Let's get to the beginning of the thread first.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful Finnish woman and a handsome Italian man, the sandy beaches of Riccione and one particular, warm disco night in the 70s. The woman returned to Finland after her holiday, but the youngsters kept in touch by sending love letters to each other. One year later they got married in Italy, and soon after their son Erik was born.
- We lived near Florence in the city of Prato, which was the Italian yarn center. My father and his brother owned a company which was recycling clothes. They were ahead of their time, although these days recycling is a common practice, says Erik Palmariello. He founded the yarn company Nordic Yarn together with his (ex-)wife Tia Palmariello who is sitting next to him and nodding. Each of the former spouses own 50% of the company.
Back in the 1960s, it was possible to buy used, high-quality wool clothes from Finland up to 50,000 kilos a year. Erik's mother had contacts in Finland and clothes were sent from Finland to Italy to the company owned by the couple. In Prato, the material was processed and resold. Over the years, clothing production moved out of Finland and less and less material was coming to Italy. When Erik's father died of cancer, the mother returned to Finland with her two sons.
Erik grew up and just like his father, he also met a beautiful Finnish woman, Tia. Her mother was working in the Finnish State Department, her stepfather was Italian and their home language was French. They lived all over Europe and in The United States, and Tia got to know different cultures and languages. When she met Erik, she had just moved back to Finland from Venezuela and was studying international business and marketing. Their eyes met in a restaurant owned by Erik in Helsinki, and there was no going back. They found out that their backgrounds, education, and skills fit together. They started creating a new kind of thread of life, together.
-I am really proud of our yarns. When we started, we were the only company in the world that made cashmere yarn this way. Today, our competitors’ yarns are of different types, they are thicker and the fibers are short. The knitwear does not become very durable. Our yarns are by far better quality.
The raw material is recycled and half of it is cashmere goat’s virgin wool from Mongolia. Nordic Yarn buys wool from nomadic tribes whose goats are not intensively produced, says Erik. - We know where the wool comes from so accurately that we could nearly point out the exact goat. Our criteria is very precise.
Part of the yarn’s recycled raw material is second hand clothing. Some of it comes from surplus material from the large fashion houses like Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy or Arman. We do not break the fiber and repaint the material. Our color technicians manufacture the yarn color according to the original material. Only the new virgin wool will be dyed with eco-friendly colors. They are always sought in exactly the same shade.
-So if you knit from Nordic Yarn’s yarn, you will also knit in high fashion. And compared to a brand new yarn, we use 73% less water and about 50% less electricity. We also do not use harsh chemicals. So our carbon footprint is much smaller, Tia says.
Prato has the world's best expertise in the field. Nordic Yarn's colors are carefully designed by a color technician. The yarn is spun mechanically, but the coils are made by hand. Each tangle maker has their own unique style.
At first, Erik and Tia acted as agents for other Italian yarn companies. -We traveled around Europe and also went to St. Petersburg. I knew about five words of Russian, but even so we managed to get a few big clients, Tia laughs. The couple's daughter Valentina was still a toddler when Erik and Tia wanted to start something of their own after working for others.
-We were wondering how we could combine our own sales and marketing and Erik’s experience in the textile recycling. Erik's name had a good reputation in Prato's yarn spinning mills. There is hardly a textile industry in Finland anymore, so I was wondering what the Finns would need: yarn, of course, as many knit warm accessories and clothes. Even the primary school kids already know the basics of knitting, Tia smiles. The couple eventually ended up making their own yarn.
-We didn't want to make the same sock yarn that the world is already full of. We wanted to sell high-quality yarn, which must also include sustainable values. We ordered various yarn samples from Erik’s acquaintances and decided to focus on cashmere especially for ecological reasons. I also saw sustainability as a marketing asset and a future trend. And this is exactly what has happened. Now, in addition to cashmere yarn, we also have 100% camel wool yarn and merino wool yarn. They also take into account both quality and sustainable development, Tia says.
At some point of their lives, the couple began to feel like they would get along better as coworkers rather than a married couple. After divorcing, they decided to set up a limited company and work full time for their business. -It must have seemed crazy to others. After some growing pains, everything started to work out. The company is like another child to us, Erik and Tia describe.
These days, Erik has a girlfriend and Tia is about to marry her Maltese fiancé Sebastian in 2021. -We are all good friends, and often have dinner together. Divorce in Italy is usually dramatic, the Italians find our situation uncommon and consider it very modern, Tia says.
The year 2020 has brought new kinds of challenges, but also a lot of good. During the covid pandemic, people have been into home made things - home baking has been so popular that the stores have run out of yeast and yarns started flying off the shelves.
-The trend is visible over the world. We can’t say that covid is the only reason. But we’ve got feedback from customers saying that getting a yarn package delivered to their home cheers them up. An eco-yarn that exudes luxury, our lovely cashmere takes knitting to the next level. People knit something completely different than socks with our yarn. An English nurse wrote us telling how tough everyday life has been. She said she was having two days off, and she was going to focus on knitting cashmere yarn jumper and wanted to thank us, Erik says.
-I’ve probably knitted two pairs of socks and a collar in my life. The shoemaker’s children go barefoot. I divide my time between the company and family life. I’m going to add knitting in my routine though, Tia says. I’m really proud of our yarn. When we started, we were the only company in the world making yarn of 50% virgin wool and 50% second hand cashmere yarn.
All Nordic Yarn designers are Finnish. The company wants to proudly highlight being Finnish and Nordic. Two of the designers live in Finland and one in Italy. -Our company is growing steadily. In the future, we want to become a household name. We are strong in the UK, US and Canadian markets right now. We maintain our line, but we are also expanding our product range. I would also like to do another type of good that's related to doing by hand and well-being, Tia emphasises.
-Our company is more than just a thread, it's also a thread of life. For example, both the well-being of cashmere goats in Mongolia and the well-being of people, such as helping a cancer patient through cashmere headgear, are important to us. This has touched Erik personally. -My mother suffered from cancer and wore a headdress knitted from cashmere yarn when there was no more hair, Erik says.
In Italy, there is nowhere near as much knitting as in the North. - Young women may still think that knitting is for grandmothers. In Finland, on the other hand, young hipsters, including men, have been knitting by hand for years. The same trend is in England and the United States. In New York, all fashionistas knit. Knitting has experienced a new rise. We’ve got a lot of really good feedback about our yarns, and we’re proud of our products. They are a matter of our hearts, Tia and Erik rejoice.