15 cool Estonian items that totally rock

Estonian rapper and record producer Genka lists 15 Estonian items that are totally better than any foreign equivalent.

I’m an old-school crank. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the new and cool, absolutely not. I grew up during the period when everything that was made locally was crap, and the only worthy stuff was foreign-made. Fortunately Estonia is a totally groovy country that despite everything has lots of cool people who make many funky things. In fact, there are many more groovy things than mentioned in this list. Like a curd snack, for example. Or books that have been written. Or our oil shale production technology. But the space is not big enough to mention them all, no offence! So here are 15 Estonian items that are totally better than any foreign equivalent.

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Reval Denim Guild

During the Soviet times we had a company called Sangar that manufactured something that resembled denim. When you wore one, you were usually beaten up. Now we have some characters in Estonia who stich up real stuff. One of them is Reval Denim Guild. Even their Tumblr page is so great, not to mention the logo. The entire image is striking. Spot the Guildmaster Artisan jacket.

Reval guild

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Karl Annus’s wooden spectacles

I like when somebody is sticking to their own thing. The designer Karl Annus is doing just that. He makes and sells wooden spectacles. The wood is the coolest thing on the planet – the oldest and the biggest living thing. The dinosaurs managed to suffocate themselves to extinction. But the gingkoes and the sequoias survived.

Karl Annus

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The world’s smallest smart card reader: +ID

The first reason to buy this is because its creator, Martin Lazarev, was the man who was among the first to kick-start the Estonian hip-hop culture. Among millions of creations, he designed the logo for one of the first hip-hop bands in Estonia, A-Rühm. He then left it all for Brazil, where he became a photographer, takings snaps of fashion models. Nevertheless, he has found time to design another thing – the world’s smallest smart card reader. Everything that is associated with the Estonian ID-card is showing a way forward. A hotel in Berlin is still offering cable internet for a fee, whereas we sent our MEPs to Europe by voting online, using the ID-card.

+ID card

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Heavy Mental T-shirt

These folks have manufactured t-shirts with the same design for something like six years, but with its oversized slogan printed on front, it is still bloody awesome, despite the fact that all other large-print shirts are hopelessly out-of-date. Even the Estonian girl band, Vanilla Ninja, became good when they started wearing “Heavy Mental” t-shirts.

Photo by Andri Allas Heavy Mental

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Hosewear bags

Motivated by environmentally friendly incentives, Hosewear makes bags out of recycled firehoses. They say that “firehoses are awesome”. This sentence itself is surreal in its funkiness. My grandpa was a judge at a firefighters’ competition and firehoses seemed the most awesome things in the world. And what can be better than make out of the most awesome item even a more awesome one? Awesome times two.

Hosewear Katrin Ainson

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Camorka app

I have a feeling that young Estonians are under pressure – if you don’t have your own startup, you are a bit screwed. GrabCAD, Skype and TransferWise have been around for a while, but we have a new star in the block – the Camorka app. If Instagram was sold for billion, Camorka could repeat the feat. What is it? A photo contest. On what subject? You choose. You can win prizes and compare your Jack Russells there until your nose starts to bleed. And, of course, cats and bikes and everything else.* Please note that Camorka app is not in operation anymore – but the idea is still there! (Editor)

Camorka

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Birgit Skolimowski jewellery

Tanel Veenre is one of the most appreciated Estonian jewellery designers. There are others, too, of course. I cannot imagine the patience one needs to carve these tiny beautiful things. And they all seem as fragile as they could break easily, but they don’t. The jewellery by Birgit Skolimowski is one the grooviest I have ever seen.

Birgit Skolimowski

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Blackbird earplugs

Yep. Earplugs. If you never needed them, you wouldn’t miss them. But if you damn need them, you better want them to be good. The team behind the Blackbird manufactures earplugs precisely customised to your ears. Ears are not the most aesthetically pleasant parts to look at when you think of it, and they need an especially specific approach when producing earplugs.

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Vestige Verdant face mask

I had a male colleague once who went to the beach in summer and sunbathed too much. Back in the office, his skin started to peel from his face like from a dying elephant. I suggested a lotion to him, but he rejected this idea – apparently a straight man is not supposed to put lotion on himself. Well, I have news for him. There’s nothing homosexual or feminine for using a face cream. Especially the one from Vestige Verdant that is an organic bioactive facemask, made from the very own Estonian… er, turf. Apart from taking care of your skin, you can wear it while cracking jokes with your friends while having a beer, or scare the people and rob a bank.

duo-640x460-640x460

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D’Boiss shoes

A woman should assess a man by his character and his shoes. Every man should have at least a pair of decent shoes at home. A Brit and an Estonian set up a shoe shop in Tallinn’s Old Town few years ago where they custom make shoes under the name of D’Boiss. Well, the actually produce them in Italy, but design in Tallinn, customised by your flatfoot. And their design is timeless.

Shoes

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Eerin’s children’s gear

We all know that children are the most important in the world. Which is why the children’s wear business is huge. Eerin is using organic cotton that is not processed by all sorts of awful chemicals and toxic. And by the way, Eerin means owl in the Australian aboriginal language.

Eerin

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Multistab

Thirty years ago, Dr Dre was a gangster and a thug from LA Compton. Now he’s a billionaire. Mr Cartoon sprayed graffiti in the dark shadows of LA’s Little Tokyo. He now designs stuff for Diesel and Nike. The guys behind Multistab are all formerly with a background in hip-hop, who have become designers for minimalist clothing and handicraft. I like this kind of development.

Multistab

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Viks bicycle

Indrek Narusk, one of the founders of GrabCAD, needed a snippet for his bicycle. Stratasys hadn’t bought GrabCAD yet and Indrek didn’t have the money to buy what he needed. So he designed the bike himself and in the process started a bicycle manufacturing industry in Estonia. Even the British fashion designer Paul Smith cycles around London with a custom-made Estonian Viks bicycle. Not bad.

Viks bicycle - photo by Siim Teder

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Pirados Cap

Pirados is another bunch of hip-hop artists who started its own clothing brand, with a success. First setting off from a run-down part of Tallinn, then expanding to the rest of Estonia, and then Finland and now Italy. People stop me all the time and ask me, where did I buy my cap? If you’re wearing a cap, then Pirados is a must.

Pirados

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Jaanihanso cider

Estonia has its very own microbreweries, such as Põhjala, Vormsi and others. It’s all fine and welcome, but tomorrow belongs not to microbreweries, but to cider makers. Jaanihanso’s cider is natural, ecological, preservative-free. The ingredients are gathered by the maker, pressed by the maker and drunk by the maker. Although their apple trees are not taller than a bottle of Belyi Aist brandy, their cider is made here and from local apples. Cheers!

Jaanihanso cider II

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Cover: Hosewear bags. Photo by Margus Johanson.

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About the author: Genka

Henry Kõrvits, better known by his stagename Genka is an Estonian rapper and record producer. Genka started rapping in 1996, with a band called Toe Tag.