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A few miles outside of Pajala, in the deep forests of the Torne Valley, lies the small village of Sattajärvi. At first glance this might look like any other small town in Swedish Lapland, but this is no ordinary village. Here, in the middle of the forest, nestled between small cottages and houses, is where you’ll find Kero. In Kero’s range you’ll find everything from classic beak shoes, reindeer skins, and leather bags, to modern accessories with a clean design that work just as well in the big city as on a mountain top.

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The Kero history

The story of Kero started with Yrjö Kero, back in 1929. Yrjö opened his own leather tannery and made a living from tanning reindeer hides for the locals. Tanneries weren’t unusual businesses back then, and almost every little village had their own tannery, making leather for shoes and clothing. But Yrjö was no ordinary man, and he saw the potential and possibilities for his small business, and decided to expand.

Keros history shoe blocks for beak shoes

Photo: Amanda Matti @explorealittlemore

He hired cobblers from Finland, to start manufacturing shoes out of the leather they were tanning, and gradually, the small business grew. For Kero, sustainability isn’t just a fancy word, it’s putting your money where your mouth is. For over 90 years now, the Kero tannery and shoemaking shop has been active, staying put in that same little village where Yrjö once started his venture. Today, the company is run by Yrjö’s descendants, and their 20 employees mostly consist of locals from Sattajärvi, a village of only 350 inhabitants.

Piece of a beak shoe from KeroPiece of a beak shoe. Photo: Amanda Matti @explorealittlemore

Vegetable tanned reindeer leather makes for more breathable products

At Kero, all reindeer hide is vegetable tanned. This means there are no chemicals involved in the process. Instead they use natural tanning agents like bark, and then wash, brush, scud and stretch the hides in large barrels and machines to make smooth, supple leather. One of the perks of tanning this way is that it makes the leather more breathable. For leather shoes, this means your feet won’t get as hot and sweaty. It’s better for the environment as well of course, but that’s just the way they do things at Kero; making good products, in a sustainable way, all the way. 

Naturally tanned reindeer leather from Kero

Vegetable tanned reindeer skin by Kero- Photo: Amanda Matti @explorealittlemore

Kero- From the old-growth forest to the future

Kero have been around for almost 100 years, and are still going strong, with their sights set on the future. With their progressive, sustainable thinking, Kero has managed to stay relevant, manufacturing high-quality products for almost a century. Nowadays, around 50 000 reindeer hides a year are tanned at the tannery, and the company makes everything from Kero leather handbags, to backpacks and yoga products. Product development is a natural part of the process here. Someone presents an idea, everybody helps develop it, and from it, a new, well thought out product emerges. Sometimes the new idea comes from a client, other times from a simple piece of left over leather. The Kero brand is known for their knowledge and quality products, but also for their drive and forward thinking.

Emma Kero is Yrjö’s granddaughter, and the head of marketing at Kero today. Emma knows every step of the manufacturing process, and is the one who makes sure deliveries are packed and sent, and that general production goes smoothly. She was raised here, at the Kero factory in Sattajärvi. As a kid, she and her cousins would spend their free time here, in the midst of tanned hides and sewing machines. But even though the company has been part of her life since childhood, she has no plans to quit. Their constant drive for innovation, and their belief in the future is impressive, and it all started right here, in Yrjö Kero’s little tannery, over 90 years ago.

Text and photo: Amanda Matti @explorealittlemore


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