Pia Sievinen -

United Stories 2017 links designers and businesses



The United Stories concept, to be launched at Habitare 2017, is a novel way of linking designers, businesses and the international dimension. The designs of the products in the Habitare Originals collection, which were created as a collaborative effort, originate from Japan, China, South Korea and Finland.


What happens when 20 designers and design companies from Japan, China, South Korea and Finland are brought together and given the freedom to collaborate on sustainable, exciting design?

To be launched at Habitare 2017, the United Stories concept is a novel way of linking designers and businesses, and will encourage design businesses to adopt new perspectives and offer designers job opportunities on the international market. The products emerging from this collaboration, namely the Habitare Originals collection, will be available for sale at a sales exhibition at Habitare 2017, and will hopefully have a life afterwards, too.

“There is an interest in Asia in Nordic design and Finnish designers. Japan and Finland have engaged in cooperation before, but now China and South Korea have begun to show an increasing interest in Finnish design. It will be interesting to see what the concept will look like as a whole, as, although there are similarities between the countries, there are also many aesthetic and cultural differences,” says designer and United Stories producer Satoko Taguma, who is responsible for the cooperation between Finland and Japan.

The producer responsible for the China-Finland cooperation, Isa Kukkapuro-Enbom, says that the Chinese business culture is dynamic: Finns will have to step up their game with their Chinese partners. Competition is fierce, and only quick and decisive manoeuvres will yield results. The biggest challenge in communication is language, so a skilled interpreter is an invaluable partner.

“Many European brands have established themselves in China; Ikea has influenced a couple of generations of consumers. Finns are lagging behind, but, today, there is a demand for good designers everywhere,” Kukkapuro-Enbom explains.


What has inspired designers and businesses?

We asked the designers and businesses participating in the United Stories project what their inspiration has been in their cooperation projects. This is how they responded.

Maija Puoskari:

“My assignment with Tokyo Saikai is extremely interesting. It is a special idea, too: a porcelain service for children. The cooperation with a premium Japanese ceramics manufacturer is, of course, very inspiring! This summer, I had the chance to visit Hasami in Japan as the company’s guest, and got to know the manufacturing methods, and the ceramics works and pottery. It was an amazing trip. They were extremely professional, and everybody had such an uncompromising attitude towards their work.

I have been delighted by the straightforwardness of the cooperation on many occasions: for a designer, their way of appreciating design and quality is just great! I am the first foreign designer with whom Tokyo Saikai has worked. It is an honour to me, and gives me a lot of energy. I would like to design a service for them that is as fresh, functional and beautiful as possible.”

Tokyo Saikai Co., a company specialising in the manufacture of porcelain tableware for everyday use, together with the designer Maija Puoskari, will create a porcelain service for children.


Hanna Anonen:

“The richly colourful paper materials manufactured by Taniguchi have inspired me in this cooperation project. The use of colour is a natural starting point for me in my designs. I would like to design a utility article that would be suitable for Finnish and Japanese everyday life, and to add liveliness to the collection through the beautiful colours of the papers.”

The designer Hanna Anonen will design a light fitting in cooperation with the Japanese company Taniguchi Aoya Washi Co., which develops products made of Japanese washi paper, manufactured according to traditional methods and suitable for contemporary use.


Miia Suvi, Innolux:

Nao’s designs are very stripped down, yet they have all that is necessary, with no compromise on beauty. This is part of our design philosophy: simple, functional and fresh. Our aim is that our light fittings are passed on from generation to generation, and this cooperation, too, prioritises good lighting. Nao’s dreamlike aesthetic and strong understanding of light will certainly contribute to creating a timeless product.”

The Finnish lighting manufacturer and wholesaler Innolux and the Japanese designer Nao Tamura will create a light fitting for the collection.


Jaana Hjelt, Lapuan Kankurit:

Makoto Kagoshima is a fantastic designer who has an immense passion for his work. We as a company are fascinated by Kagoshima’s fun, playful style and the small, beautiful details of his designs. We believe that multifunctional products contribute to wise consumption. The blanket can also be used as a tablecloth or a room divider. This project also supports values that are important to our company: product traceability, design, natural materials and well-being.”

Lapuan Kankurit, a company promoting top design and sustainable development, and specialising in combining pure natural materials, together with the Japanese designer Makoto Kagoshima, will design a range of textiles.


Yrjö Kukkapuro:

“I have played with scale before, and for the United Stories exhibition, I wanted to create a children’s version of my classic rocking chair design. I believe that there is a demand for children’s products in China, because adults want to offer their children the same standard of living as they themselves enjoy. In addition, I designed the rocking chair so that an adult can sit in it, too, when reading a bedtime story to their child. Alternatively, an adult and a child can rock side by side in their own chairs.

I have worked with Avarte Shanghai for 20 years, and my chairs have been quietly selling in China all these years. I have seen the company grow and become a major player in the field of design. The initial cultural differences have become a form of wealth. In the early days, we had to give a lot of advice on the work processes, and I agonised over the quality. Today, I’m pretty happy, and the products look as they should.”


Susan Elo and Sami Lahtinen:

“In the design, we were inspired by a complex structure that is derived from simplicity. In our cooperation project with the Chinese company, we are interested in the differences and similarities between cultures. We want to introduce an anarchistic cuteness into the product collection, in the spirit of sustainable development.”

Designers Yrjö Kukkapuro, Mikko Paakkanen, Susan Elo and Sami Lahtinen will, together with the Avarte Shanghai Furniture Company, which for many years has been operating in China and has specialised in Professor Yrjö Kukkapuro’s products, design the “Family Hub” set of products: a children’s rocking chair, a light fitting made of eco-friendly bamboo and a multi-purpose piece of furniture.


Habitare, the largest furniture, interior decoration and design fair in Finland, will be held at Messukeskus in Helsinki, from 13 to 17 September 2017. Click here for more information on the United Stories concept and on the participating designers and businesses.