a lot of new solutions to battle space deficiency. However, we must not undermine natural materials and living in harmony with nature. I find that people are starting to value earthiness and natural things even more [in furniture design]. Families with kids, especially, want to be able to make more sustainable choices when choosing products for their homes.
If your brand has a soundtrack, then what would it be like and why?
The first song that popped up in my head was ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC. Probably because I often listen to that song, when I start my day at the workshop. It creates a nice energy and gets you going for the day. But that’s only a small part of our brand. HIIS Design’s soundtrack would be ‘Spiegel im spiegel’ by Arvo Pärt (Grammy-winning Estonian composer), because when I listen to that piece I find myself in a powerful state of creativity. As the title suggests, a mirror against a mirror reflects into infinity, the same way inspiration has no boundaries.
Where do you draw inspiration from for new pieces?
Inspiration can strike at any moment, which is why I always carry a notebook along. Even a quick sketch right there in the moment can be a life-saver of a striking flash-idea. I feel like inspiration is deep inside of us, piling up in our sub-conscience since childhood, and is often brought onto the surface again by some small trigger in our adulthood. It’s important to capture those moments and know how to fuel them. I like to get my creativity flowing by going through old books, magazines and websites. Other times, I draw inspiration when watching a movie or a TV show – like Mad Men, where the 60s American-style surroundings can fire up some great memories.
I have a winning Christmas mantra this year that goes, “I refuse to stress”. There are many reasons for stress during the holiday season, and I believe that without kids, I am spared of most of them.
Hi, My name is Johanne, and I refuse to stress. I also run a blog focused on sustainable fashion called www.bedremode.nu, and I am happy to share my thoughts on traditions and presents.
But the biggest stress factor for me I believe — like for many others — are my own expectations. Expectations taking the shape of homemade Christmas cookies, a clean and well-decorated house, the perfect gift for grandma and attending fabulous Christmas parties.
So this year I said ‘no’ to the alarming voice in my head, and decided only to participate in the traditions that bring me the most joy with a stress-free mindset. Totally Mari Kondo and all.
My Most Loved Scandinavian Christmas Traditions:
Get Creative with Stylish and Conscious Presents
When it comes to presents, I like giving a mix of practical and stylish. I have picked some of my favourite conscious presents this year.
Soy candles are much better for your home’s air quality, so stacking up on them for you and your loved ones can make a better, cleaner and more cosy Christmas. Since I switched I haven’t looked back. http://webshop.mirins.dk/collections/candles/products/soy-candle-recharge-lemon-ginger-lemongrass
Luxurious socks are great for people who don’t want anything. I don’t believe many people would buy expensive socks for themselves, but once they try these, they might become addicted. So be aware. https://www.aiayu.com/collection/accessories/aiayu-friends-single-pack.html
Yoga pants in organic cotton for the sister or friend, who is always on the move. These from Danish The Baand are made from soft pima cotton, and look good for both workout and relaxing. http://www.thebaand.dk/collections/yoga/products/melissa-rib-leggings
Window farm starter kit for the garden lovers who live in the city. The Urban Garden Company have made starter boxes with organic seeds which makes getting your green thumb on so easy, it’s hard not to want to start growing. http://urbangardencompany.dk/collections/startboxe/products/basis-startbox
Recycled beanie. If I was gifting a guy this season, I would get this hat from Swedish brand Nudie Jeans — they have been sustainability forerunners for years, and I love how they are turning cotton waste into great hats. https://www.nudiejeans.com/product/nicholson-recycled-beanie-blackmelange
Supermood is a holistic natural beauty brand from Finland, founded by Anne and Joni Kukkohovi, a charismatic duo and life partners. Both have background working in advertising and were settled in the bustling media industry until a few years back, when Anne, a former model and current TV host, was bidding adieu to her rewarding career, to set a base for something more close to heart — beauty with holistic approach.
Anne’s Nordic, but uncharacteristically lively character is a measured yin to Joni’s soft-spoken, calculated yang, whereas the couple is a living proof to the statement 'team work makes the dream work'. The duo essentially represents the core values of its brand — as I should know first-hand, being Scandinavian calls for a reserved, demure nature, which they bring to the table with an unusual, whimsical twist.
I shared a friendly coffee and a chat with the couple at Maison Assouline, my favourite secret hideaway in London, and explored the way they think — although the duo still adamantly insists I avoid the O-word — organic beauty and its role in the cosmetics industry today…
Anne (A), what’s your personal relationship with the beauty industry?
