We had a chance to chat with Mikaela Lindfors, co-founder of Finnish jewellery brand Naku. Dive into read about Naku, their sustainability approach and Mikaela’s tips to sustainable lifestyle.

How would you present Naku in one-to-three sentences to anyone who isn't acquainted with the brand yet?

Naku is a jewellery brand from Helsinki, with responsibility at the core of all its operations. Almost all of our jewelleries are made from recycled materials and are made by hand in Finland. We believe that there is already enough stuff in the world and we don't want stuff to be produced for our needs or by us any more than is necessary. We want to create something new from the old, and we use high-quality materials in our jewellery so that they last as long as possible.

In Finnish Naku means “naked” – how did you come up with this unique name?

Another name Kuori, "shell" in English, had already been chosen for Naku. The name originally came from a seashell, but somehow it didn't evoke the right kind of feeling in us. However, we had already acquired the website address and emails for Kuori, when I suddenly came up with the name Naku while lying on a sunbed and immediately sent a message to my business partner Gillian, and luckily she was as excited as I was. The name suited us perfectly, because Naku's first earring designs were inspired by the female body. In addition, Naku could also be translated into English as "bare" or "exposed", which suggests that we want to be as "bare" and transparent as possible in our operations.

How is each piece of jewellery made? Take us through the process!

Our jewellery design starts from available materials. We spend a lot of time and effort looking for recycled and used jewellery and pearls. Inspiration for jewellery can come from anywhere: nature, trends, colour combinations, wonderful people around us or even their wishes.

Each of our jewellery is made by hand to order. The manufacturing process itself starts from the fact that we collect the materials needed for one piece of jewellery from our material warehouses. If the jewellery has more than two different or different colored pearls, they are first carefully arranged on a pearl tray, where their order can be changed and the length of the jewelry can be seen at the same time. We don't always have beads that are completely identical to the ones in the pictures in our online store, because the availability of recycled materials is often very limited. However, we make sure that the colour scheme and general look of the jewellery remains the same. This is also why the order of the beads is important in order to get the right shape from the whole.

When we are satisfied with the order and the whole of the pearls, we string the pearls one by one onto the pearl thread, to which we have already attached a lock made of gilded silver. When the length of the jewellery is suitable, we add a piece of gold-plated silver chain to it, so that it is possible to adjust the length of the jewellery. Now the jewellery is ready and next we pack it for the customer.

Of course, this process only applies to necklaces, bracelets and anklets. The manufacturing process of each pair of earrings varies depending on the model.

What is behind your decision to create a sustainable jewellery brand?

Responsibility is an important value for me, which I try to take into account in all aspects of my life. However, I never actually decided to become a jewellery designer or start a jewellery brand. Everything happened somehow by itself and progressed naturally. I have always done a lot of crafts and tried different creative things. 

In the winter of 2018, my friend asked me to be a seller at the design sellers he organized. However, I didn't want to create “ryijy” or other traditional Finnish crafts, which I had made for my own pleasure, because their production is very slow and the price would have gone up accordingly. For some reason, I was very inspired by the design and making of earrings at the time, so I wanted to give it a try. 

I asked my other friend, Gillan, to join me and together we first designed a couple of earring models that borrowed their design language from the female body, as well as a few simpler models. The earrings turned out to be surprisingly popular, so we decided to set up an Instagram account for them, through which we sold them, because there seemed to be demand even after the sales. That's how Mikaela & Gillan Design was first born (because we had to quickly come up with a name for the sale). 

At first we sold jewellery on Instagram and when their popularity continued to grow, my partner suggested in the spring of 2020 that he should create an online store for us. The online store was opened in Midsummer 2020 and soon we already designed the first necklaces. With the help of systematic marketing, the number of visitors to our website increased and more and more orders came. In addition to necklaces, we were asked for bracelets and then anklets, so we have tried to meet people's wishes with our selection. We are still on that path. 

The actual decision to establish a jewellery brand was therefore never made, but it was clear from the beginning that we wanted to strive for responsibility in all our activities, no matter how small or large the activity. However, not everything has happened by chance, but establishing and running the brand has required a lot of work. However, we are very grateful for where we are now and how we got here.

What elements of your business model have sustainability at its core?

We strive to ensure that responsibility goes along with all of our business. We want to create new products only when needed, and that's why we make jewellery to order. 

We use recycled materials in all of our jewellery, except for a pair of earring models. Today, we order silver parts from Germany, where they are made in a German factory from recycled alloys, because when we ordered from Finnish retailers, the origin of the products could not be verified to the level we required. We always know who makes our jewelry, because we ourselves make them by hand in Finland. 

We don't use gift boxes, because we don't want to create unnecessary waste. All of our packaging materials, from jewelry bags to cards and envelopes, are made from recycled paper.

For deliveries, we use Suomen Posti, which is already carbon neutral thanks to emission compensation and aims to be emission-free by 2030. In addition, we offer a repair service to ensure the longest possible lifespan for our jewelry. 

Of course, there are always things where we can still learn and develop. For example, unfortunately, we have not yet managed to find all suitable earring parts that are recycled or in such a way that their responsibility has been ensured at the level we would like, but we will continue the search.

How do you take your sustainable approach from business to your everyday life?

I would say that my desire to consider a sustainability approach in my everyday life has influenced the formation of our business model, and not the other way around. I would like to live my whole life in such a way that I can think that I have done at least something for the preservation of the earth's vitality. 

In my everyday life, I strive to make better choices in terms of the environment, such as taking the environment into account in my eating and consumption habits, using public transport or a bicycle as often as possible, only travelling in our electric car when necessary and even then with at least one other person, and living in the city centre in an apartment building. 

On top, I take good care of my things and maintain them, so I need to buy new ones less. I believe that life should also be enjoyed and guilt is not necessarily the best motivator for a more sustainable lifestyle in the long run. My partner and I just bought a cottage, which was definitely an investment in the well-being of both of us, and I'm going to enjoy it to the fullest. Of course, our approach in cottage life is also the same as in everyday life. I'm glad that we have solar panels at the cottage, which we can use to generate at least some of our electricity in these difficult times.

In addition to actions, I also find it important that I exchange ideas with my loved ones about sustainable approaches and related choices. In addition, I often hold discussions related to sustainability themes on my own Instagram account (@mikaelaxandra) and it is always really inspiring when you get new perspectives yourself. I think it's good sometimes to question your own choices and try to think about how I could do things better in terms of the environment, as long as you don't take too much stress out of it.

What small action would you recommend to anyone who wants to start getting into a more eco-conscious lifestyle?

I believe that how and what kind of products we consume has a great importance. When you need something, you should think about whether you could get the same product used if you could wait a little longer. In addition to thinking about whether you really need something, you can pay attention to which operators you buy your product from. Often, a possibly slightly more valuable and carefully selected product should be protected and used for longer. 

When making a purchase decision, you should also think about the length of the product's life cycle, i.e. how long the product could possibly be used, is it possible to sell it on and how can the product be recycled at the end of its life cycle. However, you shouldn't take too much pressure, but start with the easiest first and start changing the things that feel most comfortable to you.

Thank you Mikaela Lindfors from Naku for the interview! Follow Naku Jewellery on Instagram @nakujewellery and Mikaela @mikaelaxandra.