33 Reasons to Be Mad for Marimekko as the Brand Marks Its 70th Year

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I spent the last year working on a book about Marimekko and its founder Armi Ratia who, 70 years ago, set out to change the world with textiles. This wasn’t premeditated; her husband bought an oil-cloth firm, and Ratia, who had been planning to leave advertising to write a novel, joined in the new venture. She had some experience working with fabrics, but more importantly, the strong-willed Ratia had a vision. Inspired by the Bauhaus, she aimed to uplift daily life through quality design.

1941 Helsinki, though war-torn, was home to many idealistic and creative Finns who were energized to build a new society. Ratia soon had a team of creatives working for her and designing bold, graphically dynamic, and expressive prints that broke with tradition. They were, in fact, ahead of their time. In 1951, Ratia hired a designer to make them up into dresses presented on models at a hotel in Helsinki and a collective light bulb seemed to switch on—demand grew, and not only in Finland. In 1960, Jacqueline Kennedy appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing one of the A-line Marimekkos she bought in the Design Research store in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Marimekko dresses had few seams or tucks in order to best respect the textile design. They also liberated the body, allowing women freedom and motion, which was not the prevailing trend in the 1950s. Ratia always said she had no time for fashion and saw the dresses, the famous striped Jokapoika shirts, etc. as an extension of an idea for living,

Many of Marimekko’s most recognizable patterns were created by the artist and textile designer Maija Isola, who, like Ratia, was an iconoclast. In 1964 Isola introduced Unikko, the vibrant poppy print that serves as the company’s de facto, in defiance of floral patterns. Almost every collection since then has had one.

Collected here is a bouquet of Marimekko products, vintage and new, with which to celebrate the brand’s 70th anniversary.

Party Time

Marimekko is 70-years young. Why not commemorate the occasion in a vintage dress?

Marimekko flange-shouldered print dress

Marimekko original late-’80s dress

Marimekko circa-1971 purple and brown cotton circle-windowpane-print maxidress

Marimekko multicolor maxidress

Vintage Marimekko 1970s red and pink cotton gown

Unikko

This poppy has a punkish pedigree. It was designed in 1964 by the textile designer Maija Isola who determinedly broke the house rule, which until that point had been no flowers.

Marimekko Unikko heavyweight cotton fabric

Marimekko Oiva Juhla Unikko mug

Marimekko Unikko beige and blue rain poncho

Marimekko Siimeksessä Unikko rain hat

Marimekko Pieni Unikko Puffi pouf

Marimekko Liuske Unikko unisex T-shirt

Tout-y Fruity

During Finland’s dark winters, Marimekko’s emotive and colorful designs evoke the light and warmth—and sometimes the tastes—of summer.

Marimekko Mansikkavuoret fabric in turquoise, red, and white

Marimekko Oiva Mansikkavuoret stoneware plate

Marimekko Drutha Mansikka sneakers

Marimekko Barita Pieni Unikko bag

Marimekko Paaryna beige and green Astrilli scarf

Marimekko apple-print vintage scarf

Marimekko Kuusikko Appelsiini T-shirt

Marimekko vintage Appelsiini orange print apron

Where the Wild Things Are

Finland is a country of lush forests, and some Marimekko prints explore the fairy tale aspect of the deep, dark woods and the creatures that inhabit them in real life, or in the imagination.

Marimekko Ketunmarja cotton bag

Marimekko Iloinen Takki kids dress

Marimekko Ketunmarja fabric in dark blue and brown

Marimekko Veljekset cotton cushion cover in purple and black

Marimekko Omppu spotted dog collectible jar

Marimekko orange and green Karkulaiset elephants wallpaper roll

Line Dance

Marimekko’s Jokapoika shirt, with its hand-drawn lines, has sometimes been called a uniform for creatives. Stripes and geometrics are featured in many Marimekko patterns.

Marimekko Jokapoika 2017 shirt

Marimekko II Silkkikuikka abstract wallpaper

Marimekko Nauttia Mansikka placement dress

Marimekko Lyhythiha logo shirt

Marimekko Kaksi Raitaa bath towel

Marimekko Karla stripe leather bag

Marimekko Varhain Pikkuinen Lokki cap

Marimekko Tiiliskivi gardening apron

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