Do you recall that episode of Friends, when Rachel got a job interview in a luxury department store and Phoebe remarked, “Oh it’s like the mothership is calling you home”?
That was how I felt when I made a trip to Helsinki nine years ago and finally got to visit the flagship store of Marimekko (btw, they also have an outlet outside the city, sshhh…).
I honestly cannot remember when my love affair with the Finnish textile company’s bold, colorful prints began. But what I do remember is how I have always loved prints, even as a child. I come from a generation when every home had a sewing machine and a suking modista who would visit regularly to make clothes for family members. I would accompany my mom to fabric stores, and together we would choose which patterns we wanted for our matching mother-daughter dresses. At home, I would even cut up the retaso into little squares to make my own mini sample book.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@ilardeliza) knows my love for prints, and I have stated in interviews that my favorite print of all time is Unikko, the iconic floral pattern of Marimekko designed in 1964. While this has become the unofficial logo of the brand, it is by no means the only famous one—Marimekko has over 3,500 prints in its archive! Every so often, they reissue specific patterns for new collections for fabrics, apparel, accessories, and homeware, as well as for special collaborations with other like-minded brands. And one of the most anticipated is that with Uniqlo.
Finnish textile company Marimekko has over 3,500 prints in its archive
Founded by Armi Ratia in 1951, Marimekko celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. To mark this milestone, the brand partnered again with Uniqlo for a limited-edition collection, which launched in store and online on May 21. Its theme is “Joyful Summer,” taking inspiration from the Nordic midsummer lifestyle and traditions, emphasizing a light mood, happy feelings, and optimism.
I had the opportunity to do an email interview with Minna Kemmell-Kutvonen, Marimekko’s director of home products and prints design, who has been with the company for 28 years. She told me, “I decided that I wanted to work for Marimekko already as a child!”—which perfectly echoes my sentiments about fashion and prints.
Excerpts of our Q&A:
First of all, happy 70th anniversary to Marimekko! What special projects, events, or collaborations do you have lined up?
This is such an exciting year for us! We couldn’t be more proud to celebrate this milestone with amazing projects. We have had and will still have many exciting things and events coming up around the world. Our focus is on making even more people discover and fall in love with Marimekko’s art of printmaking. Just recently, we published a beautiful art book with Thames & Hudson. Later in the fall, we will open up our archives through a concept called Maripedia, which is an interactive print library open for everyone.
This month saw the launch of your fourth limited-edition collection with Uniqlo. You’ve also done collaborations with other brands—how do you choose who to partner with? What attracted you to Uniqlo?
Marimekko is a very inclusive brand—we believe in togetherness and we wish to inspire people with our original prints and colors and overall empowering aesthetic. We partner with brands with whom we share similar values, and can create something new and exciting together. Every one of our collaborations is unique and surprising, combines our design DNA with a partner’s core expertise, and provides an opportunity to build our global brand awareness.
The foundation for the Uniqlo collaboration is built on the strengths of both brands: Marimekko’s recognizable, colorful design aesthetic, and Uniqlo’s high-quality, functional, and reasonably priced clothes, designed for all. Both brands share a democratic and functional approach and philosophy to design, the idea that clothes can and should bring joy to the wearer. It’s about practical solutions for everyday life, without forgetting joy and playfulness.
It’s about practical solutions for everyday life, without forgetting joy and playfulness
Tell us about the new Uniqlo x Marimekko collab. Since it’s an anniversary collection, what makes it special or different from the previous ones? How did you decide on which prints to include?
In this collection, summer joy is crystallized through floral interpretations of nature mixed with subtle graphic shapes, emphasizing the delightful simplicity and freshness of Finnish midsummer, which we wanted to portray. For the first time, we introduced variations of denim styles, elevated with Marimekko prints. Accessories such as wide-brim hats, knotted bags, and espadrilles add an element of playfulness and fun.
As for the prints, we always start with the overall mood of the season. To portray the breeziness of this time of year, the collection showcases delightful prints by some of Marimekko’s most iconic designers—Fujiwo Ishimoto, Annika Rimala, Maija Isola, and Maija Louekari—who all have very distinct design languages and styles.
I want to highlight that it’s our first time to include Marimekko prints that have a special link to Japan. [Japanese-born] Fujiwo Ishimoto designed around 400 prints while working at Marimekko from 1974 to 2006. Many of his creations were inspired by the beautiful nature of Scandinavia, with a hint of Japanese design. Fujiwo interprets nature all around us in such a delicate, exquisite way. His prints manage to capture unique moments from life, little details that transport the viewer into a story.
When was the last time Marimekko launched a new print? And how do you keep new designs fresh and yet true to the spirit of Marimekko?
Marimekko was founded around creative printmaking back in 1951, and this is a legacy we still very much cherish. The core of our printmaking is based on the unique, often hand-crafted interpretation of each designer and artist we work with. In Marimekko’s prints, one can feel something that we like to call “perfect imperfection”—our designs have a human touch to them. Each season, we issue archive prints but also invite new, interesting artists to design for us—we value our legacy but also constantly look to the future. When commissioning new prints, we ask ourselves: What do the strong “imprints” of today look like? What techniques do new, interesting printmakers work with? We like to think that printmaking is an art form. We are very proud of our ever-growing print archive—our print library contains over 3,500 designs at the moment.
‘One can feel something that we like to call ‘perfect imperfection’—our designs have a human touch to them’
Speaking of the future, what are the company’s plans? Considering what the world is like today (i.e., pandemic, climate change, racism, etc.), how does Marimekko address these issues?
Since the beginning, the purpose of Marimekko has been to empower people to be happy as they are and bring joy to their everyday lives. We want to do this in a timeless and sustainable way, and we feel that today, this original mission is perhaps more meaningful than ever. One of Marimekko’s founding values is fairness to everyone and everything, which crystallizes our thinking around sustainability, equality, diversity, and inclusivity. Striving to work towards these values is extremely important—we believe that there can be no joy without equality.
We want to be at the forefront of developing more sustainable products and practices, therefore, we recently raised our sustainability targets both for our own operations and for the entire value chain to a new, markedly more ambitious level. We believe that, in the future, timeless and sustainable products will be made in balance with the environment, in line with the principles of the circular economy, and with full transparency, starting with raw materials. Our long-term vision is that our operations leave no trace on the environment.
For more information, go to uniqlo.com/ph