The felt slipper represents the strongest aspects of Scandinavian design. The form is economic, ergonomic, functional but above all comforting. The slippers have a timeless appeal and cultural endurance: for Scandinavians they evoke fond childhood memories and from this nostalgic root has grown a modern interpretation of a classic consumer product.
Simply and sturdily made, felt slippers have several natural advantages. Devised for use in arctic conditions they are biodegradable, breathable, warm and practically waterproof. It all adds up to footwear that is ecofriendly. Although our way of life has changed over time, these properties have helped this design classic survive into the 21st century.
The making of felt from wool is an old Finnish skill, originally used solely to make hats. Slippers and the skills needed to produce them came from Russia in the late 18th century. The Russian craftsmen had learnt in their turn from Turkish nomads and with the help of Russian technicians the first factory opened in Finland in 1897. Large and small factories have been manufacturing felt slippers and socks ever since, apart from during World War II, when production came to a temporary halt due to lack of materials.
Today, there are only a few dedicated family companies that still manufacture these felt slippers – most elements are still carried out by hand and the traditional range of colours prevails – red, dark blue, grey and white.
Extract from Kaija Savolainen's article in the wool issue of Selvedge.