I’ve been breathing fashion and beauty since I was a teenager. First time, I was 12 and I saw ELLE magazine, that’s where it hit me. For years, I was a well-know model in Finland, and then I got into the advertising business. I have also been working as a TV host for many famous shows, such as ‘Finland’s Next Top Model’, and I’ve been an ambassador for different beauty brands before. Supermood is where everything combines — the communication, art direction, and my passion for beauty. I always knew I wanted to have my own brand at some point.
Joni (J), what does your role as a Marketing Director at Supermood incorporate?
First of all, we are married, so it’s a family affair! We both have a background in advertising and we also met through the industry. Then, we worked at the same agency for a while, which wasn’t such a great idea. Soon after, Anne decided to go for the entrepreneur route. She is taking care of the product concepts and the vision of the brand, and understanding of what sort of beauty trends there are, and how to approach it. Therefore, my job is to interpret her vision and then execute, so I am in charge of the branding and marketing, but I still do work as a ECD (Executive Creative Director) at an advertising agency.
You started in 2014 from scratch.
Both nod in agreement.
J: I think one of the things that really helped is our agency background in advertising. You’re used to story-telling, you have an idea [of what you want to produce], and then you just have to find the right people, brief them and direct the final outcome.
How does the whole process work with product concepts?
J: Firstly, Anne briefs the chemist at the factory, with some references and desired ingredients. Then what follows is that our chemists make samples and she gives feedback — this is too rich, too heavy, too intense, and so forth and so forth. The testing and trial-and-error lasts 4-6 rounds, until you find that product you’ve imagined.
A: For me it is important that they understand, how I want the products to feel, what are the ingredients, expected texture, and time it takes to show effects. They also ask, if we want to have a long INCI (ingredient) list. Of course not, because the cosmetics we are doing are very pure and transparent, so we try to avoid anything extra.
The direction you have chosen with Supermood is (excuse me for the categorisation) organic or green beauty. How does it resonate with our cultural climate and the current beauty industry trends?
A: This is the present and future already ingrained in any other field, it’s in cars, in textiles, in design— it’s everywhere — so I don’t even emphasise the green aspect so much.
J: People often ask, what’s the one thing that sets us apart, but it’s never just that, it’s more about our approach to beauty. It’s not about some compound or secret ingredient. We wanted to build a brand for women who love prestige brands, and are accustomed to using premium luxury brands, but are conscious about green beauty and also the fact that most of the established beauty brands are synthetic.
A: Unfortunately, there was not any kind of alternative for these women at the time, because most of the green beauty looks to be kind of home-made to an extent.
How do you see the industry change in the future?
J: We feel that in 10 years, it’s not about green beauty, it’s about just beauty. We have to be something else as a brand, not just organic beauty.
A: The way we see it, in 10 years, all production will have a greener approach and a more conscious impact. What we do emphasise on, is the holistic approach.
Could you elaborate on the concept of ‘holistic beauty’?
A: Holistic beauty means that you have edible things, then we have a range of ‘therapeutic’ products, we aim to bring together a ‘holistic triangle’ of beauty, so it’s not merely one-dimensional. The world around us inspired us for such approach — you see people and they want to eat well and they want to take care of themselves in a 360-degree way.
J: In the beginning it is about your skincare — what kind of things you put on your skin, whether it is artificial or organic, what gets into your system. That’s one part. Then it is about the edibles, what you put into your body as nutrition. Then the last part is, how do you sleep, how do you give your body time to recover.
So that’s the holistic, conceptual approach. I saw a pillow in your range and then the moist for it…what’s the beauty pillow about?
A, J: This is also a part of the therapeutic aspect of the ‘holy triangle of beauty’, which comes with a scent for the pillow or bed linen.
A: Coming up with product concepts doesn’t need to be always led by one way of thinking — calming herbs and florals, they have been used for years and years, but you wouldn’t think of featuring a pillow in a beauty range.
What inspired you?
A: The idea came, when we were once staying at a hotel with huge and, by what they looked like, comfortable pillows, but when I woke up, I had deep ‘pillow lines’ (Anne illustrates theatrically, with bold gestures) all over my face. So the pillow I invented helps to avoid those lines and doesn’t give you any puffiness at all. When you think about it, you spend one third of your life in bed, so it is crucial to have special beauty equipment for bedtime.
J: We got the idea when we read about this surgeon, who developed a pillow for post-surgery patients. Obviously when you’ve had something done, you cannot sleep on a regular pillow, because otherwise your face will become disfigured. He had designed this kind of pillow that distributes the pressure differently; it doesn’t impact on your face, or leave any lines on your face, as it does with your regular pillow. It was based on a study about how blood circulation goes into your face.
Who is the buyer the pillow is meant for?
