Tallinn is 80km from Helsinki, a boat trip takes around two hours. I travel there frequently to visit the sewing companies and pattern makers that help us turn our designs into clothes. Every trip to Estonia is an eye-opener for me, it seems like Finland’s southern neighbor has a lot to teach.
On the way to Mustamäe, where the pattern making company is located, I pass a residential area just outside Tallinn’s historical city center. Old wooden houses with carefully placed details are nestled with industrial houses and Soviet architecture, surrounding the medieval architecture of the old town. This mix of different ages and cultures makes the 15-minute-drive from the harbour to Mustamäe already an overwhelming experience.
Arriving there, I am repetitively amazed about the professionalism by which Helen and Monika, who run the pattern making company in a cosy office, finalise our new collections and make the fit just perfect. This time around, I bring our designs for the Summer & Spring 2019 collection, leaving it to Helen to finish the patterns and hand them over to our sewing company for creating the sample collection. In three weeks, I will have the first sample collection of SS19 in my hands!
This sewing company, located in a village by the coast another 80km from Tallinn, is next on my tour. Amidst one of Europe’s largest nature reserves, it has been built around a ship- and brickyard. The shipyard has been a major employer for the people living in the village and, although many companies did not survive the post-socialist economic system, there are still two small sewing companies running in the Village.
The main language spoken in the sewing company is Russian. The workers are specialized to work with recycled materials and are challenged with new production methods all the time. They know how to prepare the materials and do the cutting so that all the high quality material is used as efficiently as possible. In difference to large mass production, the people working with our TAUKO designs need to continuously learn something new. As do I. Talking to Rutt Ignahhin, the owner and founder of the company, I get to learn about the challenges of the latest designs in production. I introduce her the upcoming orders for the Autumn & Winter season and we talk about the sample collection for Summer 2019. She is very fluent in Finnish as she learned the language through Finnish television and radio during soviet times. My Estonian on the other hand is non-existent.
As many other owners of sewing companies, Rutt also keeps on talking about the future. People working in the company have been there for years and are very committed to their work, but will there be a next generation? Will there be young people who will be interested in this kind of job? And will there be a successor for Rutt when she gets to her well-deserved pension? The future remains unclear to her but I believe that there is already a promising next generation in Estonia.
Working together with Estonians taught me how they are committed to and appreciate their work. I feel that our clothes are tailored with proud. There seems to be a lot of appreciation for craftsmanship and professionalism that is only achieved over a long time, delivered from one generation to the next. At the same time, the contemporary art and culture scene is very lively and there are lots of new things happening all the time within the scene. Also the start-up scene is big. Estonians come up with their way of doing things: as a reaction to the threat of the multinational Uber taking over their Taxi services, they created their own very popular and independent taxi service application. And to hype the city itself: Tallinn offers free public transport for its citizens. How cool is that! I hope that this mentality of doing in your own way and appreciating the work you are doing, keeps the sewing industry alive in Estonia and Rutt will find a successor for her sewing company when the time comes. After all, it makes me proud that TAUKO clothes are tailored with proud and dedication.
Text: Mila Moisio
Photos: Till Bovermann