It all began with cloth nappy pants
Ruskovilla was created in 1981 to meet parents’ demand for breathable cloth nappies for their babies. At that time, gauze was the most commonly used material in the absorbent part of the nappy, while plastic pants, and later a triangle-shaped piece of plastic cloth, were used as the outer cover. Many were familiar with woollen baby clothes and nappy trousers from Sweden. These were sold on a small scale in Finland, but due to delivery difficulties many parents didn’t receive their orders until after their baby had already outgrown the products.
Anneli Wahlsten and Mauno Mattsson moved from Helsinki to Artjärvi in the late 1970s. They were interested in organic cultivation and a connection with nature. They set up a berry farm, which provided work over the summer, but they also had to survive over the winter. So, they decided to seize the opportunity to produce woollen baby clothes, as demand in Finland exceeded supply. Anneli and Mauno contacted a Swedish manufacturer, agreed on cooperation, and travelled to Sweden to learn about manufacturing woollen clothes. Anneli acquainted herself with sewing while Mauno learnt about weaving, sewing machines, machine maintenance, and cutting. Their van was heavily laden when they arrived back in Finland with seaming machines, hemming machines, and a rim cutter.
Their very first products were woollen baby clothes: nappy pants, rompers, and a shirt to keep small newborns warm. They are still in production, though the patterns are updated at regular intervals.
The first sewer was hired the following year, and the range expanded to woollen garments for adults and children.
Due to customer demand, Ruskovilla also gradually began to use other natural fibres: silk, organic cotton, and silk wool. The number of staff grew steadily and international export opportunities arose.
One continuous problem in the growing company was a lack of workspace. Ruskovilla operated in several locations in Artjärvi before gathering the courage to invest in its own property, an old dairy known as the Artjärven Vanha Meijeri building. After renovations, Ruskovilla was able to move in to the property in 1991, just in time to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Many good things happen as if by “accident”, and that was the case when Anneli’s daughter and son-in-law Leena and Ossi Näkki joined Ruskovilla to help - temporarily, at first. Over time, the employment became permanent, with Ossi named managing director in 1999.
Ruskovilla had become a real family company, with the change-of-generation completed by 2004. Extensive renovations and extensions to the production premises were carried out in 2006. Anneli and Mauno were still actively involved for years, but are now enjoying their retirement peacefully at their cabin in Orimattila.
Ruskovilla’s story spans generations, making it difficult to pick out individual highlights from over the decades. We are however proud of the Key Flag Symbol awarded to us by the Association for Finnish Work in 1996, several arctic expeditions which have travelled in Ruskovilla’s woollen garments, and the opening of our online store in 1999. We’re most moved by how people have adopted natural-fibre garments as their own, as there are now users from four generations. Over the years, our range has expanded to include hundreds of products: undergarments, warmers, socks, and bed linen for the whole family. Product development is still ongoing with fantastic natural fibres.