It all started with a dress.
From the beginning, the Marimekko dress has been an emblem for women who follow their own path with confidence and style.
Marimekko’s story begins in 1949 at Viljo Ratia’s textile printing company, Printex. His wife, Armi Ratia, instructs young artists to design bold new patterns for the company. Armi has a clear idea of the future. “You have to dream,” says Armi. “And one must stand out from the rest.” Printex, and later Marimekko, will print textiles by hand until December 1973.
In the 1950s, when the prevailing fashion was quite restrictive, Marimekko began making liberating dresses in abstract patterns in vibrant colors for women who dare to express their personality through their chosen outfit. Marimekko’s designers had the ability to feel the pulse of the moment: her clothing design was a source of charm and provocation throughout the world.
Marimekko’s first fashion show comes in 1951. Finns admire modern Printex textiles, but few know what to do with the new patterns. So Armi and Viljo organize 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 prints by different Finnish artists, including Maija Isola. The audience is captivated by the colorful patterns and clean cuts.
In 1953, Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi joined Marimekko as a fashion and textile designer. She helps develop new ways to mass produce clothes and revolutionizes the way Finns dress. Vuokko’s ingenious architectural cuts free women from the stifling brace of corsets. Vuokko and Armi broke up in the early 1960s. Having two such visionary women in the same company is impossible.
Over the years, Marimekko’s anti-fashion became not only fashionable but also a way of life. Marimekko is considered one of the first lifestyle brands to combine fashion, bags and accessories, as well as home décor, in an expression of joyous living.
In different decades, the Marimekko dress has reflected the spirit and aesthetics of the time, but the essence of the dress has remained unchanged.
The art of making prints
The heart and soul of Marimekko print design is its own print factory in Helsinki, which is where bold prints and colors come to life. From the beginning, large-scale patterns and vibrant color overlays have been the hallmarks of Marimekko’s designs.
Striped, plaid and floral patterns comprise Marimekko’s rich and varied artistic heritage. Perhaps the most iconic of the designs is Maija Isola’s 1964 Unikko (Poppy). Over the years, the artists of Marimekko have created some 3,500 designs, which have adorned clothing, bags, accessories, ceramics, clothing of bed, fabric and more.
In the Marimekko creative community, doing things together has always been key to innovation and originality. Iconic patterns have been reborn again and again in thousands of imaginative color palettes. New impressions add to this continuum of ambitious artwork every year.
“I don’t really sell clothes. I sell a way of life. They are designs, not fashions … I sell an idea instead of dresses.”
– RATIA ARMI –
Founder of Marimekko
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