Two years ago, architecture student Moona Kansanen was sitting at her sewing machine holding a pair of torn jeans. She considered donating them, but thrift stores do not accept damaged clothing. After toying with the idea of cutting the fabric into pieces to be repurposed into something new, she put her creativity to work.
Since graduating with an architecture degree from Tampere University in 2020, Kansanen has devoted all her time to her company, Piece of Jeans. She has carved a niche for herself in the fashion industry with a clothing line that gives used denim a new lease of life.
Her timing was fortuitous: we have finally realised we are generating too much waste and our excessive consumption is taking a heavy toll on the environment.
A few pairs of broken jeans stuffed in the back of a cupboard may not be a major crime against the environment, but on a global scale the cumulative environmental consequences of our fashion addiction are considerable. For example, Finns are estimated to throw away 70–100 million kilograms of clothes every year.
“It does not really sink in until you visit a waste processing plant and see the mountains of discarded clothing,” Moona Kansanen says.
“Finland prides itself on having one of the world’s most effective recycling systems, but globally fast fashion has a tremendous impact on the environment.”
Ethically made eco-fashion has taken off in Finland in the past few years, and the sustainable design scene is thriving with companies creating original clothing, jewellery, furniture and interior design pieces. They come with a higher price tag but have transparent supply chains. The products are made from recycled materials or, for example, organic cotton in factories that are located in Finland or elsewhere in Europe and committed to ethical manufacturing.
Moona Kansanen’s Piece of Jeans is part of this new wave of green fashion. Thirty-something women who are willing and able to invest in sustainably made clothes represent the bulk of her customer base. Piece of Jeans is also reaching out to male customers with its newly launched first men’s line.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, but younger generations may not necessarily be able to spend more money on an environmentally friendly product.
“I have not always been that environmentally conscious, but my business has led me to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle,” Kansanen points out.
With the push for companies to go green, the importance of solid eco-credentials will only increase in the future, Kansanen believes. She has also been pleased to notice that communities worldwide have rallied together to support small businesses and domestic production amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Perhaps strangely, Kansanen’s degree in architecture has proved extremely useful for starting a clothing business. Architecture students learn about the use of colour, layout design, photography, photo editing, graphic design and the use of graphic design software – all the skills needed when setting up a company website, among other things.
Kansanen no longer sews the clothes herself but designs them and leads Piece of Jeans. The clothes are made by a team of five in a Finnish-owned factory in Poland.
Moona Kansanen did not originally set her sights on becoming an entrepreneur. When she came up with her business idea, starting her own company seemed like the only way to go. Now Kansanen is excited to be able to focus full-time on her company and pursue her dream.
“What it all boils down to is creating something new and original. I finally have something of my own.”
CEO and founder of Piece of Jeans. Besides designing the clothing line, she is responsible for the brand’s online store and customer acquisition.
Winner of the 2019 Unikorni award for young entrepreneurs.
Graduated with an architecture degree from Tampere University in 2020.
Is studying for a specialised business degree.
Lives in Tampere, Finland.
Prefers to wear black-and-grey jeans.