Meet the makers – Marimekko’s textile printing factory in Helsinki

Marimekko’s textile printing factory located in Helsinki, Finland, plays an important role in the company’s production as every year approximately million meters of fabric is being printed there. In fact, Marimekko’s printing factory is the most significant textile printing factory in Finland. Even though the products, such as clothes and bags, get their final form in facilities operated by our partner manufacturers all over the world, our own printing factory is the heart and soul of Marimekko’s print design.

Marimekko’s printing factory in brief:

  • started operating in 1973
  • annually approximately million meters of facbric is printed at the facility
  • employs approximately 40 people in various work tasks: at the colour kitchen, printing machine, steaming machine, washing machine, finishing and fabric inspection
  • in 2015, the base fabrics used at Marimekko’s printing factory were sourced from Germany, Turkey, Peru, the Baltic countries

Printing process still requires handcraft

The journey of a new pattern from the designer’s sketch to a printed fabric takes about a year as the pattern is processed by many professionals on its way. Although the actual printing is done mechanically, many phases still require handcraft.

Marimekko’s printing factory in Helsinki has two printing machines; rotary printing machine and flatbed printing machine. When using the rotational technique, the pattern is printed to the fabric with a cylinder-shaped shifter. Rotary printing is clearly faster compared to flatbed printing but flatbed printing enables creating bigger and technically more demanding patterns. When printing with flatbed technique the color is printed through a thin screen cloth stretched to a metallic frame. All frames used in printing are made as handcraft at the printing factory. To ensure that all colors work well together and to see how the final fabric looks like, all patterns are printed with a sample printing machine before starting the actual production. After printing, the fabric is dried and the colors fastened by steaming. Finally the fabric is washed, dried, and finished.

Tom Backman has worked at the printing factory’s finishing unit for already over ten years. According to Tom, the best things in his job are relaxed working atmosphere and colleagues. He also likes the groups visiting the printing factory.

“It’s nice when people come to admire the printing machines and get to know the printing process. Maybe they also value printed fabrics in a different way after their visit as they know how many people are involved in the process also here at Helsinki”, Tom says.

Every meter is inspected by the human eye

From the printing hall, the fabric goes to the inspection room where it is checked centimetre by centimetre and classified into quality grades. The sharp eyes of the inspectors run over some two thousand metres of fabric a day. After the check is complete, the fabric is rolled into bolts, sent to stores for sale by the metre, or sewn to make home decor products, clothing, bags or other colourful items to add joy to everyday life.

Anja Lopes is one of the employees with the longest careers at Marimekko. Currently Anja leads the fabric inspection unit and she has been working at the company since 1976, almost 40 years. During the years Anja has worked in various positions, for example, in cutting, sample sewing, and fabric inspection.

”It has been great to see how the industry has developed during the years. The work got a lot easier when we got new machines for fabric inspection in the beginning of the millennium. Marimekko is a unique place and here at the fabric inspection unit I can feel proud of what I do every day as I send out the finished fabrics out to the world. People often wonder, whether we really inspect all the fabrics with human eye. Yes we do,” Anja tells.