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Heidi Parkkinen couldn’t find training pants that the cups wouldn’t shine through – now the heart pattern of her tights is a familiar sight in the halls – Feeling good

The 2010s brought numerous new sportswear entrepreneurs to market. Domestic brands attract customers with quality and responsibility.

The sportswear industry has grown exponentially over the past decade. The floor boom and the shift of exercise clothing to everyday use, “athleisure,” have spurred growth in the industry. While the industry generated about $ 135 billion globally in 2012, nearly $ 200 billion was already in circulation last year.

Behind the megabytes, the smaller brands, which already number in the hundreds, want a slice. In the 2010s, several domestic entrepreneurs have entered the market. They believe that the Finnish consumer is willing to pay double the price of tights compared to three-stripes made in China.

That’s true if the numbers are to be believed. Founded in 2015, Népra in Lahti has doubled its turnover every year. Not even Korona has slowed development, on the contrary.

– March was quieter, but then we could talk about a small explosion. Buying has turned online, and people crave good-looking and responsibly produced clothing. Supporting Finnish companies has been much on display during the Korona era, which has been of benefit to us, the founder of Népra Anna-Mari Niutanen says.

Anna-Mari Niutanen founded Népra in 2015 shortly after graduation.­

The same is true of the owner couple of Gymnation, founded in Oulu in 2018 Sarah and Aleksi Koskelo.

– In March, sales stalled, and more than half of turnover was lost immediately. It took a couple of months, but sales records were already set in the fall. The activity grew really a lot then.

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People was born of Niananen’s need to create responsible sportswear that would last even in heavy use, as he could not find any on the market.

Gymnation was founded with the same ideas.

– We wanted to do things differently than we are used to, ie produce responsibly high-quality products in Europe. The bulk goods in the Far East are the darkest in the clouds, Aleksi Koskelo says.

Aleksi and Saara Koskelo invest in responsibility.­

All the entrepreneurs interviewed agree that it is not worth competing against market waste on their own land. Success requires being able to meet the different needs of consumers.

The owner of Pink Throw, who started out in skaters’ competition costumes Heidi Parkkinen began sewing a fitness collection first for her own use.

– I couldn’t find training pants that met my criteria in the store, ie where the cups would not shine and where the waist would cover the sausages. I made a few pants for myself, and the close circle wanted the same ones. Suddenly they were made more and more.

Heidi Parkkinen, the owner of the pink throw, initially sewed everything from curtains to party dresses. With demand, he was able to focus solely on sportswear.­

According to Parkkinen, the heart pattern of his leotards is being copied all the way abroad.­

Responsibility. Ecology. Ethics. They are terms that can be found on the pages of almost every Finnish training clothing company. It is no longer enough as a word ring, but a reason must be found for the use of the terms.

It is also an asset in the competition against large manufacturers, as large companies, with the exception of individual specialty collections, have not embraced responsibility thinking on a larger scale.

For Népra, it means, among other things, that the company favors recycled materials and that 50 cents of each product sold goes to charity. Gymnation uses environmentally friendly materials and produces its clothes in a Lithuanian factory with Bluesign certification. The entire production of pink thrower is in its own hands, from zoning to rhinestone attachment.

From the beginning, our idea was that clothes last time. We don’t want to be part of a disposable culture.

When a garment lasts a use, you don’t have to buy a new one as often. Responsibility is also reflected in the fact that, like global brands, Finnish companies do not launch separate collections. The floral pattern from last fall won’t turn into stripes after a couple of months.

– These are higher priced products, so we want them to be timeless and versatile. We have no seasonal thinking. Many times the patterns are a moment of intoxication, but we strive for permanent collections, Koskelot says.

– From the beginning, our idea was that clothes last time. We do not want to be part of a disposable culture, Niutanen says.

Népra’s products are made in a small sewing shop for 13 people in Tallinn.­

With responsibility however, it comes at a price, as recycled materials and European origin pay.

– Half of the cost of the product comes from the raw materials and the other half from the work. The margin left for the company is considerably lower than for an operator that makes cheaper fabrics and labor in the Far East, Koskelot say.

– Our pricing strategy does not support huge margins for discounts, and we do not even want to offer such, Niutanen says.

When it comes to ecology, usability and sustainability in the same package, the equation is not always simple.

– We bought ecolycra from a supplier, but in test use it was not of good enough quality. A product is no longer ecological if it is only good for a while, Parkkinen points out.

