“NOT ALL GOOD FASHION COMES FROM ITALY,” AS MEELIS MILDER, THE CEO OF ESTONIAN FASHION GROUP BALTIKA, HAS SAID. ‘MADE IN EUROPE’ AND ‘LOCALLY MADE’ ARE TERMS THAT WE HEAR AND USE MORE AND MORE COMMONLY.
However, Europe is a broad definition, both in terms of geographical location as well as of quality, design, know-how and artisanal heritage. Let’s explore what ‘Made in Europe’ stands for, when it comes to fashion and textiles from the Baltic States Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. For instance, Lithuania is operating around 700 textile companies and the other two countries share similar numbers.
The Baltic countries connect the East and the West and combine best of the two worlds with long tradition in textile and apparel making and a high quality design approach. Latvia’s strength lay in production of lingerie (the country takes second place in Europe after France with it’s high concentration on underwear producers), sewing of knitted garments, weaving, technical textiles and production of artisanal textiles. Estonian industry mainly offers manufacturing of clothing, processing and knitting of textiles and manufacturing of home textiles. And Lithuania offers a similar range of possibilities in garment manufacturing, textile weaving and knitting as well as has a high focus on integration of innovative methods and modern technologies. The geographic location and infrastructure is also very convenient with several seaports that provide connections to Scandinavia and Western Europe.
The textile and clothing sector in all three countries offers skilled and experienced work force and technicians, competitive prices, diversified production volumes as well as short lead times. Besides, the artisanal and traditional textile and apparel making methods have always taken an important role and presents a variety of skills and techniques to be explored.
The products of the Finnish brand Marimekko is one of the examples of what can be made in the Baltics. Labels kitchen textiles, bags and jersey products are sewn in Estonia, and majority (around 70%) of Marimekko clothing is sewn in Lithuania. For instance, Marimekko dresses, shirts, pants and jackets. Also linen fabrics used in Marimekko products are sourced within Lithuania.
Besides tradition for garment production, the Baltic countries are also a home of many highly talented designers. One of the greatest examples is the fashion duo from Riga Mareunrol’s, which have gained international recognition by participating in several seasons of Paris Fashion Week, as well as winning the internationally acclaimed Hyeres award. Elina Dobele’s (Latvia) shoes and leather products are another great example of handcrafted wearable art of exquisite quality. With the quality of design being as high as the quality of the products itself. Moreover, D’efect (Lithuania) offers its customers high quality fashion of minimalistic designs with focus on original details. All their products are produced within 200 km radius from their office in Vilnius, which allows the team to visit factories on regular bases to check the manufacturing process. Which is also a great example of both the design and manufacturing quality that the Baltics have to offer.
The concept of sustainability within fashion industry is being introduced step by step. Reet Aus (Estonia) has been one of the pioneers in sustainable fashion by working with upcycled fabrics and providing her customers with the greatest quality examples of this method. Estonian company ‘Qualitex’ sets an example for others with working with more environmentally friendly fibres, such as organic cotton and gaining several certificates that ensure the social and environmental quality of their products (e.g. Oeko Tex). And Latvian social label Mammu provides young mothers in need with work and flexible working hours that allow them to look after their small children.
Coming from Latvia myself it was of great interest for me personally to discover what we are capable of producing and understanding the prospects of the local textile and fashion industry. Hence, during my Master’s studies final project development (MA in Sustainability in Fashion, ESMOD Berlin), a central theme was to reflect upon the possibilities offered by the Baltic countries. The pictures below illustrate part of my work, made of locally sourced materials, such as bamboo from Estonian company ‘Qualitex’, linen from Latvia and silk digitally printed in Riga.
There is still a lot more to discover when it comes to the Baltic countries and fashion and textile industry. And the future looks exciting and promising.
Written by SINTIJA AVOTNIECE