Meet the maker: Kahi and Julle, Finland

Monday 24 April marks the yearly international Fashion Revolution Day for a more responsible garment industry. Fashion Revolution Day honors the memory of the workers deceased in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh in 2013.

The sustainability of operations throughout our supply chain is very important to Marimekko and we want to do our part in promoting responsibility and transparency in the garment industry.

We are proud of our skilled supplier network and all the employees that have their own stories to tell. In the spirit of Fashion Revolution we want to share some of them.

Marimekko’s printing stencils are made in Herttoniemi

At Marimekko’s textile printing factory in Herttoniemi, Helsinki there is a room where the work done is exceptional by Finnish standards. The stencils used for printing Marimekko’s fabrics are made there.

Kahi Yau and Johan ‘Julle’ Leutola work as stencil makers. “I started at Marimekko 12 years ago,” Kahi says. “I have experience of many stages of work and machines in the textile printing factory, but so far I like this job the best.” Julle’s track record at Marimekko has also included various machines in the textile printing factory before coming to the stencil production room. “This is a great team and we work well together. This is crucial because it’s just the two of us here.”

Rotation rolls, planographic prints

It’s Kahi and Julle’s job to make metal screens for stencils. Marimekko prints fabrics using two technologies and machine types, rotary and planographic printing. For example the Aita print of the Kaisu trousers in the spring and summer 2017 collection is made in Herttoniemi by rotation print. The stencils used in the machines are different, so the screens also have to be made in different ways: planographic stencils are formed with a wax printer, whereas a laser printer is needed to produce screens for rotary stencils.

A stencil maker’s job is best learnt by doing it. “This multilevel stencil production is not taught in every school. A certain type of technical understanding and a good general education are helpful, but in practice the job is learned in daily work,” says Julle.

Kahi and Julle agree that the best thing about their work is a certain freedom. “We get job orders and timelines from our supervisors, based on which we can plan our order of work independently,” Kahi tells us. “Responsibility for your own work feels good. And the job is such fun that we sometimes even forget to take our coffee break,” he says with a chuckle.

Marimekko’s textile printing factory in brief:

  • started up in 1973
  • output roughly one million metres of printed fabric per year
  • roughly 40 employees at different workstations: stencil production, ink kitchen, printing machines, steamers, washing machine, finishing and fabric inspection
  • in 2016, the base fabrics used by Marimekko’s textile printing factory were procured in Germany, Turkey, Peru and the Baltic countries