By: Liberty Paananen for FinnishNews/NordicWeek
“We are not a fashion brand. We are an ideological brand trying to create a movement.”- so exclaimed CEO, Anna Lehtola, from Lovia.
The rise of living sustainably on Earth is a dialogue that has been discussed for more than 25 years* and is as important an issue today, as it was then.
Whilst the conversation escalates worldwide, initiatives that create a sustainable lifestyle can be found in almost every facet of human life. From everyday, eco-friendly changes in our homes to renewable energy sources and the “war on plastic”.
Here, in Finland, Luxury Accessories Brand, Lovia, is epitomizing the UNs definition of living sustainably: “doing more and better with less”. They are combining leftover materials with Finnish Design and Italian Artisan crafts to address human sustainability head-on all from conception to sale. Furthermore, they provide complete transparency of how they manufacture and price their luxury goods.
CEO, Anna Lehtola explains how Lovia, who are now in their fifth year, have risen to industry criticism and are developing a brand that centres around the value of respect.
Where did the idea for Lovia come from?
Our Founder, Outi Korpilaakso had been working as a designer but she felt disillusioned with the status quo. She felt as though she couldn’t respect herself unless she could make something from materials that already existed and design products that she could be honest about. That’s where the idea of Lovia was born from. Outi wanted to create a brand where the production could be transparent and we have done this through our Transparency DNA Concept.
How did you become part of Lovia?
When Outi and I met, she was already working on Lovia and I was working on a university project centred around second-hand goods. Very quickly we noticed that we both had the same, strong ideology about sustainable business, respect and honesty. As I have a digital marketing background, I initially began helping Lovia with economics and e-commerce. But, then, in 2017, whilst living in San Francisco, I decided to invest myself fully in Lovia.
Lovia prides itself on the idea that: “It all begins and ends with respect.” – Can you tell me more about that?
All the natural resources in the world are almost gone and we feel that we need to teach people to respect things and change their view. We want to teach people to respect things by inspiring them. The more people we can inspire, the more people will change and the more the idea will grow organically. If we learn the skill of respect again, we could remove trash from the world. We are using leftover leathers from Finnish furniture factories, Elk hides from the Finnish and Sweedish Elk population control, Icelandic Salmon and Perch Leather leftover from the food industry and Finnish Pike Perch Leather, again leftover from the food industry. If we didn’t use these materials they would all end up as waste.
When Lovia started, the movement of responsibility and conscious living was not as loud in everyday life as it is now,did you struggle to convince people of your mission?
In the very beginning, when Outi gathered the first cutting waste material and went to Italy, to a traditional Artisan, the response was “What is happening here?”, “Who is this crazy lady?” So, initially, there were these funny moments in the beginning. But, then, people realised they could do something important with this waste material and together passion was fused.
How about industry experts?
With business experts, it was hard in the beginning. We got a lot of negative feedback about our companies transparency message. Experts kept saying: “You should not use words like trash”, “Nobody wants to know”. Now, things have started to change. Our Bag with black text TRASHis one of our most popular products. It was born from demand. We started to take some commercial pictures and the writing was initially paper stuck onto the bag and when people saw it, they started asking for it. They wanted it
“People are ready to be activists and get together with this idea to form a revolution.” – Anna Lehtola
As Lovia has grown, it has been profiled in the press with the attributes; “responsible”, “impactful” and even “fashion revolution”. What are the attributes that you give Lovia?
Firstly, removing trash from the world. Then, without any question, respect. Thirdly, we are not a fashion brand. We are an ideological brand that is trying to create a movement. We look at the bigger picture of making the world a little bit better.
On Lovia’s website, you declare details of the production chain in great detail. There are personable snapshot profiles about each person and company involved and the complete price transparency for every luxury product.How important to your business model is your Transparency DNA Concept?
To have transparency throughout the business was Outi’s idea from the beginning. She felt exhausted by the fact she didn’t know who was making what she was designed so, she instigated a ‘Direct to Producer’ approach for Lovia. The fashion industry is very traditional in its manufacturing ways and the value chains are very long and complex. This means that the people using the product, often have nothing to do with the people that make it. As well as this form of detachment; there are lots of middlemen, agents and contractors that help to get products from concept to completion. These middlemen can have absolutely no connection with the user or creator. But, with Outi’s ‘Direct to Producer’ approach, we know where our materials come from and who makes them.
How does a ‘Direct to Producer’ approach affect your customers?
As CEO, I have instigated a ‘Direct to Consumer’ approach for the business that mirrors Outi’s vision for honesty in production. By communicating full transparency of our production and pricing, we have been able to open the dialogue of respect for what we already have. Not only that but, by leaving out the middleman we make our products more affordable and can decide our prices.
Sustainability or as you put it, ‘Respect for Nature’ is a global trend that has the potential to pivot the way societies of the future will run. Why did you decide to use leftover materials instead of going down the avenue of animal-cruelty free, vegan materials?
A big part of our respect mission is to have more respect for what we already have. The main reason we use leftover leathers is because they are one of the most disrespected materials. There are no big industries making use of this waste. The Leather Industry is producing 800,000 tonnes of wasted leather every year*. That’s a lot of trash that doesn’t need to be trash. So, we aim to find these materials that aren’t respected and turn them into something meaningful. To produce leather from pineapple or alike, you need enormous, innovative and expensive production processes which take a lot of time, research and development to perfect. These unrespected materials are here now, being ignored and disposed of by problem handle waste companies so to us, it makes sense to use of them for good.
Lovia has a Concept Store in Helsinki. Is it a permanent installation?
Yes, we opened just before Christmas last year. As we are an online store, we wanted to create a place that was a tangible touchpoint for our customers. So that, they can meet us and to give us a physical place and voice. The store is on Frederikinkatu which is in the centre of Helsinki Design District and we are opposite a secondhand shop which feels just right.
Visit Lovias website at:
Find their Concept Store at: Fredrikinkatu 18, Helsinki
You can read more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals at: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/
Social and Environmental Report of the European Leather Industry can be found here:
*In 1992, 170 Countries met at The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. There, they agreed to continue to pursue sustainable development, conserve forests, protect climate systems and more.
*In 2000, the United Nations produced a report which estimated that the leather industry produced more than 800,000 tonnes of leather waste.
To put that into perspective 800,000 tonnes is the weight of 80 Eiffel Towers or 7,500 Blue Whales.