Hygge is here! An interview with Nordiskan’s founder Kim Toft

PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BRAND

My name is Kim Toft, I’m in my sixties and I founded Nordiskan three years ago. I was originally planning on enjoying my retirement after a long career in the financial sector, but I found it surprisingly hard not to be working and I had this desire to work with something more tangible than finance. Today I run the business with help from my wife, and occasionally from my son and his wife who live abroad.

Nordiskan specializes in providing the world with quality products that have a connection to the Danish concept of hygge. We’re still a small business, so for now we’ve focused on partnering with a local manufacturer of Scandinavian wool blankets and throws—over time we’ll include other manufacturers and product types, but we’re in no rush and picking products and partners we care about matters a lot to us.

HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR YOUR COMPANY?

Nordiskan is a contraction of the words “Nordic” and “Scandinavian”, and in Swedish “Nordiskan” literally means the “the Nordic”—in other words, we’re strongly based on and connected to Nordic culture, which is largely characterized by nature and the marked diversity of the seasons. The Nordic peoples each have their own strategies for surviving the long dark winters that have developed over many centuries. In Denmark, we have the concept of hygge, which is as much ingrained in our everyday life as five o’clock tea is for the British.

A few years ago, Meik Viking published the book ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, which quickly rose to international success. Meik is the director of the Happiness Research Institute and part of his research looks into the reasons that Danes consistently score at the very top of the world happiness index. It turns out that hygge is an important contributor to the happiness of the Danes, and Nordiskan exists because we wanted to share that with the rest of the world.

There is no checklist for creating hygge, because at the end of the day it’s really up to the individual to create it for themselves. However, when we cozy up on a comfy couch under a warm throw with a cup of tea and a good book, most Danes would know that hygge has arrived.

TELL US ABOUT THE VISION FOR YOUR BRAND?

We exist to provide our customers with some of the most essential products for creating hygge in their homes. Authenticity matters a lot—we would never sell anything that we don’t use ourselves.

HOW DO YOU APPROACH SUSTAINABILITY / TRANSPARENCY WITHIN YOUR BRAND?

We like the dynamics of fashion a lot, but for us, sustainability is also about the long term. The manufacturer we work with is, like us, a family owned business which has been making some of the world’s finest wool products for three generations. Their products are made to last for many years (if not decades), they source their raw materials from carefully selected sustainable farmers in either Scandinavia (for sheep’s wool) or Peru (for alpaca wool). Whenever possible they avoid using dyes, and many of the products in our Scandinavian line are made solely from the colors that the sheep naturally have in nature.

We do our best to take care of the environment, we try to keep our packages as small and light as possible (one experiment unfortunately ended in broken packaging) to keep the carbon footprint of international shipping as low as possible, and we try to avoid plastics whenever we can. Sustainability is important to us, and we’re happy to say that we have absolute confidence and trust that the links in our very short supply chain all work to very high ethical and sustainable standards.

WHAT MORE DO YOU THINK CUSTOMERS ARE LOOKING FOR THESE DAYS BEYOND GOOD DESIGN? OR DO YOU THINK THAT DESIGN IS REALLY ALL THAT MATTERS?

If you just need a warm throw or blanket, you can find far cheaper alternatives in large chain stores or big-box retailers. We believe that the design and quality of our products is crucial to our customers, and we’re proud to say that to date we have not had a single complaint. All the products we carry are designed in Denmark and are based on either classic Scandinavian patterns, natural solid colors, or simple modern geometric shapes that go well with Scandinavian furniture design.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE QUALITY WITH YOUR BRAND?

We only carry products that we have deep experience with; some of the throws in our home are more than 25 years old, and even after decades of daily use and abuse by children, pets, and… well, us, they still look like they did when they were new. It was really that simple for me—I can’t imagine a better testament to a product’s quality than that.

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACED WHEN TRYING TO GROW YOUR BRAND WHILE STILL MAINTAINING A FOCUS ON QUALITY PRODUCTS?

Quality and design is never cheap, and when there are multiple copies on the market produced under completely different conditions than ours, this becomes a challenge as it’s sometimes hard for consumers to tell their options apart. It’s not a unique problem to us in any way, I would argue that most retailers of high end products struggle with this, but at the end of the day we decided to just focus on delivering high quality products instead of trying to compete on price in a race to the bottom. Fortunately, our customers are able to see and feel the difference.

HAVE YOU NOTICED A HUGE SHIFT IN DEMAND FOR A SUSTAINABLE HOME SINCE SUSTAINABLE FASHION HAS BECOME MORE MAINSTREAM?

We actually haven’t, at least not on the Danish market. Sustainability, quality and longevity has long been a part of Danish culture when it comes to homes. Danes are generally willing to pay for quality if we can afford it, with the expectation that the product we buy will last for a long time. In the case of furniture, it sometimes follows us throughout our lives and is passed on to the next generation, and a good wool throw easily falls into that category. We ourselves live in a 300 year old house and most of our furniture we have had for decades. We value and take care of our quality stuff and we don’t replace it just because we can, or because shifts in trends try to dictate it. That said, we have noticed a slight uptake in overseas interest in our products, but I can’t say whether that’s due to the popularity of hygge or shifts in demand for sustainable home products.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PRODUCT FROM YOUR COLLECTION? IS THERE AN ITEM YOU FEEL SHOULD BE IN EVERY HOME?

Our favorite product is the “Bornholm” wool throw with a light grey base and slightly darker borders. It’s a simple undyed throw with a loose texture. It’s subtle, soft, and simple. It’s not a statement piece or a fashion item, but it will fit nicely into any home and before you know it you’ll find yourself using it every day.

Read my feature on the brand here and find out more about the brand through the official website here.

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