A: These niche items are for ‘beautyholics’, like me. I can make out the kind of people by looking in their eyes, sometimes they just grab the pillow and they don’t even talk to me, and then the others ask, ‘Why would you do this?’, and I would think, maybe it’s not exactly for you.
Who is that person who lives and breathes Supermood?
A: It is somebody who is in the radar of the new things, takes care of themselves; someone who is conscious about the natural environment and wants to do something about it, but also wants to look good and wants to look fashionable at the same time. I call it like the ‘W Hotel and Wholefoods person, or Net-A-Porter user, so this person is present all over the world. It’s not about age. It’s not about what ethnicity you represent. It’s not about where you live. It’s more about the way you think about things.
When it comes to working with your partner… do you experience any creative clashes at all?
A: It hasn’t always been easy, to be honest. But I think the vision we have is the same. We are a young brand, so it always comes down to those big decisions and projects. But vision-wise we don’t have so many differences —
J: Artistic differences!
A: But it’s more about, how to use time more efficiently and find the right deals.
J: We are both hands-on engaged in our other projects, like TV and advertising, so time is our biggest challenge. When we do have a lot on the table, we always consider all the options and priorities. Often Anne says adamantly, ‘this is more important, and we have to go forward with it!’. They’re not exactly arguments, but a way of making out what’s actually important.
And what saves you in those moments?
A: We are really passionate about the whole thing.
Meanwhile Anne tells a story about presenting to a bunch of male investors in a fancy, formal setting, whereas Anne, keeping her enthusiastic spirit, had invested a great deal of inner passion in storytelling. The reaction was the men going, ‘It’s just a beauty brand. Why are you so passionate about it?’, whilst Anne lost her temper explaining the passion comes from the fact that it’s her vision, and she has invested a lot of time and energy in it, ‘Of course I am passionate about it,’ Anne tells full of spark.
What brought you to London?
A: We are going to have a Space N K launch in December, which will be our biggest UK distributor. It’s a huge thing for us, as you have all the best boutique brands in there, so we are exploring the possibilities of publicising the launch and PR with them.
J: Other markets that we’ve been working with so far have had an incredible response. We are hoping that UK follows the same route, because it is such a big and important market. It is a priority for us to break through here.
Anne boasts such a radiant, youthful glow that I unapologetically turn to her, asking whether she uses her own products. Her confident smile reveals there shouldn’t be a degree of doubt.
What’s the absolute must-have product from your range?
A: 1-minute facelift. It’s one of our key products, although we think that there is no one main product on the importance scale. It does exactly what it says effectively — it really tightens your face and skin up. We also sell it in the States.
J: It’s the most effective sculpting and lifting serum, which also happens to be everyone’s favourite.
A: We also have an eye serum, ‘Eyes Wide Open’. [To illustrate its effectiveness], first showing it to Joni, I put it on one eye and I said, ’compare it to my other eye’, — he is really suspicious about everything — and he said: ‘It’s really bigger than the other one!’. So it is very effective. For that we used a local Finnish ingredient called Chaga [immune-boosting medicinal mushroom]. That’s one of the main ingredients we use.
J: We do all the testing with Anne. As she said, I am fairly suspicious about claims of products. When we started, I wasn’t a big believer in organic cosmetics, so I told her strictly that it is adamant that our products are effective, it is not enough that we do great branding. That was like the first penny drop for me.
A: It’s still very few people, who want everything to be super clean, without any extra additives. We are not aiming for that, but the actual effectiveness.
Where do you produce?
A: We found a local Finnish factory — despite exploring opportunities as far as up to Italy — but I wanted it to be closer to me to learn, too. They are the first Eco-Certified factory in Finland, so they know about that sort of [organic] cosmetics.
It is, of course, very difficult to get those 100% pure components. Where do the ingredients come from?
A: Chaga comes from a city called Kauhava in Finland, and it is handpicked. The other ingredients are the produce of organic farming in different places around the world. It does depend on the climate a lot — when you have monsoon rain somewhere, it might affect some ingredients. They cannot assure the stability of the supply country, but therefore they make sure it at least feels the same.
J: Chaga is basically forged — it grows wild on the trees and that’s the main reason why products with it cannot get eco-certified, because it’s not controlled by any agency, so it remains the type of product that you cannot classify as ‘certified or organic’, even though, in theory, it is found in its purest form. The EU legislation hasn’t quite figured it out, whether its a pharmaceutical, but through clinical tests it has been proven to be super effective.
A: Chaga has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years and also in Eastern countries, because it makes your skin really even. Also, when you consume it, it is really good for your immune system. It has a very strong effect — say, when you are taking antibiotics, then I would recommend using or consuming it.
