Day 45. With this Marimekko angel I say goodbye to Finland.
When it was time to choose an artist to study form this country, I looked at a lot of art and suddenly I saw a bold Marimekko Design. My mind immediately asked Why? Until now I thought this was a Japanese brand! (Because of its sounds…something about the M and the K) But when I realized it was Finnish, my choice was instantly made… I would create a Marimekko Angel! In my head I pictured this bold angel full of colors and patterns!
So before we get to the process of creating my Marimekko angel, I researched a bit about this company and it talented textile artists!
This name actually derives from it’s founder’s name, Mari from Maria! like me! and Mekko from the word for dress in Finnish! She along with her husband Viljo, started a textile company named Printex when his previous company failed. It’s recognizable logo was inspired by types from a typewriter in 1954. (3)
Marimekko’s success as a company comes from great decision making, and its great contracted clothing and graphic designers. They also have a lovely long tradition of always honoring their best designs by keeping them in use. Which means that we are still wearing prints from the 1960’s! How cool is that?!
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 France; 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. (1)
Here is Armi Ratia wearing a Jokapoika.
During the 1960’s, Jacqueline Kennedy helped to place this company in the world’s eyes when she bought and wore a Marimekko dress in the cover of a Sports Illustrated Magazine in 1960:
These are Marimekko dresses from that time:
Annika Rimala, a fashion designer helped to bring Marimekko in sync with the popular culture. Her modern dress designs were regularly featured in international fashion magazines. In 1968, inspired by the growing denim trend, Annika created Marimekko’s first cotton jersey collection, Tasaraita (even stripe). This design characterized by the equal width of the two colors, symbolizing the equality between men and women. All models are made with organic cotton extra soft. (1)
This is the typical shirt and a current dress on sale with this pattern at the Marimekko website:
I do want to clarify that this is certainly not the first use of stripes in clothing or accesories, this actually dates way back but one could say the French made it known to the world through their marine uniforms in the 1800’s. They were blue navy stripes. Then Coco Channel did the first shirt with black stripes from top to bottom in the early 1900’s…
In the ’60s, Maija Isola, probably my favorite designer of Marimekko, who created my favorite print, the most widely known is Unikko (poppy), which Maija designed in 1964 in protest after Armi Ratia had declared that Marimekko would never be a flower print company! Never say never!!!
Maija created so many great flower designs that Marimekko accepted 8 into its portfolio of printing designs. Her Unikko is so único! that it became the symbol of the company. This is it:
In the 1970’s, Annika Rimala created instant hits such as the polka-dot Pallo (ball) jersey
The Japanese textile designer Katsuji Wakisaka arrived in Finland and at Marimekko from Japan in 1968. He designed several iconic prints like Bo Boo, a pattern which immediately won over both children and adults:
On 3 October 1979, Armi Ratia passed away. In 1985, Armi’s heirs sold Marimekko to Amer Group, a Finnish conglomerate.
The factory building in Helsinki was expanded in 1983, and Marimekko’s headquarters moved under the same roof as the printing mill. HERE you can take a wonderful trip into the headquarters of Marimekko.
In 1991, Kirsti Paakkanen who was an advertising executive, took ownership of Marimekko. She helped to renew the image of Marimekko at this time by hiring new fashion designers. Among them was Erja Hirvi who’s design “Lumimarja,” a bush branch with berries, became a instant hit:
The Oiva tableware designed by Sami Ruotsalainen hit the stores in 2009 and was an instant hit. Maija Louekari created the first patterns for the tableware collection Siirtolapuutarha which would be a huge hit in the next decade and still current.
This is Maija Louekari who became a Marimekko designer after winning a design competition by Marimekko and the University of Rt and Design Helsinki. Her winning design, the Hetkia/Moemts patter is still available in Marimekko’s home collection.
This is the Hetkia/Moments winning Design. (I was curious!)
So with this information I started thinking about the angel. This Marimekko dress made it easy to decide on the shape of it:
I drew the dress making even longer sleeves and added the patterns I like the most. The only change I made was the stripes at the bottom. I read that the designer had chosen the black and white stripes to be even in size to represent equality between men and women. I had spaced them to give the feeling of ascension, so then I changed it to respect the designer’s intent. You can see the rest of the process in the following video:
You can see the whole process in this 5 minute video:
Marimekko’s global expansion started around 2010 and there are now Merimekko stores all over the world. Even my home city, Boston, has one! It is actually one of the four in the United States, the other are in Vermont, New York (flagship) and California.
I went to see it and it was so beautiful! My being was so, so delighted. All those colors and incredible patterns! I felt a bit like a Fan recognizing all the patterns I had read about.
I met Emma a young sales woman dressed in a Marimekko green Unikko dress that shared my enthusiasm! She told me so many interesting facts, like this year is the 70th year of the brand and they have put in circulation some designs that were made by their most famous designers long ago. One of them was a tiger print by Maija Louekari. Loved a towel they had with that print. Oh! and I also absolutely fell in love with a dress, called the Happy dress:
Emma shared that the reason why it had so many pockets was that the designer’s husband was always giving her love notes and she decided to add lots of pockets to her dress so she could put her husband’s notes in them! Too sweet!
I ended up buying this… a Unikko classic bag. I love it so much!
New products have been introduced in the home collection, such as the Sukat makkaralla (socks rolled down) glassware by Anu Penttinen, the Konkkaronkka (bunch) cutlery by Mari Isopahkala, and the Hehkuva (glowing) lantern and the Valoisa (bright) lamp by Harri Koskinen. Artists Astrid Sylwan, Paavo Halonen and Kustaa Saksi made their debut as Marimekko print designers in the early ’10s. (1)
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. (1)
HERE is the link to the Marimekko’s website and all its available fabrics.
The Marimekko story continues…
Today, I discovered that one of the albums I listen to every now and then belongs to a Finnish music group called “The Crash” sadly, they disbanded in 2009. I really love their “Pony Ride” album.
I found their last note to fans…
GOODBYE OUR BELOVED FANS, we shall go now.
We would like to show our greatest appreciation to our kind spirits around the world for standing by us through these amazing years that we have experienced together. We hope you understand that our time has come to let go of one dream to bail for another. Our lives got ahead of us and it didn’t no longer make sense to continue with the band because we couldn’t have given our music and our audience the full commitment that both deserve. We also remind you that we started this band as a bunch of friends close to 18 years ago and that’s how we will part – as friends.
We hope to see you at our final shows in Finland. But since most of you aren’t going to be able to attend, we hope that you’ll cherish our music like we’ll cherish the memory of you all. We take a bow. Curtains. Source
I decided to add this song to the video I had already created. Sadly iTunes will not let me make an MP3 version of the song so I had to record it with my Phone’s Mic, so it sounds a bit boxy. Still I love it… and I want to honor their beautiful music. Here it is in its spectacular sound: