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Public (Nasdaq HelsinkiMMO1V)
Industry Home furnishings
Founded 1951 in Helsinki, Finland
Founder Armi Ratia
Riitta Immonen
Headquarters Helsinki, Finland
Key people
Mika Ihamuotila, CEO
Maija Isola, Designer
Vuokko Nurmesniemi, Designer
Revenue Increase 81,107,000 (2008)
Number of employees
414 (2008)

Marimekko is a Finnish home furnishings, textiles and fashion company based in Helsinki. It made important contributions to fashion in the 1960s. It is particularly noted for its brightly colored printed fabrics and simple styles, used both in women's garments and in home furnishings.[1] Two designers in particular, Vuokko Nurmesniemi, with bold stripes, and Maija Isola, with large simple flowered prints, created hundreds of distinctive patterns and helped to make Marimekko a household name across the world.



The Finnish entrepreneur Armi Ratia (1912–1979), founder of Marimekko.
Marianne Aav's book on Marimekko has Maija Isola's iconic 1964 Unikko print as its background
Marimekko in Kamppi, Helsinki

Marimekko was founded in 1951 by Viljo and Armi Ratia, after the Viljo's oil-cloth factory project failed and was converted to a garment plant. Armi asked some artist friends to apply their graphic designs to textiles. To show how the fabric could be used, the company then designed and sold a line of simple dresses using their fabric. When Finland's leading industrial designer Timo Sarpaneva invited the company to present a fashion show (albeit canceled at short notice) at the 1957 Triennale in Milan, this was an early recognition of fashion as an industrial art and of Marimekko's key role in the process. The garments were eventually showcased in the nearby Rinascente upscale department store by display manager Giorgio Armani.[2]

Pioneering design[edit]

Two pioneering designers set the tone for Marimekko: Vuokko Nurmesniemi in the 1950s and Maija Isola in the 1960s. [3][4] Nurmesniemi designed the simply striped red and white Jokapoika shirt in 1956. Isola designed the iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern in 1964.[5] Marimekko's bold fabrics and bright, simple design strongly influenced late 20th-century taste.[6] Many of the early Marimekko designs, including Isola's Unikko, remain in production in the 2010s.[7]

Commercial growth[edit]

Marimekko was first introduced to the United States by the architect Benjamin C. Thompson, who featured them heavily in his Design Research stores. They were made famous in the United States by Jacqueline Kennedy, who bought eight Marimekko dresses which she wore throughout the 1960 United States presidential campaign.[8] In the mid-1960s, Crate & Barrel began a relationship with Marimekko, which continues to this day, using their designs on textiles sold in their stores. Crate & Barrel also uses Marimekko patterns as display backdrops in their stores to add color and seasonality.

By 1965, the company employed over 400 staff, and the company was in every aspect of fine design, from fabrics to toys and dinnerware. The firm even completely equipped small houses with furnishings. That year, Armi Ratia told Pan Am's Clipper magazine that she was "against success—it is a sick word. Too many side effects". In the interview by R. E. Smallman, she also said that she did not like "hats, corsets. There is almost no more bra or even pants—no elegant woman will wear stockings, perhaps even no shoes. The world changes quickly, and this is expression of the new society."

In 1985, the company was sold to Amer-yhtymä. In the early 1990s, Marimekko was in a bad financial condition and was close to bankruptcy. It was then bought from Amer by Kirsti Paakkanen, who introduced new business methods in the company, Paakkanen played a key role in saving Marimekko and helping to revive its popularity.[8] Later on the 1990s Marimekko achieved publicity in the hit TV series Sex and the City. The fictional main character of the series, sex-and-relationship columnist Carrie Bradshaw, wore a Marimekko bikini on season 2 and later on, a Marimekko dress. In season 5 the series also introduced tablecloths with Marimekko prints.[8]

In 2005, Marimekko's revenue had quadrupled since Paakkanen's purchase, and its net income grown 200-fold. Kirsti Paakkanen remained CEO of Marimekko and owned 20% of the company via her business Workidea. In 2007, Paakkanen announced she would gradually hand over her ownership to Mika Ihamuotila as CEO and biggest owner of the company. In 2007, Marimekko began opening individually owned Marimekko Concept Stores in the United States and Canada.

As of 2011, there are stores in New York City, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Oxford, Mississippi; Miami, Florida; and Vancouver, British Columbia.[9] By September 2011 there were 84 stores across the world.[8]

Marimekko chart[edit]

The Marimekko name has been adopted within business and the management consultancy industry to refer to a specific type of bar chart known as a variable-width chart or Mosaic plot in which all the bars are of equal height, there are no spaces between the bars, and the bars are in turn each divided into segments of different width. The design of the mosaic plot resembles a Marimekko print.[10] The chart's design encodes two variables (such as percentage of sales and market share), but it is criticised for making the data hard to perceive and to compare visually.[11]


Cindy Babski wrote in the New York Times that "There was never any doubt about what the inside label would say. The clothes and fabrics, with their striking design and splashes of bold color, were clearly Marimekko. But for people of a certain generation—those who came of age in the 1960's—they represented more than just a brand name: They conjured up an image and an era."[12]

In 2007, Heidi Avellan wrote in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan that Marimekko was no longer a "statement, just as T-shirts with revolutionary Che Guevara or Palestinian scarves rarely express any political awareness. Marimekko is paper napkins and rubber boots". She wrote that Marimekko "began with the colourfully striped shirt, Jokapoika which Vuokko Nurmesniemi designed in 1956", which became the symbol for new radicalism in academia.[13]


  • Aav, Marianne. Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture. Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-300-10183-6
  • Cole, Drusilla. The Pattern Sourcebook: A Century of Surface Design. Laurence King, 2009. ISBN 978-1-85669-621-0
  • Fogg, Marnie. 1960s Fashion Print: A Sourcebook. Batsford, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7134-9054-1 (6 page-sized illustrations of Isola's prints) Google Books
  • Isola, Kristina. Maija Isola: Life, Art, Marimekko. Design Museo, 2005. ISBN 978-952-9878-42-0
  • Jackson, Lesley. Twentieth Century Pattern Design. Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-56898-712-5
  • Suhonen, Pekko. Phenomenon Marimekko. Marimekko Oy, 1986.


  1. ^ "Marimekko - Finnish Design". 
  2. ^ Kaj Kalin; Timo Sarpaneva; Marjatta Svennevig (1986). Sarpaneva. Helsinki: Otava. ISBN 951-1-07887-9. 
  3. ^ Kristina Isola, 2005
  4. ^ Marnie Fogg, 2008
  5. ^ Marimekko Timeline Retrieved 30 October 2011
  6. ^ Lesley Jackson, 2007
  7. ^ Marimekko Products (in 2011) Retrieved 30 October 2011
  8. ^ a b c d Qureshi, Huma (20 September 2011). "The Guardian House and Home Blog". Marimekko's bid for world domination. The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Marimekko Shop Locator" Retrieved 30 October 2011
  10. ^ ""
  11. ^ "Example Marimekko Chart", Retrieved 30 October 2011
  12. ^ Cindy Babski (January 3, 1988). "Marimekko Changes Its Spots". New York Times. 
  13. ^ HeidiAvellan (5 August 2007). "Radikala ränder (Radical stripes)". Sydsvenskan. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 

External links[edit]