A Finnish entrepreneur has founded a company that offers a fresh, sustainable alternative for the textile industry in the shape of an unexpected raw material: nettle.
Sanna Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu’s company Knokkon produces yarn, fabrics and different consumer products with a sustainable touch. The magic recipe is a varying combination of nettle, hemp and sustainably sourced organic cotton.
“We want to challenge cotton as the standard, go-to material, in the textile and fashion industries,” states Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu. “Our products offer a sustainable and extremely comfortable alternative. European nettle is a silky, breathable and chemical-free material that used to be worn by royalty in the 17th century as a luxury textile.”
Lost in time, but kept alive through folklore and reintroduced in modern times, nettle has the potential to inspire change in the industry. The potential started to become clear to Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu a few years ago, when she found herself in a common urbanite tragedy – the wilting of potted basil.
Looking for a remedy in the depths of the internet, she was introduced to the idea of using nettle for yarn. Skepticism turned into enthusiasm as the instincts of the daughter of an entrepreneurial family kicked into high gear.
“I had dreams about nettle and couldn’t shake it,” says Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu. “After digging into the material, there was no way I was going to sit this one out. I was all-in on the nettle game.”
The financial controller-turned-entrepreneur got into the business in co-operation with a German entrepreneur with a similar approach. Knokkon launched in the summer of 2019 with an international mindset and inherited entrepreneurial oomph.
“The company was born global and our first step is to conquer Scandinavia,” smiles Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu. “Regardless of the current situation, I’m certain we will pull through. Humans have made it through wars and famine, and there’s no reason we won’t make it this time.”
Interest in Knokkon’s approach is certainly aplenty, unhampered by the temporary stay-at-home period. At a recent virtual handicraft fair, Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu was scheduled for a 10-minute speaker slot.
“I think I ended up talking for the better part of an hour because the questions kept coming in,” she says. “People are very intrigued by the material first, and flabbergasted when they get to feel it.”
The Stora Enso of nettle
Inspiring industry-wide change is a commitment for the long haul. Knokkon is in a position to benefit from ongoing trends in consumer behaviour and innovations in textile materials.
“Textile manufacturing is localising thanks to the advances made in the materials we use. In fact, paper could be replaced with nettle yarn or fibre. Finland could be a host to massive nettle farms – a dream come true for us, of course. The needed machinery already exists.”
What would success look like for Knokkon?
“I have this wild idea of being the ‘Stora Enso‘ of nettle,” replies Kuoppamäki-Luomansuu.
Text: Samuli Ojala
Picture: Sanya Saarinen