Papu 10 years!

Sara Broberg

Ten years ago, when Papu's first collection was launched, responsibility was not on the surface in the clothing industry. Actually, it was a topic that was hardly even talked about. Anna Kurkela, the founder of Papu, could not imagine working in the industry against her own values ​​and she felt that things must change for the sake of our planet as well. She came to the conclusion that starting her own clothing company is the best way to influence the prevailing situation. With her own children, Anna saw a clear market niche in the children's clothing market, and soon she found Hanna-Riikka Heikkilä, an artist who grew up in the same village, to create the visual world of Papu. This is how Papu started in 2012 from the collaboration of two women who complement each other's skills.

 

"I still vividly remember the moment when our first collection arrived from the factory in Portugal. The driver dumped the cardboard boxes in the front yard of our house. When we were packing the first retailer and consumer orders in our living room, our little kids were jumping around in the cardboard boxes among the clothes. The children's grandma was also called to help pack the orders. In the beginning, there wasn't even an online store, but the products were sold through Facebook and customers were sent an invoice. Some retailers were angry with us when someone else got products for sale before others." Anna Kurkela remembers Papu's first steps.

 At the same time as the children's clothing boom began to rear its head in Finland and around the world, small children's clothing companies began to emerge at an accelerating pace. The hype also spread to Papu. The children's clothing company, which manufactures unique designs and high-quality products, grew rapidly, doubling its turnover every year. The demand for the products was so strong that the production couldn´t keep up with the demand. Everybody couldn´t to get the products they wanted, because they could be sold out after the first hours of the launch. From time to time, you could get used products for a higher price than new ones.

In 2014, Anna's husband Jussi Kurkela started as CEO of Papu Design and in 2016 Papu Design was already a company employing more than ten people and had a professional board. At that time, it seemed that there were no limits to growth. Internationalization had started by touring children's clothing fairs in Europe and later also in the United States. "Perhaps a little speed blindness hit somewhere in between, and production volumes were increased too quickly, which led to financial challenges in 2018-2019. After this, the Covid pandemic arrived. The next few years have not been very kind to us, but luckily the future looks bright again." Anna summarizes the steps of the company. 

To facilitate the company's growth and financing needs, crowdfunding rounds for customers and small investors were organized. Thanks to that, Papu has more than 1,000 shareholders. That's quite a number for a company of this size and it's quite extraordinary how many people have wanted to support the company during its first years and have seen potential in the company in terms of investment as well. 

Today, the children's clothing boom has slowed down from the first crazy years, and Papu has started to focus more on women's clothing. With this, both business and consumption are on a more sustainable basis than before, and now the company's turnover and profit will increase steadily. Towards the end of 2019, Papu got a new CEO, Anu Vauhkonen, and even after that, things have been happening at a fast pace. This year, Papu launched the world's first jewelry collection made of biodegradable Sulapac material, and in August the highly anticipated Papu x Moomin collection will be launched. In the last couple of years, Papu has started cooperation with many larger distributors, such as Zalando, Boozt, Prisma and Sokos. Also in 2020, the workwear collection realized in cooperation with Lindströmm for Pirkanmaan Osuuskauppa was a great new regional takeover.

 Papu started with children's clothes, but today up to 80% of the company's turnover comes from women's products. Papu's products are sold in almost 30 countries through its own online store and over a hundred retailers. The products are designed in Finland by the own design team, and manufactured with carefully selected European partners, mainly in Portugal, Finland, and the Baltic countries. High-quality organic cotton has also been added with other responsible materials, such as Linen, Lyocell and mulesing-free Merino wool. We'll see what the next 10 years bring to Papu. The speed has accelerated, but despite that, our mission has remained unchanged: the goal is to bring joy and happiness to people's lives with original, high-quality and long-lasting products. We want to reach as many people as possible and inspire them to make more responsible choices, because together we can make a bigger change. Our vision is to be the most inspiring women's clothing brand in the Nordics in the future! 

 

Papu – For lasting happiness since 2012


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