Design company Mifuko merges Finnish and Kenyan elements to keep tradition alive.
"Kenya is an important part of our life and business", says textile artist and designer Minna Impiö. "It's also where we draw our inspiration." Minna and colleague Mari Martikainen founded Mifuko in 2009. The company's products are known for being environmentally and ethically sustainable. Their Kiondo baskets are handmade in Kenya. Mifuko also follows the principles of Fair Trade and strives to create work opportunities – they currently employ five hundred artisans in Kenya.
For Lapuan Kankurit, Minna and Mari have designed the linen collection TSAVO and MERU. The scarves, towels, blankets, and cushion covers combine Scandinavian design with African colours and are woven in Lapua, Finland. "Lapuan Kankurit shares our appreciation of authenticity", Mari says. "It's important for both companies that the artisans are visible in their work." All Mifuko artisans sign their work, making each product unique.
TSAVO and MERU showcase distinctly Kenyan colours, which is a new addition to the Lapuan Kankurit products. It's an opportunity for both companies to learn and grow their own point of view. "I think we've inspired each other", Mari says. All in all, the two find working together with Lapuan Kankurit a pleasure. "It's great to cooperate with a company that shares our values", Mari says. As cooperation started, Minna and Mari visited the weaving mill in Lapua. Minna describes the techniques as a wonderful starting point for designing textiles. "As a textile designer, it's good to see a Finnish company that's also international", Mari adds.
Nature inspires Minna and Mari's work, whether in Finland or Kenya. "The warm afternoon light in Kenya is incredible", Minna describes. Mari adds that light in Kenya is different from anywhere else. The contrast between bright light and absolute darkness fascinates the designers, and the varying landscapes and colours are a constant source of inspiration.
Kenyan landscape consists of coasts, highland, mountains, and savannas, which all sound very different from Finnish nature. However, Minna and Mari find surprising parallels between the two countries. "The savanna almost resembles a field. It reminds us of Ostrobothnia", Minna says. In Finland, the two especially appreciate the purity of nature and the freedom to roam. "Finnish light is also exceptional, especially in the summer", she continues.
Mifuko's appreciation for artisans has had a profound impact in Kenya. "Traditional techniques have been revived because of our work", Mari says. Minna adds that before Mifuko started working in the area, traditional artisanal crafts were disappearing. "Now these people get steady income for their work", she says. "It's also had a huge social impact. Mothers-in-law are passing the knowledge and techniques on to the women in the family." Local artisans meet every week in workshops and discuss matters outside of work as well, reviving a sense of community in the area. "We appreciate traditional craftsmanship", Minna says. Mari continues: "It's one of the most important values we share with Lapuan Kankurit."