Marimekko’s story begins
Marimekko’s story begins in the Viljo Ratia’s textile printing factory. His wife, Armi Ratia, finds new, bold print patterns for her husband’s company. Armi has a clear idea of the future. “One has to dream,” Armi says. “And one must stand out from the rest.” Printex – and later Marimekko – will print textiles by hand until December 1973.
The first Marimekko fashion show
Printex’s modern textiles are admired by Finns, but few know what to do with the new patterns. So Armi and Viljo organise a fashion show to demonstrate how their textiles can be used to make clothes. Marimekko’s first fashion collection is designed by Riitta Immonen, who makes use of print patterns from different Finnish artists, including Maija Isola. The show is held at the Kalastajatorppa hotel in Helsinki in May. The audience is enthralled by the colourful patterns and clean cuts. The clothes are sold almost right off the models’ backs. A few days after the show, Marimekko is officially registered as a company. The first Marimekko shop opens in Helsinki the following year.
Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi joins Marimekko as a fashion and textile designer. She helps develop new ways to mass produce clothing and revolutionises the way Finns dress. Vuokko’s clever, architectonic cuts liberate women from the stifling clasp of corsets. Vuokko and Armi part ways at the beginning of 1960. Having two such visionary women in the same company proves to be impossible.
The Marimekko logo is born. Armi wants it to be simple and timeless. A graphic designer uses a modified version of a classic Olivetti typewriter font to create the logo. Five decades later, the Marimekko logo is still going strong.
Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi designs the Jokapoika shirt – the longest running Marimekko classic still in production.
Sights on the world
Armi takes Marimekko to the Brussels World’s Fair, paving the way across the Atlantic. In the USA, Design Research, the revolutionary life-style and design store, begins to sell Marimekko clothing and fabrics in 1959.
Jacqueline Kennedy buys seven Marimekko dresses!
The US presidential campaign is in full swing and one of the candidate’s wives, Jacqueline Kennedy, buys seven Marimekko dresses all at once. Her purchase makes the headlines and Marimekko is an overnight sensation. The future First Lady also appears in her Marimekko summer dress on the cover of the December edition of Sports Illustrated. The original dress is designed by Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi. In the 1960s, Marimekko is regularly featured in international fashion magazines like Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Wear Daily.
One of Marimekko’s most beloved patterns sees daylight when Maija Isola paints her radiant Unikko, even though Armi was against the design of floral patterns in Marimekko. Maija Isola would also design other iconic patterns like Kaivo and Seireeni later that same year. Designing iconic patterns seems to be second nature to Maija. Prior to Unikko, she had already designed classics like Kaivo, Seireeni, Kivet and Lokki. Maija designs more than 500 textile patterns in her 38 years with Marimekko.
Denim is taking men’s and women’s fashion by storm. Designer Annika Rimala, who had joined in Marimekko in 1960, wants to create a clothing collection that goes with jeans. Clothing that will appeal to every denim lover – regardless of age, size or gender. This marks the beginning of Marimekko’s first tricot collection: Tasaraita – an even-striped celebration of equality.
Marimekko welcomes Pentti Rinta, a gifted designer of eye-catching dresses and everyday wear in tune with the times. In the 1970s, his colourful designs for Marimekko appear on the pages of Vogue and other magazines – from Australia to China. In 1972, Rinta designs Kuski, a popular corduroy men’s suit that will remain in production for years to come.
Annika Rimala designs the iconic Pallo tricot pattern, and soon everyone in Finland wearing a red/green/blue polka-dotted shirt.
Armi’s son, Ristomatti, uses cotton canvas to create the Olkalaukku shoulder bag – a Marimekko classic almost everyone has or has had. He soon goes on to design other classic cotton canvas bags, including Matkuri.
Marimekko gets a new factory in Helsinki
Marimekko opens a new textile printing factory in Herttoniemi, Helsinki and acquires its first flat screen printing machine. The factory is expanded in 1979, when the company moves its entire textile printing to one location. The second expansion is completed in 1983, when the company’s headquarters and design staff make Herttoniemi their new home.
Japanese designer Fujiwo Ishimoto joins Marimekko. During his career at Marimekko, he designs about 400 magical textile patterns.
Katsuji Wakisaka designs Bo Boo, a Marimekko classic featuring cars, trucks and buses. The pattern immediately wins over both children and playful adults. Especially in the United States, Bo Boo inspires a wonderfully varied and colourful assortment of products, including bedcovers, towels, bags and tableware. Wakisaka, who joined Marimekko in 1968, is the first of many Japanese designers to work for Marimekko.
Marimekko’s dark moment
Armi Ratia dies on 3 October. Her death leaves an immense void. Armi was Marimekko.
Fujiwo Ishimoto, the creative force behind so many Marimekko classics, designs one his most popular patterns, Maisema (Landscape). The iconic pattern is faithful to Finnish nature in shade, colour and light. Mother Nature is present in almost of all Ishimoto’s pattern designs – whether figurative or abstract.
Amer Group acquires Marimekko
Armi’s heirs sell Marimekko to Amer, a Finnish business group. Amer has high hopes for the company, but soon admits that it’s in trouble with Marimekko.
A brilliant new owner
Kirsti Paakkanen buys Marimekko in September 1991 and wastes no time in changing the company. She ushers in a new era of growth and profitability, and welcomes new designers like Ritva Falla who specializes in women’s business wear. Jukka Rintala and Jaana Parkkila are also recruited as fashion designers and Matti Seppänen begins to work on men’s clothing. Marja Suna, who was hired by Armi in 1979, make her mark as a resourceful fashion designer. Suna is the creator of Marimekko’s first knitwear collection.
