While most fashion houses follow seasonal trends, one brand tries its best not to. “It has always been about freedom and how a woman can feel self-confident and dress for herself, not dress for someone else or for a man. That’s the reason why [Marimekko] became so famous in the ’60s,” says Satu Maaranen, a lead designer for the iconic Finnish brand Marimekko.
“They stood out because of the silhouettes and the cuts in the clothes, which looked and felt so relaxed and free.”
Marimekko is Finnish for “Mari’s dress”. Striped, checked, and floral dresses have been building Marimekko’s rich and varied artistic legacy over the past nearly seven decades.
Over the years, Marimekko’s artists have created some 3,500 designs. Perhaps the most recognised of them all is Maija Isola’s Unikko (poppy) from 1964. The bold prints and vibrant colors come to life at Marimekko’s own printing factory in Helsinki, where around 1 million metres of fabric are printed on each year.
Maaranen has been designing for Marimekko for seven years and is the founder of Pre Helsinki, an organization helping young Finnish designers find international work. As an entrepreneurially-minded designer always looking to help her peers, Maaranen has always appreciated Marimekko’s desire to empower the women wearing its clothes, and those working there.
Inspired by Finnish Nature
The brand’s free-spirited ethos and prints were a very conscious decision at the brand’s beginning, a response to the climate of the time.
“Marimekko started after the war, and Finland was quite a poor country. We had to survive, and build everything from the beginning after the war,” says Satu Maaranen. So Marimekko decided “to use bold and bright colours to tear up the mold on those times”.
Traditionally, the design “got inspiration from Finnish nature, using bright colours and bold patterns, because the winter is so long and it’s super dark here,” Maaranen says.
While the neighbouring Scandinavian nations have the same harsh winters, there are other differences that make Marimekko distinctly Finnish.
“We have never had a royal family or king, only presidents,” Maaranen says. “We don’t have that royal kind of luxury, where everything is decorated with gold.”
“I feel Marimekko is an art house,” says Maaranen. “It’s not a fashion house only, or a design house only. I think it’s about art. The first thing they told me was, ‘Now you are coming to an art house.’ ”