Intelligent Design: Gorgeous book looks at over 60 years of iconic Marimekko designs



Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture (available now in paperback) is the first comprehensive study of Marimekko designs, and presents over two hundred examples of exuberant fashions and home furnishings by the Finnish company that pioneered a new definition of fashion. Today we take a look at this gorgeous book and the iconic designs within.

Founded in 1951 by visionary textile designer Armi Ratia and her husband, Viljo, the Marimekko Corporation in Finland not only sparked a revolution in pattern making but also pioneered a new definition of fashion that embraced the entire home environment. Those who haven’t heard of the name Marimekko will certainly be aware of the stylish and iconic designs that defined fashion trends in the 50s and 60s, and set the standard for designers ever since.

Innovation has always followed Marimekko throughout its impressive 60 year career. Even its creation (rising from the ashes of Viljo Ratia’s struggling oilcloth business) smacks of entrepreneurial flair. After Viljo’s business failed, they converted the old factory into a garment plant. Armi then asked some artist friends to apply their graphic designs to textiles. In order to show how the fabric could be used, the company then designed and sold a line of simple dresses using their fabric. This came at a time where fashion was just becoming recognised as an industrial art. Their timing could not have been better.

Two pioneering designers set the tone for Marimekko in the years that followed: Vuokko Nurmesniemi in the 1950s, and Maija Isola in the 1960s. Nurmesniemi designed the simply-striped red and white Jokapoika shirt in 1956; Isola designed the iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern in 1964. This innovative fashion style set the tone for Marimekko’s bold fabrics and bright, simple design, strongly influencing late 20th-century taste. Many of the early Marimekko designs, including Isola’s Unikko, remain in production today.

Marimekko has gone on to create iconic work in almost every aspect of fine design, including fabrics, toys, dinnerware, even completely equipped small houses. In recent years Marimekko has continued to exert its influence on the fashion world. In the 1990s it achieved publicity in the hit series Sex and the City (eagle-eyed viewers might recall Carrie wearing a Marimekko bikini and dress during the second season of the show, or how about the Marimekko furnishings dotted round her appartement?). Marimekko has also continued to tap into the zeitgeist of contemporary fashion (its line of Converse trainers are particularly coveted).

Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture from Yale was originally published in hardback last year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of this highly influential brand. Available soon in paperback, the book considers the history of the company from its founding through today and examines Marimekko’s impact on design in Finland and around the world.

The company’s most important designers, including Isola and Nurmesniemi, their contributions, and their stylistic development are also discussed. The book’s author Marianne Aav (design historian and director of the Finnish Museum of Art and Design, Helsinki), also examines Marimekko home and office interiors and how they reflected the lifestyle envisioned in Armi Ratia’s broad, radical definition of fashion.

Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture is available to pre-order now from Yale University Press, and is published in August 2012.

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