We can write “Made by machines and human hands” on all we make. We have thought carefully about what we want the machines to do, and what we want people with nimble ﬁngers to do, but it has to be said that even machines cannot do without people.
The textile industry in Europe grew great and mighty, with a long tradition, but over the past 50 years many workers in the textile industry have lost their jobs. What once as the heart of many communities and lifelong dedication of skill and craft, is almost resigned to history. The centre of gravity has been moved back to where the first hand looms were developed hundreds of years ago, to Asia.
In Norway, Oleana is the youngest textile factory, and the only one of its kind which has the whole production in Norway. Others have moved all, or parts of their production to countries where labour is cheaper. In Eastern European countries the cost of one working hour costs a tenth; in China, India, Pakistan about a hundredth of what it would cost in Norway.
As we who founded Oleana wanted to create jobs in Norway, we chose to buy raw materials such as yarn and fabric, but do all the rest of the work in our own factory. In addition we decided to use the most intricate and finest of all knitwear seams, called linking, on the shoulders and trimmings of our knitted garments.
Our pledge to the industry and to ourselves is that we will never compete on price at the cost of our workers. It is they who produce garments so lovely that people buy and cherish them; fine work-womanship comes from respect and commitment. It takes quite a while to master some of the intricate operations. The same operation has to be repeated, time and again, before it can be executed to a level of mastery and produce the quality that brings so much joy.
The knitting, however, is left to the machines. We stated out managing with two old, second-hand German machines. Overtime we have invested in the most advanced and now we have 33 Japanese knitting machines in the knitting hall, humming away from side to side, from early morning until late at night.
When we have visitors to the factory we often emphasise that we are at the intersection between craft and industry. The alert observer can see that easily, but it is important to emphasise that the choices we have made are conscious.