Olson House (OH): We know that your family business has roots back to 1917; can you briefly tell us a little bit more about the start of Lapuan Kankurit? What is the name from?
Jaana Hjelt (JH): In 1917 Juho Annala, the grandfather of Juha Hjelt (Esko’s father) founded a felt boot factory in Lapua, Finland. In the 30's, Juha's father and uncle bought the first weaving machines and industrial weaving began. Esko’s father, Juha Hjelt, went to work at this factory in the 1950’s when he was only 15 years old. In 1973 Juha decided to start his own weaving mill, which would concentrate on weaving jacquard textiles. Juha worked in his weaving mill with his wife Liisa until the end of the 1990’s and then Esko, Juha’s and Liisa’s son, and myself took over the company.
Read more of the story, here.
Watch a video about the history, here.
LAPUAN KANKURIT = Weavers of Lapua. Kankurit means “the weavers” in Finnish and Lapua is the small town, where we live and where the weaving mill is in South Ostrobothnia, which is the western part of Finland, famous about strong minded and hardworking entrepreneurs.
In 30’s the family was weaving wool blankets, we still want to work with these traditional materials; linen and wool. And still today, as in 1973, we consider ourselves as one of the best jacquard weaving mills in Finland. All our weaving looms run with jacquard machines.
OH: How has the brand evolved over the last century?
JH: While we highly value our roots and the weaving craftsmanship that has been in family for century, our weaving mill nowadays has only the very best and modern electronic jacquard machines, German warping machine and looms, as well as, new finishing machines. This means that we have been following the latest innovations in textile machinery and that makes it possible for us to make our own textile innovations.
During the last 20 years we have also learned to work with young talented designers with the help of good co-operation with AALTO University in Helsinki. We do co-operation nowadays continuously and every year a group of young designers spend a week with our weaving master in our mill. Read more, here.
OH: What values are at the core of Lapuan Kankurit?
JH: 1. Use of traditional Finnish pure natural materials; linen and wool. We want to continue the Finnish heritage of these materials. Linen and wool were used at the time of our grandparents. In some homes they grew flax, had their own sheep and they even did spinning of their own yarns. 2. Co-operation with talented top designers combined with our own technical innovations to make the textile more transparent every day. 3. To know each step of the production and to know all the people working for us.
OH: What are you inspired by?
JH: Finnish nature and space. Peaceful and light summer evenings by the lake as well as cross country skiing in the forest during the sunny winter day. And most important; weaving itself.
OH: What is your favorite thing about continuing to build this textile legacy?
JH: We can be a part of the change in the world to make textile industry more transparent. We are also able to keep the weaving industry alive in Finland and Europe, while the big industries work abroad with long supplier chains. It also feels great to be part of education of future weavers and designers.
Read more, here.
OH: Anything else you would like us to mention?
JH: For me and Esko this is more passion than work. The most inspiring thing for us is to be able to create beautiful textiles together with such talented designers. There are still so many ideas about new products for the future. And the best reward is to see how the Finnish textiles, small pieces of Finland are well taken by our customers globally (like in Shorewood) in different cultures and surroundings. The story goes on…
*images courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit