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Text and pictures Aleksi Tolppi

Brands, values and local business

Locality, personal values, and individuality have been rising global trends for some time already especially in the clothing business. How are local entrepreneurs faring in this current climate and how are the trends evolving?

 First time stepping into the office of Riva Clothing, it’s hard to differentiate it from an ordinary apartment except for one room where you’ll find heaps of various clothing hanging from racks, a solitary sewing machine sitting on a small table and a bunch of different things like scissors, tapes, and pens lying here and there.

This is the room where Eeva Geier and Riku Keihäsniemi manage their clothing brand Riva Clothing which turned from an idea to an actual business almost a year ago. They are both in their third year of business management studies at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä so the idea of becoming entrepreneurs came naturally to them.

”I just had that kind of feeling,” remarked Geier.

”In the second year of studying, I felt like we had learned a lot but it’d be nice to apply what we had learned in real life,” added Keihäsniemi.

They import clothes like t-shirts and hoodies and print on them pictures they themselves design. In the most popular products are designs of wolves, bears and reindeer.

As their home is also their office, customers picking up their orders throughout the day can be challenging for the young entrepreneurs. To them, it’s a question of attitude.

Seppo, who is barely as old as the business, keeps watch around the office.

”It’s great to see customers satisfied and happy when they are able to pick up their clothes when they want to,” said Keihäsniemi.

And why do customers come to them?

”Maybe being local is the thing. Our clothes are not made in Finland but the brand is Finnish and a big part of the money from a single t-shirt stays here. I think a lot of people are interested in that,” thinks Geier.

Terhi-Anna Wilska, professor of sociology at the University of Jyväskylä, has noticed that locality is a fast growing global trend but is not in itself enough to make products stand above the competition.

”You always need to have an interesting story or otherwise interesting concept. And of course, the products need to be what the customers expect.”

Human part of the brand weighs a lot. It’s cool that’s it’s self-made or self-modified

Keihäsniemi and  Geier both feel that the personality of their brand might be the number one thing they have against bigger, more professional companies.

”Quite often you have these clothing companies that don’t really bring forth the people who are actually behind everything. We’ve tried to brand ourselves just as two students doing this thing and that we design the prints ourselves,” Keihäsniemi explained.

”We also attach a little note with a personal message to all of our orders.”

Eeva Geier and Riku Keihäsniemi have tried to brand themselves just as two students.

Wilska also echoed this sentiment. ”Human part of the brand weighs a lot. People appreciate this sort of traditional handicraft. It’s cool that’s it’s self-made or self-modified.”

According to Wilska there has also been development towards a more focused way of shopping. Quite often people are willing to spend more money on things that represent their values and have more meaning to them in that way.

Geier and Keihäsniemi have also noticed that ethical and ecological factors can weigh a lot for some customers.

”It’s a bit surprising how interested people are in these things, but they really are and we try to answer every question as honestly as possible. Usually, we also link the page of our importer and give further contact information so that people can find out more if they want to,” Geier said.

”The image people often have is that ecological products are always more expensive, so it was really nice to find an importer more in line with our values without the prices rising too much,” Keihäsniemi explained.

We both feel that this will be our job after finishing school

The future seems bright for the young entrepreneurs. There is a steadily growing demand for their products, customers rarely return clothes and they are already planning to expand their business.

“I feel optimistic,” Geier replied when asked about the future.

“It’s been better than what we expected and we’ve learned a lot. We hope we could both do this full-time after graduation and maybe at some point, we could employ other people as well.”

Keihäsniemi thought the same way.

“We are at a critical point right now. We have to decide the direction we want to take this company and we both feel that this will be our job after finishing school.”

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