Of the three companies, only Pink Heide products are sewn domestically. The reasons are not just economic.

– In Finland, there are few options if you want to make modern clothes. We could not find a suitable partner in Finland, Aleksi Koskelo says.

– The biggest challenge is to find professional seamstresses in Finland who would also be motivated to do this. Many seamstresses who have been in series work have not dealt with flexible materials, Parkkinen says.

Color matters in sportswear.­

Pinkkiheidi worked for a long time in Turku, but today skating suits and training clothes are made in Jyväskylä.­

World stars it is useless to covet, but it is worth pursuing the Finnish consumer with a domestic face. All three companies have used or are using brand ambassadors. Both Népra and Gymnation broke into the market with crossfit largely due to their own hobby background and feedback from the field.

– Crossfit is a good kind to test clothes because there is movement, rubbing and different trajectories. However, other species can be seen in the image world, and products are tested in them. It is important for us that the brand ambassador shares the same values ​​with the company, Niutanen says.

Many Finnish influencers have contacted themselves and want to raise Finnish companies.

Somepersons and athletes no longer need to be attracted. Domesticity is an asset today.

– Many Finnish influencers have contacted themselves and want to raise Finnish companies. It is a great phenomenon, and without them such growth would not have been possible, Aleksi Koskelo says.

Parkkinen hopes that the way of thinking will come to the field more broadly.

– Somoma influencers still use a lot of clothes from big manufacturers, so it is easy for Followers to buy them as well, he points out.

People has been oriented to the international market from the beginning and has many customers from Germany. Gymnation’s long-term goal is also to expand abroad.

However, the biggest competitors at the moment are other domestic and Nordic brands.

– The market is really fragmented when all platforms are international. For example, Sweden will become brands that have a strong presence in Finland, Aleksi Koskelo says.

The long sick leave served as a spark for Aleksi Koskelo’s new career. At Gymnation, she and Saara’s wife are able to combine clothing expertise and a love of sports.­

– It seems that in recent years the supply has expanded greatly, and there have been a lot of small signs. We compete with them a bit depending on the community, Niutanen notes.

Parkkinen sees that there is a lot of competition in athletes’ competition and performance costumes from abroad, as there are few players in Finland.

– They have cheaper prices because it is expensive to work in Finland. Many have an attitude of buying from Estonia when it is always bought, even if there are constant problems with delivery, he says.

However, market diversification is not just a bad thing.

– We cannot be everything for everyone, so it is good that there are other responsible brands today, Niutanen points out.

Gymnation does not have stone-foot shops, but you can show off your products in Pitäjänmäki.­

Entrepreneurs predict that responsibility will become an increasingly important metric in the future when making a purchase decision. Niutanen believes that global brands are also forced to start thinking more about the ethics of their products.

At least for the time being, however, the Finnish consumer makes his decisions mainly on other indicators.

– There are certainly more and more people for whom responsibility is most important. However, in sportswear, functionality is essential and that they are good-looking and fit for purpose. The majority make the purchase decision based on those things, Niutanen says.

It must also be remembered that many consumers still find the international e-commerce jungle difficult.

– I would say that in dealing with us, the decisive factor is ease and good customer service. It is possible for the customer to get a training garment completely tailored to him, Parkkinen sums it up.

Finnish companies

  • Snow-white: The Tampere company is known for the outfits of performing athletes and nowadays also for spectacular women’s fitness clothing.

  • Gazz: Tampere-based manufacturer of competition and performance clothing for athletes and training clothes.

  • High school: The company, founded in Oulu, makes responsible sportswear suitable for hard training.

  • Lovent: The company, located in Nummela, manufactures sustainable and ecological training clothes for women and children.

  • Misha Lily: A Helsinki-based company that manufactures responsible yoga and fitness clothing.

  • People: One of the first responsible training clothing brands in Finland, manufactures sportswear for heavy use.

  • Njálla: Ecological yoga clothes inspired by Finnish nature.

  • NoPain: A gym, crossfit and yoga clothing company from Joensuu.

  • Pink throw: The company, which was founded in Turku and manufactures athletes’ performance suits and training clothes as well as fitness clothing, recently moved to Jyväskylä.

  • Pirouette: The company, which makes dance and training clothes, also has three stone foot shops, in Helsinki, Turku and Tampere.

  • Zeropoint: The company, which specializes in compression clothing, aims to have 100% of its materials recycled this year.

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