A second skin

After a career in fashion retail, Mikko Kämäräinen is passionate about every detail in his minimalistic leather brand Human Scales, clearly visible in the latest addition to the range, diffusion line White Line.

Words Johan Magnusson 
Photography Fredrik Andersson

It started out as an experiment. Kämäräinen began his career 20 years ago as the store manager at Levi’s first Scandinavian store in Stockholm. During his time at the iconic department store, Nordiska Kompaniet, where he ran several multi-brand concept stores, he started visiting fabric fairs and eventually tried the market with his own small labels.

— I came in contact with the best factories and learned a lot, after many years of beginner’s mistakes. It all culminated in 2007 when me and my co-founder Peter came up with the idea to start Human Scales. The name means that the clothes you wear should be a part of yourself as a second skin, he explains.

With a background as a retailer, rather than a designer, Kämäräinen’s perspective is different. Human Scales put their entire focus on the end consumer. They are consciously keeping the design aesthetics simple and minimalistic. And daily contact with its European factories means full control over production and ensures that the making, the fit, and the quality is perfect.

— We’ve become like a family since we have been working with the same factories since the start. And one of the fundamental strategies that has given the success with more than 350 retailers all over Europe is that we’ve worked long term and built mutually trusted relationship with our suppliers. This motivates them to deliver a good product and we almost become the factory’s own brand — thus keeping a lower price for higher quality.

— And everything becomes more easy and clear when you put all your energy on the one thing you do best and skip the rest. So, since last year, our full focus is on shoes and jackets in premium leather, Kämäräinen says.

— Our classic sneaker Henry is made in a natural milled calf leather for the best look and comfort. And they also come in purple if you want to stand out. In our line of dress shoes, we have made full calf leather oxfords with a soft leather sole and unlined penny loafers made of thin suede. Our super soft, distressed, and unlined leather shirt Rickard is one of my favourites as well.

You might consider the leather industry as a really dirty one. But Kämäräinen looks at every part of the production to secure that it’s all done in the most sustainable way.

— It is a very comprehensive work. We’ve been lucky to find suppliers who, apart from the fashion industry, are also serving the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). They’re required by law that all products must be certified by a certified lab before they are allowed to be sold in the European market. The PPE suppliers are checked during production runs and also have un-notified audits by the labs throughout the year to ensure that they honor the requirements. Our suppliers have SA8000 certificates, which are the most comprehensive compliances accredited audits by SGS, one of the most reliable certification companies in the world.

— I go and visit the factories every month and have lunch together with the factory staff. We do not ship any leathers from The Far East and are almost entirely using vegetable tanned leathers from the best local tanneries. One final point is that our leather supplier already has very clean production, but the city where it’s based is currently working on moving all tanneries to a tannery zone outside the city. The local government is setting up a central wastewater system to ensure no tanneries are polluting the environment. It is just a nice feeling that our supplier is located in such a community.

His love for leather is clearly visible in the latest addition to Human Scales. The diffusion line White Line’s first product launch is a collection of biker jacket available at retailer Carlings’ stores across Scandinavia. A range of unisex bags and a lot more is about to drop in the coming seasons.