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Style, innovation & equality
Stockholm Design Week

Craft and community

The Helsinki-based furniture brand Made by Choice wants to celebrate Nordic happiness, nourish their network of global designers, and honour the heritage of Finnish craftsmanship.

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Interview: Konrad Olsson Photography: Fredrik Andersson Andersson

When speaking about Nordic values, one often hears about our design sensibilities, our work on equality and our forward-thinking views of sustainability and innovation. Less discussed is our propensity for happiness.

— Studies show that Nordic people are among the happiest on Earth, says founder Niclas Ahlström. This isn’t talked about enough at home, but it’s actually what people are saying about us in other countries. For our brand, it’s been a good selling point. It’s said that if you surround yourself with beautiful things, you become happier.

Niclas, a former management consultant, founded Made by Choice in 2016, together with industrial designers Lasse Laine and Sebastian Jansson. Their mission was to create a company that honored Finnish craftmanship. The trio leveraged Lasse’s experience in working with local production. Lasse, the brand’s CEO, had been working for a decade with production company Protos Demos.

— It was very important to have our own production, in order to quickly make new prototypes and react to the market, says Niclas. This way, we can also tailor to the needs of our B2B customers. Today we are employing 40 people in our factory in Salo.

Made by Choice has made a significant mark in the design industry, through thoughtful collaborations with some of the world’s most prolific designers. Among them Harri Koskinen, Matthew Day Jackson, and Saku Sysiö, who was awarded several prizes for his Laakso Chair from 2017.

— I think we’ve been able to build strong relationships with the designers through our values. They like that we honour the old traditions of Finland, that we are kind, different, and are able to work fast and flexibly. This year, the company is launching five new products, designed by Swedes Matti Klenell and Thomas Sandell, the Stockholm-based American designer Shane Schneck, Katrín Ólína from Iceland, and the young Finnish up-and-comer Hanna Anonen.

— Hanna Anonen is a young Finnish designer. We are producing small objects with Hanna. She is also in charge of the stand design for Stockholm Furniture Fair.

Why so many Swedes?

— We are excited to work with three Sweden-based designers. Finland, as the eastern half of the Swedish realm, has centuries of traditions. We wish to celebrate it with these novelties.

*What does innovation mean to you? *

— Innovation means trying to do something in a different way. We like to blend different forms of artistic inspiration such as fashion, art, and design, which we feel is the same thing. We like connecting things in new and unexpected ways and drawing inspiration from the past.

What other projects are you working on?

— We are working on the Savoy renovation in Helsinki with the British designer Ilse Crawford. It’s a prestige project. So amazin to be able to work an a building that was created by Alvar Aalto. We are producing all the furniture in the new part, based on Ilse’s vision.

What are your plans for the future?

— We are expanding into the US and opening retail channels in LA and NYC. In the future, we hope to open more of our own stores in major global capitals. We also hope to expand on the B2B side into hotels, restaurants, etc. around the world. We hope to do a cross-disciplinary project with a fashion brand as we did with art and Matthew Day Jackson.