Involving customers in the design process is something Anna Reilin and Saara Naskali, the founders of NOUKI, have done since day one. Customization, listening to their customers’ wishes and needs, is their way to promote the ecological way of doing. Not only their vision but also the balance and trust between each other is admirable.
Extremely sunny. Oh, not just the perfect winter day, but the founders of NOUKI – Saara Naskali and Anna Reilin. The NOUKI showroom, their working space, is filled with good mood, giggling and inspiration.
New fabrics have just arrived, and the first pieces of their new collection Ghana are placed tidily on hangers. The yellow and emerald green colours look gorgeous. With a great laughter, Anna and Saara reveal that they still keep a few of their first fabrics, retro treasures they had spotted from flea markets in 2013, in boxes at their workspace.
“We have always had these school and leisure time projects, together. Not every project even had a point, but we were just incredibly inspired and excited to do clothes! In 2010, we rented our first mutual workspace and gathered fabrics there and had visions what we would do out of them if we just would have time”, Anna and Saara explain together, filling each other’s sentences.
“Maybe one day we will do something out of them!”
Unlike Saara, Anna reveals that she had never thought about becoming an entrepreneur, although the idea was tossed around every now and then. Even less they thought that NOUKI would get so popular so fast. Fortunately, it has. So how did these two sunshines end up here, surrounded by their own playful patterns, sipping coffee, busy as bees?
The friendship and understanding between these two women are incredibly seamless. It has been since day one when they started studying at the same artisan school in 2007. Fairly quickly, they found mutual interests, thoughts matched.
“We wandered at flea markets and talked. And I mean a lot, endlessly. That’s a thing I appreciate so much in Anna, that she is ready to analyse even the tiniest and the most simple things ”, Saara says.
“We understand each other from half a word. Almost every time”, Anna nods and glances Saara with a broad smile.
After the artisan studies, Saara went to work, and Anna continued to designer studies at the University of Applied Sciences, Hämeenlinna. Still, they kept having various projects together, such as designing clothes from recycled materials. These projects were rarely planned beforehand – Anna and Saara just had a need to create something due to love for designing.
For both, looking different and unique has been an important part of style since teenagers, and the bohemian, unique touch can still be seen in the NOUKI designs.
Saara was talking more eagerly of having her own clothing label one day, and she even didn’t want to make a permanent contract in her job due to this dream. At their mutual workspace entrepreneurship was chatted every now and then, the versatility of the days and the fact that own values can be brought into practice were tempting both.
Their “symbiosis”, which Anna and Saara call their friendship, was also an apparent strength at work.
“When someone asks, which of us designed this and that, we even ourselves don’t know the answer. We have pretty much the same skills in drawing, sewing, everything. We couldn’t imagine doing this alone.”
Then suddenly, in 2014 both sat in an entrepreneurship course, and in 2015, NOUKI, a fresh, casual, comfortable and playful women´s clothing and accessory brand, was founded.
Practical and durable products with strong patterns and prints – that’s what NOUKI is known for. They value high domestic production due to quality control, decent working conditions, the know-how and short delivery times.
Another significant character NOUKI is known for is involving and engaging customers in the design process. That’s actually where from the name NOUKI (in English Pick Up) comes from. From the beginning, Saara and Anna have wanted that the products could be varied by the customer’s wishes, for example, the length of a hem or sleeve. The idea is that products could be partly manufactured in series, and then gathered by the amount of orders.
This is their way to fight the traditional clothing industry and to implement the idea of ecological production.
“We don’t want to manufacture products to the storage. We want that our products meet the customer’s need and that’s why we ask comments and listen to their wishes,” Anna and Saara emphasise.
Regularly, they invite their customers to see the collection before it is put into production. Not only important feedback is given, but also customers are met and chatted with. Anna and Saara underline that those evenings are vital in every way.
The other way they have put a stop to fabric kilos is the pre-ordering concept. Nevertheless, Anna and Saara have noticed that sometimes it’s difficult for the customer to decide what she wants. The challenge of customising and pre-ordering is selling the image of the final product.
“We are constantly learning and trying to find now the best way to serve our customer so that there wouldn’t be a loss in our storage,” Anna amplifies.
And in turn, Saara reminds that when you have put your heart and soul into NOUKI, the best thing is to hear that someone loves the designs just the way they are.
At the moment, things are also moving very fast. The two-year-old NOUKI is growing rapidly, the range of sizes is larger now, and they have outsourced the production to Workroom Pirkko Niemi and Nokian Neulomo from their own hands. The question of customer’s chance to customise and affect their products is puzzling, in a good way, though.
The fast pace doesn’t mind, however. The versatility of entrepreneurship is still catching, and Anna and Saara are passionate to immerse in the new world each creation project and collection offers.
In addition, Anna and Saara are incredibly excited and curiously follow the new textile fibre innovation in Finland. It would be a dream to be one of the firsts to design from the new ecological materials and maintain the production in domestic hands in the future too. And perhaps one day, they’ll design clothes from recycled materials as well.