UphillSport® is an innovative outdoor lifestyle brand from Tampere, Finland. The Tampere area has over 200 years of quality textile manufacturing know-how. UphillSport® is passionately committed to continue their technical innovations and further develop their high-quality manufacturing know-how with sustainable way. UphillSport® is made in Finland.
History and background
Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from around 1250 to 1809. Tampere was founded as a marketplace on the banks of the Tammerkoski river in 1779 by Gustav the 3rd, King of Sweden. The Finnish war was fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire. As a result of the war, Finland was annexed to be an autonomous part of the Russian Empire in 1809.
Emperor of Russia Alexander the 1st made Tampere a Free town. The key factor for industrial growth in the Tampere region was that there were no internal trade barriers to accessing the large Russian Empire markets, especially the wealthy capital of the Russian Empire, St. Petersburg. The 2nd important factor was the availability of key resources. There was a local natural resource from the Tammerkoski river that provided the energy to power the machines in the textile factories. There was a supply of willing labour readily available. The Tampere region is a birthplace of the Finnish textile Industry. From the very beginning, the textile industry was focused on quality products for the premium markets of St. Petersburg.
The Industrial Revolution on Continental Europe came a little later than in Great Britain. In many industries, this involved the application of technology developed in Britain in new places. Often the technology was purchased from Britain or British engineers and entrepreneurs moved abroad in search of new opportunities. A Scotish entrepeneur Mr. James Finlayson moved from St. Petersbourgh to Tampere 1820 and built a new factory for the textile industry. The Von Nottbeck family bought the Finlayson company and kept the name Finlayson because of its quality reputation in St. Petersburg. Finlayson grew to be the largest textile factory in Scandinavia. This led to many new factories. The first sock factory was established by the German - Baltic family von Nottbeck in Tampere 1836 and was named "Stocking Manufacture Tammerfors". Wilhelm von Nottbeck was the factory director of the Finlayson textile "empire" until late 1800. Employee numbers grew from 48 to close to 2000 during his years. The Nottbecks were the cosmopolitans of their day. Their capital and international contacts were instrumental in the development of Tampere from a small remote town to busy industrial center.
A premium quality textile industry was now established.
Picture 1: Wilhelm and Contance von Nottbeck (from Milavida Museum by Antti Kohvakka)
Picture 2: The Partron's sons von Nottbeck (from Milavida Museum by Antti Kohvakka)
First, we learned, then we expanded the know-how
The factories imported the original engineers and know-how from Britain, however quickly learned the skills needed to operate and expand their own know-how. Factories needed plenty of new educated workers, so Tampere city grew and the education for textiles grew with it. Initially, the main market was the St. Petersburg wealthy region. The domestic market grew from 1850 as the level of Finnish living standards and wealth increased. In 1860, Tampere had 5000 habitants and the factories had 2000 workers, so textile know-how was in every home. 1882 the first time in whole of Scandinavia Thomas Alva Edison’s electrical system was used to light up Tampere region textile factories, this was first son Carl von Nottbeck's project. This was only 3 years after its invention. Tampere textile industry was internationally connected and was able to make courageous decisions to expand.
The Tampere region started to get new textile factories for wool products, knitwear, cotton fabrics and socks. It was common that when a factory ended, a new factory continued with same machines and same employees. Textile know-how endured in the Tampere region.
Picture 3: Tampere model 1890 ( from Vapriikki museum by Antti Kohvakka )
Picture 4: Tammerkoski river early 1900's ( from Vapriikki museum by Antti Kohvakka)
Demand on the domestic market in the late 1800's grew stronger. The years of unrest in the early 1900's reduced the trade to the Russian Empire. However, the start of the 1st world war improved the textile industry situation in Tampere. Russian army orders, expecially for wool products filled up the capacity again. During 1800's and early 1900 's raw materials were bought from global markets, and quality cotton was imported from the USA.
The declaration of Finnish independence in 1917 had a crucial impact to the Russian markets. Russian markets were now closed, and production capacities were directed towards domestic markets. Industry had to reinvent itself, because of how the market had changed. The Finnish market was strong and stable until the 2nd world war. The Tampere region was the major textile production area in the whole of Scandinavia.
During the 2nd world war, demand of goods increased. The Tampere region was making clothes for the Finnish military. After using the stocks and local materials there was a shortage of raw materials, and industry had to innovate with new materials to replace imported materials like cotton and wool. New replacement materials like paper and rags were quickly introduced. Upcycling innovation was now introduced to textiles. The industry had now reinvented itself again.
After the 2nd world war, the Finnish textile industry started to export quality product to western European countries, and the industry was very competitive, both in quality and price, compared to European markets. Export increased until the 1980's, when the oriental cheap imports started to get into the markets.
Increasing regional specialization
The Finnish textile industry had its hardest times in the late 80's and early 90's Markets changed, and cheap orient production took over. Basic mass production had come to an end. Markets in the Soviet Union collapsed totally after 1991.
The industry had to reinvent itself once again. The Tampere textile industry knew quality, had the knowledge of materials, had 200 years of know-how and a passionate, professional work force. The Tampere textile regions’ key competitive opportunity was to further develop its know-how and specialization. The industry identified the need and opportunity to find the markets for techinal, quality products.
