When a designer begins working to express a concept, there is always a flicker of hope that what follows will become something iconic, enduring. While plenty of designers have this good fortune once, perhaps twice in their career, most ideas pass into obscurity, never enjoying the widespread celebration that seals their name in collective memory. It is a rare bird indeed to be blessed with sustained success, and in that regard Finnish textile and fashion design company Marimekko is an aviary.
For over 60 years, Marimekko has proven again and again its uncanny ability to recognize and source intrepid designers talented in creating patterns with mass appeal to emblazon on clothing, accessories, and household textiles. Designers work both by hand and computer to create concepts for prints ranging from bold and geometric to dreamy and figurative. In a way it is utopian – designers are encouraged to experiment and do whatever it takes to create graphics strong enough to live their own lives in the world. Sometimes the designs begin as structures hand built from branches and twigs; sometimes they are drawn while dancing with a paintbrush, the kinetic gestures sweeping around the page.
From the start Marimekko was a female-centric company celebrating the unabashed indulgence in creative expression, and the company’s deep ties to Finnish fashion and industrial design began under the influence of the now-legendary matriarch of the company Armi Ratia. Her strong ideals and vision were undeniable, and steadily Marimekko became a household name. Those early days remain a decisive element in Finland’s contributions to fashion: in 1960, style icon and soon-to-be First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy brought Marimekko to overnight international fame with her purchase of seven dresses that she wore through her husband’s Presidential campaign, and their Tasaraita tricot collection helped to popularize the ubiquitous striped shirt of the 1960s and beyond. Today the company is still linked to its early ideals of courage, functionality, and joy, and with concept stores around the world, it is flourishing.