First fashion show in the park
Kirsti comes up with the idea of organising a fashion show in Esplanade Park in the heart of downtown Helsinki. This marks the beginning of a new summertime tradition that continues to this day. Kirsti also brings joy to the friends of Marimekko with free fashion shows elsewhere in Finland at different times of the year.
Fashion designer Mika Piirainen joins Marimekko. At the beginning of the 2000s Mika is inspired by classic Marimekko patterns and begins to use them in his clothing designs. Classic and new join together successfully and soon other designers follow Mika’s example.
More young designers
Designer Sami Ruotsalainen settles in at Marimekko. In 2003 and 2006, competitions for young designers pave the way for the next generation of Marimekko designers, including Maija Louekari, Aino-Maija Metsola and Jenni Tuominen. They go on to create many of Marimekko’s most popular patterns in the coming years. Fashion designer Samu-Jussi Koski’s distinct style can also be seen in Marimekko clothing collections between 2004 and 2009.
Erja Hirvi creates a world-class pattern: Lumimarja. This soulful design has clearly earned its place among Marimekko’s many classic textile patterns. Erja began her career at Marimekko in 1995 with her successful Lenny design – the story of an angel who takes to the skies in fast and colourful flight.
The Herttoniemi factory celebrates
The textile printing factory in Herttoniemi gets a new flat screen printing machine and digital screen-making equipment.
First Marimekko stores in Japan
Marimekko builds a network of stores in Japan. In nine years, the company opens 28 stores in some of Japan’s best shopping destinations.
Mika Ihamuotila takes helm of Marimekko
Mika Ihamuotila becomes the majority owner of Marimekko and begins as the company CEO in February 2008. He makes a determined effort to build Marimekko into a more international company.
Oiva tableware launched
Sami Ruotsalainen’s Oiva tableware hits the stores and immediately attracts a devoted following. Finding inspiration in allotment gardens, Maija Louekari designs the first patterns for the tableware collection.
Duo Rinne Niinikoski make debut
Piia Rinne and Noora Niinikoski design their first clothing collection for Marimekko: vibrantly colourful knitwear and outfits with patterns inspired by Marimekko’s bold floral designs.
Anu Penttinen’s Sukat makkaralla (Socks Rolled Down) glassware is launched. Straightforward in spirit yet complex in form, this colourful mouth-blown glass is perfect for any table, any day.
Marimekko’s flagships store has resided on Helsinki’s most fashionable shopping street, North Esplanade, since 1974. In 2011, the store is completely renewed and moved a short walk up from its original location to its new address on North Esplanade. A Marimekko flagships store is also opened in New York and a year later in Sydney, Australia too.
Converse ♥ Marimekko
The first Converse ♥ Marimekko sneakers spring into stores in the spring of 2011. Altogether, there have been six Converse ♥ Marimekko collections. Marimekko has been collaborating with international brand since the mid-1970s.
New printing machine in Herttoniemi
The Herttoniemi factory’s production capacity grows three fold as a considerably faster rotary printing machine is installed next to existing print line. The original flat screen printing machine is used to print larger and more technically demanding patterns.
Global fashion weeks
For the first time in its history, Marimekko premieres its Spring and Summer 2012 fashion collections in Tokyo. Next in line are the New York Fashion Week in 2013 and the Stockholm and Copenhagen Fashion Week in 2014.
Tuula Pöyhönen designs a new bag collection for Marimekko. Combining humour with practicality in a very Marimekko way, the collection has the makings of a Marimekko classic, and some of the bag models are included in Marimekkko’s permanent collection.
Call of China
The first Marimekko store in China opens in Hong Kong. In Shanghai, Marimekko organises a fashion show in the wonderfully green People’s Park, with dancers from the world-renowned Jin Xing Dance Theatre modelling Marimekko outfits and clothing. At the same time the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai displays a wide selection of Marimekko classics in conjunction with a major exhibition of Finnish design. Shanghai and Peking get their own Marimekko stores the following year.
Marimekko and Finnair take to the sky
Marimekko and Finnair begin a unique design partnership, symbolised by a huge Unikko print painted on the side of a Finnair passenger aircraft. More flowers take to the sky, when Finnair unveils its Anniversary Unikko plane in 2014. Passengers on all Finnair flights enjoy textiles and tableware with classic Marimekko prints.
The Sääpäiväkirja (weather diary) collection is launched to sunny weather. Inspired by meteorological phenomena and seasonal change, Aino-Maija Metsola brings a painterly brushstroke to the collection’s colour-rich print patterns. The Sääpäiväkirja collection includes fabrics, kitchen textiles, posters and Oiva tableware.
Marimekko welcomes a new member to the In Good Company product family. Designer Mari Isopahkala’s Konkkaronkka (merry bunch) is a tribute to deliberately odd-paired yet personal cutlery.
Unikko celebrates 50th anniversary
Forever young Unikko was celebrated around the world in colourful ways: shows and exhibitions, pop-up stores and coffee shops, air journeys and shared stories of brave choices.
Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko becomes President of Marimekko
Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko and Mika Ihamuotila assume joint responsibility for the running of the company. Tiina acts as the President and CEO and Mika as the Executive Chairman of the Board.