Design ROI* in Finnish textile business is great!

Ihminen työskentelee silkkipainon parissa

Our prestigious Academician Designer Vuokko Nurmesniemi called Ornamo office couple of weeks ago. She expressed her concern that Finnish textile and fashion companies are reluctant to pay royalties of the design work. Same issue came out only a week after in Ornamo’s price setting workshop for textile designers with 21 attendees. The event was hosted by IIIIK INTO Ltd. Creative Director Liina Blom.

Liina Blom told an awakening story from the past when she was still a design student but already had work experience. She simply made a bad deal with one of the biggest textile companies in Finland. Not only designing textiles but also doing research and forecasting with a salary of 6 000 euros for 4 months work. No royalties. These kind of contracts are way too common in the textile industry. But guess what? That very same textile designed by Blom has been selling for 14 years. It’s not a very complicated equation to understand the return on investment (ROI) value of her design work. And what she could have earned with a proper royalty contract.

“But what if you had demanded more salary plus royalty? Maybe they would have just chosen another design student to do the same job?”, noted Design Strategist Peta Partanen.
“That’s possible. Therefore, you need to be a good negotiator. And what is even more important – to prove the value of your ideas, own style and knowledge. To bring out that the company won’t get the same design from any other designer. To make them want you”, responded Blom.

Aalto University International Design Business Management student Sarianna Niskala said that it seems to be easier to negotiate about service design projects, but the textile and fashion sector is much more difficult. Is it because it’s a pink-collar industry? Or is it because service design is a popular and respected branch in Finland, whereas textile & fashion industry is struggling to survive within the context of global production and markets.

We make lasting and timeless textile products

Let’s think about it. Finland is well known for sustainable design thinking. We make lasting and timeless textile products. We produce high quality products that have as long lifespan as possible. Those sentences are on the web pages of our most well-known textile and fashion companies.

Timeless design means that those clothes and textile patterns are on market for a long time. The designs are not vulnerable of fashion whims and clothes are not made of materials that get ripped with the first wash. This is the result of the design work. At the same time, the big companies in the vast global market don’t make lasting and timeless products. More the opposite. They actually buy mass produced designs and unfortunately, also copy designs of the small companies. With little alterations to make it not a legal copy.

So, my argument is that the design ROI in Finnish companies is greater than in those supranational textile dominator companies in the market. Not greater in total revenue as you can’t even compare the quantities. But greater pro rata. No wonder there is a huge demand for Finnish design know-how from the foreign companies, now especially from Asia. So please dear designers, spread your wonderful sustainable design thinking but learn how to negotiate. And to get royalties, like Vuokko Nurmesniemi says. Prove your design ROI.

*return on investment

Notes from the price setting workshop by Designer Piia Keto.