Respecting the past, weaving the future
A lot has changed for Lapuan Kankurit in their fifty years of business. And yet, to the owner Esko Hjelt, much more remains the same way it always has been. – Our family’s textile legacy began when Juho Annala founded a felt boot factory in Lapua in 1917. His grandson, Juha Hjelt, started his own weaving mill with his wife Liisa in 1973, naming it Lapuan Kankurit.
The core business concept has remained the same ever since. To this day, we utilize the same techniques to make traditional jacquard-woven products. We are a family business with values to match, and the concept of family extends to our employees. We focus on human-sized production scale, so that the entire chain is traceable, and the bare minimum is going to waste. Juha saw that there was little future for mass-scale production in Finland and found Lapuan Kankurit to focus on special items in smaller quantities. This is still the way we operate.
Breakthroughs in technology have seen improvements in production efficiency and quality. Before electrification, jacquard weaving machines required paper cards to produce a desired pattern, and bigger patterns required more paper, with considerable size limitations. Nowadays patterns are designed and executed with the help of computers, allowing for near-limitless sizes, patterns and colour combinations. The quality control of fabrics has also been perfected with technological advancements.
Ever the trailblazers, the visionaries of Lapuan Kankurit have not been satisfied with solely improving upon the old. They have also trekked on new-found areas of expertise – or more aptly, areas which have been found anew. – We are taking steps to incorporate plant dyes into our production cycle and have made heavy investments to build our own finishing plant and spinning mill for Finnish sheep wool products. A lot of these crafts and knowhow vanished from Finland altogether for a time.
Our aim is to not only bring these traditions back to life, but to also bring them to the 21st century with developed techniques and advanced machinery, says Jaana Hjelt.
Though the heart of Lapuan Kankurit has remained the same since Juha Hjelt’s time, each new generation has brought something new to the midst. – Juha and Liisa had their own dreams for the company. For Esko and Jaana, the dream today is to focus on the future: what we leave behind for the future generations, what is required to keep doing what we are doing in the future and how to do it with the environment in mind.
We take matters of responsibility, circular economy, locality and the sourcing of materials seriously. This is why we invest in things such as Finnish sheep’s wool, plant dyes and education – it’s all investing in the future. We may not see short-term profits with these actions, but hopefully, in 10 or 20 years’ time, the results will speak for themselves.