One of my favorite design houses is Marimekko. I recently had the pleasure of visiting New York City and made a stop at the Marimekko flagship store on Fifth Avenue. Read more on this incredible design house that has been around for so many years.
It all began in 1949
Viljo Ratia founded Printex, a small Helsinki-based textile printing company, in 1949. Viljo’s wife, Armi Ratia, envisioned a bold future for textile design and manufacturing. To fulfil her vision, she gathered promising young artists around her and asked them to create new and striking fabric prints for Printex.
One of the young artists was Maija Isola, whose Amfora design was among the first fabrics printed at Printex.
A lot of admirers but no buyers – how do you use such unusual fabrics?
Armi’s solution: a fashion show filled with color, style and exceptional patterns! The clothes designed by renowned fashion designer Riitta Immonen were literally sold on the spot. Marimekko was registered as a company five days later, on 25 May 1951. The following year Marimekko opened its first store in Helsinki.
Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi joined Marimekko in 1953 to design clothing and print patterns. What Vuokko did for Finnish women can be equivalent to what Coco did for French women; one should be able to move freely in one’s clothes. Alongside her radical loose-fitting dress designs, Vuokko created one the most enduring Marimekko classics: the unisex Jokapoika (every boy) shirt in the striped Piccolo pattern.
Jacqueline Kennedy purchased seven Marimekko dresses in Massachusetts and wore one of them on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1960, increasing popularity in the United States.
Marimekko became an internationally renowned phenomenon and a way of life. The company grew rapidly and its product range expanded to include a variety of accessories and home items. Armi Ratia built a utopia called Marikylä (Marimekko Village), whose aim was to house the staff and to function as a laboratory for product design and Marimekko living.
Marimekko’s global expansion has been in full swing in the ’10s. The number of Marimekko stores outside Finland has more than doubled, including flagship stores in New York City and Sydney, and several new markets haven been opened up in Asia.
Marimekko fashion has been prominently showcased in the international arena. The Tokyo, New York, Stockholm and Copenhagen Fashion Weeks have all seen premiere presentations of Marimekko collections. A true never-before-seen event was Marimekko’s fashion show in collaboration with the world-renowned Jin Xing Dance Theatre in Shanghai’s People’s Park in 2012.
Among new additions to the team of fashion designers are award-winning Satu Maaranen and Teemu Muurimäki whose Unikko (poppy) dresses created in celebration of the iconic pattern’s 50th anniversary were featured in a number of international fashion magazines.
Design collaboration with two famed international brands, Converse and Banana Republic, brought Marimekko high global visibility. In 2012, Marimekko and Finnair began a unique partnership: two Unikko-patterned aircraft fly from Helsinki to Finnair’s long-haul destinations, and passengers on all Finnair flights can enjoy textiles and tableware with Marimekko patterns.
The output capacity of the textile printing factory in Helsinki was tripled in 2011 with the acquisition of a new rotary printing machine.
In 2015, Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko and Mika Ihamuotila assumed joint responsibility for the running of the company. Tiina acts as the President and CEO and Mika as the Executive Chairman of the Board.