J: We feature it in some of the skincare products — we have a collagen and Chaga powder, which is a nutritional supplement that you can blend into your milkshake or smoothies, and also with collagen we have beauty chocolate, which is a raw chocolate.
I saw it! Yes, it is the most interesting product. What’s it about?
A: Everybody says that. Whispers to Joni, ‘now you hear it’.
Laughter. Anne, it was your idea, of course.
A: It’s raw chocolate, so we are not talking about organic chocolate, which is heated up. Raw chocolate is cold-pressed, and it’s really expensive to produce. Often the issue is that the price and quality of cocoa varies seasonally.
J: When it comes to chocolate or coffee, it reacts to weather changes, which right away affects the price of chocolate. A lot of things are very expensive to produce, because you cannot have such volumes, where you could leverage the buying power. That’s why green beauty, as well as green fashion, is still highly priced.
In today’s visual culture, branding is very important. Advertising background and knowing you target audience well surely works in your favour…
A: People usually want to categorise into either ‘organic’ or ‘normal’, meaning synthetic cosmetics category. We are organic, but that is secondary. On the ferries that are going between Finland and Estonia, they’ve put us next to Dior. That’s exactly the perfect way to explain it, ‘just place it where the good brands are’.
J: It is less to do with the fact that it is green and more to do with communication and how we build the story and tell it, but it doesn’t have to scream ‘green’ at the display. It has to look nice on your bathroom shelf or nightstand. It has to fit in with your other luxury cosmetics.
I have even gone for some beauty stuff only for the packaging, then found out later, ‘oh, it’s 98% bio-organic, too’.
A: I remember one retailer telling me ‘I don’t care what’s in it, I take it!’, when they saw those pictures of what Joni did — illustrative mockup in 3D of all the range.
J: The first question is, ‘Is it appealing?’, when you see it in the store. Then the next question is, if it something that I would actually use for its utility.
I am totally in love with the packaging!
J: The appearance is a bit whimsical, we felt that green beauty is often strictly about the environment, using green hues. With such personal product that should reflect the user’s values, we wanted to give ourselves that permission to be funny.
A: [It is] a little bit bold. Also flirty, because when you see all those lines that we have hidden in the packaging — if you find them, you find them. Those little messages.
J: If we would have chosen kind of a minimalistic and clean, too rigid, approach, I am not sure that would be as much fun to do, it just wouldn’t be entirely ‘us’. If we don’t get that first reaction that it looks good, then it’s a lost case.
There is this standard Scandinavian minimalism style and approach. Are these the end days?
A: There are so many brands doing this, so it’s already too repetitive.
J: I think this [Maison Assouline] coffee shop is a good concept — the new and the old meets. The age of ultra design and ultra clean is getting old, in my opinion. In that sense, brands have to evolve over time, but at the moment, I think the more layers and perspective you have as a brand, it becomes actually more interesting rather than having this Bauhaus-aesthetic approach.
Tell us an interesting story.
A: There was an online beauty retailer in California looking to buy our beauty chocolate — 2 pieces, which is a very small quantity. The argument was going on and on, because that comes without saying, sending them to California would have been much more expensive than the chocolate itself (8.00 euros per small chocolate bar). We were having this argument with her, because we couldn’t lose the money, when sending the package that far. It went on and on, and then we just told her to order the chocolate directly from our web store, if she really wants it, but we cannot sell 2 pieces of chocolate and pay for it ourselves. That’s how it goes, when you have a really small business and you don’t want to take the risk of losing the profit.
J: The comfortable things for us are to work on the brand and on the products, but what we didn’t have experience with, when we got into advertising or out of advertising, is how to handle logistics worldwide. The fact that we are based in Finland, Helsinki, doesn’t make handling international shipping any easier. I think that’s a crucial part of starting your own brand — that it’s a learning curve every day.
What is on hold for the near future?
J: Hopefully, what this UK opportunity brings is that we get more exposure and find new partners to work with, that way we can also grow the business and a bigger audience.
What are you missing?
A: We need some rest! I wouldn’t mind a nice holiday together…
That leaves Joni reminiscing about a personal father and son road trip in the States with their teenage son few years back, whilst Anne was working at the other end of the country in the midst of mid-summer blizzard. Both admit they haven’t gone on a holiday for long time.
All goes slowly, step-by-step.
A: Yes, because we’re still very young. Well, we’re not young, but at least the company is…
Anne says in her confident tone of wit. We then burst into laughter and finish off the — when so much effort goes into conversation — already cold cappuccinos.
I hug them goodbye, and rushing through the city’s marvellous Mayfair district, baby pink Supermood goodie bag loosely waving in hand, I soon find myself comfortably in a relaxed super mood.