During the depression years, the 90's markets started to change towards faster delivery times, flexible production and customized service to business to business customers. A traditional sock factory in Tampere had 5 passionate professionals (Tarkki, Koskinen, Karaus, Glad, Matikka), who recognized this opportunity and wanted to start a new sock factory based on quality, technical innovation, service and flexibility. These 5 professionals already had over 100 years of experience between them within the hosiery industry. At the same a time a textile group from the USA bought the previous sock company and started to relocate it to a location with cheaper labor, outside of Finland.
So, this made the decision clear. Know-how endured in Tampere once again. Sukkamestarit Oy (Ltd) was founded in 1995 and production started in a new factory in April 1996. The factory invested in new generation machinery and changed their production methods from seasonal orders to a stock service system. Understanding the global markets, the new company had to specialize its production towards new innovative products. The new innovation "Multi-layer system" was officially model protected in Autumn 1996.
The first years of production grew rapidly and in 2001 a brand-new building and sock factory opened on 28.9.2001. Today's entrepreneurs joined the company in the early years; Jussi Koskinen (CEO) started as a salesman in 1997, Jani Alatalo (product development) in 1998, Kimmo Koskinen (production manager) in 2002 and Jani Tarkki (factory director) in 2004. The new team was created, and the company made the change to second generation in 2007. Sukkamestarit was now the largest sock factory in Finland with over 4 million pairs in production.
New second generation of entrepreneurs continue the know-how and have revitalized energy and passion of youth.
Specialization and technical products have been in the company core from the beginning. Working with many sports brands in the running and outdoor sector gave us the spark to create our own unique brand. We feel like we have more to give to consumers and we want to show the world our know-how. The creation of our brand gives us the freedom to innovate further and communicate with wider audiences.
Birth of the UphillSport® brand
Finland is part of the subarctic climate, which is cold in the winter, moist in spring and autumn, warm and dry in summer. This type of climate offers some of the most extreme seasonal temperature variations found on the planet: in winter, temperatures can drop to below −40 °C (−40 °F) and in summer, the temperature may exceed 30 °C (86 °F). However, the summers are short; no more than three months of the year. Record low temperatures can approach −70 °C (−94 °F). The subarctic climate is a climate characterized by long, usually very cold winters, and short, cool to mild summers.
Subarctic climate is also found in the following areas: Much of Siberia, The Kamchatka Peninsula, Mountain summits in Scotland most notably in the Cairngorms, The northern and central parts of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin Island, The Western Alps between 1,600 and 2,100 meters (5,200 and 6,900 ft), and the Eastern Alps between 1,450 and 1,800 meters (4,760 and 5,910 ft) France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria, The center of Romania, In some parts of Germany, The Tatra Mountains in Poland and Slovakia, above 800 meters (2,600 ft), The Eastern Anatolia, between 1,600 and 2,100 meters (5,200 and 6,900 ft) – Turkey, The Pyrenees, between 1,600 and 2,100 meters (5,200 and 6,900 ft) – Andorra, France and Spain, The northern inland regions of Fennoscandia, Most of Interior, Western and Southcentral Alaska, The high Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Much of Canada from about 53–55°N, Certain areas within Newfoundland interior and along its northern coast, Quebec: Jamésie, Côte-Nord and far southern Nunavik, Far northern Ontario, The northern Prairie Provinces, The Rocky Mountain Foothills in Alberta and British Columbia, Most of the Yukon, Most of the Northwest Territories, in parts of East Asia, like China. The Southern Hemisphere, Snowy Mountains in Australia.
We understand that we had great quality products for the Finnish people and climate. After realizing that a subarctic climate was in other parts of the world too at the uphills, the UphillSport® brand was born in 2014. UphillSport® started export marketing in 2017. With our UphillSport® brand we can introduce innovative textile solutions to wider audiences. We want to help active outdoor people to enjoy the great outdoors with comfort. UphillSport® offers comfortable, durable and high-performance products.
The UphillSport ® brand is founded on innovation of the Multi-layer system. In Finland we are used to wearing many different layers of clothes in the winter. With our innovation, we can knit layers inside of a sock. By using our Multi-layer system, we can make a warm sock, however thin in thickness. Different materials have unique properties and functions that can be beneficial with the Multi-layer system. The main benefits are breathability, moisture control, durability and warmth. In our opinion they are the most functional performance socks ever made. UphillSport ® socks are ideal for active outdoor and performance sports people.
Different product categories have individual material and structural solutions, built by the demand of the active or sport performance. Different materials such as Merino wool, Upcycled wool and cotton, Coolmax ®, Bamboo viscose, Organic cotton, Polyamide, Polypropylene, Polyester, Twaron ® and Lycra give us a wide range of temperature gradings. All UphillSport ® products have been individually classified by their material and knitting structure. Thickness is divided into Light (L), Medium (M) and Heavy (H). The second individual classification is made with thermal grades from 1-5. You can find this classification within our product titles like L3, meaning Light thickness with thermal grade 3.
All materials are of European origin and have ÖKÖ-TEX 100 certifications. We are committed to ILO regulations and expect our material suppliers to have the same code of conduct with us.
Our factory is audited with ISO 9001:2015. The audit scope includes production, product development, sales and marketing.
UphillSport ® is a member of the Scandinavian Outdoor Group, SOG
History sources: Wikipedia, Vapriikki Museum Tampere, Tallipiha.fi, Textile history of Finland, Milavida Museum