The Kuomiokoski factory and Kuoma as a company were established some 90 years ago in Southern Savonia, when Juho Puttonen decided that the area would be excellent for power generation and industry. The factory area has taken shape over the years as the company’s operations have expanded and the need for additions has arisen. Today, visitors are greeted by both new and modern production facilities as well as 100-year-old brick and log buildings.
One of these buildings houses the office of Kuoma’s chief designer Riikka Huttunen, the creator of all new Kuoma shoes. The walls of her office are covered with colors, materials, and sketches, and sample pieces are lined in neat rows on her desk, waiting to be evaluated.
“I ended up working for Kuoma by chance; they were looking for a shoe designer, and I had the training. There are not that many shoe factories in Finland and, of course, I was very interested in working for a Finnish company,” Riikka says.
The content of the designer’s workday varies a lot, depending on the season. In the fall, concepts are developed for models arriving in stores in two years’ time, and material options and colors for future products are explored.
“My work is surprisingly varied, and when designing future products, I work in close cooperation with our sample sewer.”
As a shoe designer, Riikka says she draws inspiration from all the aspects of her surroundings, but also from nature and the conditions in which Kuoma shoes are worn.
“The idea is always sparked by something, but not necessarily here in the office. I observe my surroundings a lot in my spare time, keeping an eye out for ideas. When I see something interesting, the idea starts to develop in my mind and I reflect on how I could apply it to Kuoma shoes. Materials have a major impact on the end result, and sometimes the idea may actually stem from an interesting material that I have come across. I also visit shoe and material trade fairs that present the latest material innovations.
The design process of shoes has also changed a lot over the years. Today, shoes are designed, modeled, and visualized using computer software, but in keeping with the Kuoma style, something traditional also remains in the design process.
“I still take notes by hand.”
The production of warm and durable shoes sets certain criteria at an early stage of the design. Finnish Kuoma shoes are designed to withstand various weather conditions and high quality is key in every respect.
“There are several aspects that have to be considered in the design process, especially when it comes to children’s shoes. These include, for example, washability of materials, warmth, durability in use and in daily life as well as safety. All of these characteristics are tested here in our sample department. Sometimes I come up with the best ideas at the last minute, but luckily, the production team helps me out a lot. They know the materials and what works.”
In recent years, ecology, ethics, and sustainability have become major trends in the fashion industry. Companies are required to be increasingly transparent and ecological in terms of their materials and their processes. Kuoma has also taken on these challenges, and their collections have become more environmentally friendly thanks to, for example, the use of recycled materials.“I always do my best to carefully check the background of materials to ensure Kuoma’s sustainability. Domesticity and locality are important values to us, and we want to make high quality products that are durable. I am very proud to be working for a Finnish company and I like the fact that our products are made locally.”