“We both love traditional nordic folk craft aesthetics and one thing that connects all our collections has been to channel that same feeling into modern era. All our patterns are hand drawn and our surroundings have a great impact in our aesthetics: we love the warm melacholia and constant change of seasons of Finland.” – Saana & Olli
Saana ja Olli: We met at a illegal forest gathering at 2004. We started dating and ended up studying design together in our hometown Turku, Finland. When we were second year students we noticed that there were not interesting and sustainable modern home textiles available, so we thought of designing them ourselves. We started from totally DIY point, and manufactured a small collection of interior pillows that got excellent feedback and sold out quite immediately. So we went to one-year young entrepreneur program and realized that the best way to enjoy life and to be able to excersise our vision of sustainable design was to do it through our own company.
We gratuated in 2011 and have been doing Saana ja Olli ever since. Our own collections are European 100% hemp fabric and all products are manufactured transparently in Finland. We have also done design work for dozens of international clients during the year, everything from moist-absorbing Japanese wall tiles to Lipton Rainforest Alliance certified tea graphics. Lately we have done carpet designs for various clients.
In our free time we renovate 104-year old house (which is the birthplace and childhood home of most famous Finnish artist Tom of Finland (1920-1991) with traditional building methods.
Things have been working well and we have been able to make a living with our own independent company. We value autonomy highly, so we are satisfied with our life.
Olson House: Do you have backgrounds in textile design?
Saana ja Olli: Olli ended up studying textile design because he got bored on working with computer while studying graphic design and wanted to make screen printed t-shirts instead. Saana thought between architecture and fine arts, but found applied arts the most interesting.
Olson House: What brought you to hemp as a medium for textiles?
Saana ja Olli: We knew that 100% hemp fabric was a excellent textile material for fighting the environmental crisis we are living: it is very modest, grows in really different climate conditions and produces generous crop of durable fiber. In use 100% hemp fabric is quite similar to durable linen fabric. There is a long history of hemp usage in Finland, the oldest archeological finds are from Neolithic age (4800 BC). We want to bring hemp fabric back again in aesthetically pleasing way.
Olson House: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Saana ja Olli: We have been interested in olden day aesthetics from the early age. We both love traditional nordic folk craft aesthetics and one thing that connects all our collections has been to channel that same feeling into modern era. All our patterns are hand drawn and our surroundings have a great impact in our aesthetics: we love the warm melacholia and constant change of seasons of Finland.
Olson House: Do you have a favorite collection?
Saana ja Olli: In the beginning we decided to produce only one collection every year, so it’s like choosing between your children.
Olson House: What is your process working together?
Saana ja Olli: Our design process has been almost the same since the beginning of Saana ja Olli: we always discuss the concept first together, then let the ideas form without hesitation, then draw independently. When we have enough drawn material we sit down and make the print ready. On our everyday work we both concentrate on things we are best in: Olli more in communication with customers and retailers, Saana in communicating with our manufacturers.
Take a few minutes to view Saana & Olli’s 104 year old home that they have renovated with traditional building methods. Fun fact: their home is the birthplace and childhood home of most famous Finnish artist Tom of Finland (1920-1991). If you look closely, you will see that their own designs can be seen throughout their space.