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Marimekko Oyj
TypeJulkinen osakeyhtiö
Nasdaq HelsinkiMMO1V
IndustryHome furnishings
Founded25 May 1951; 70 years ago (1951-05-25) in
Helsinki, Finland
FoundersViljo Ratia
Armi Ratia
Riitta Immonen
Key people
Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko, CEO
Mika Ihamuotila, Chairman
Maija Isola, Designer
Vuokko Nurmesniemi, Designer
RevenueIncrease €102.3 million (2017)[1]
Increase €8.4 million (2017)[1]
Increase €5.7 million (2017)[1]
Number of employees
446 (31 December 2017)[1]

Marimekko Oyj 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.

Two designers in particular, Vuokko Nurmesniemi, with bold stripes, and Maija Isola, with large simple flowered prints such as the Unikko poppy, created hundreds of distinctive patterns and helped to make Marimekko a household name across the world.


The co-founder, Armi Ratia, considered Armi as the company's name, but it was already registered. Her middle name was Maria, shortened to Mari; her husband Viljo considered different names for women's clothing. In her home town of Koivisto, Armi heard people talking about dresses (Finnish: mekko), and so she came to the name Marimekko.[2]



The Finnish entrepreneur Armi Ratia (1912–1979), founder of Marimekko.
Marianne Aav's book on Marimekko has Maija Isola's iconic 1964 Unikko poppy print as its background
A Marimekko store 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, it was an early recognition of fashion as an industrial art and of Marimekko's key role in shaping it to that point. The garments were eventually showcased in the nearby Rinascente upscale department store by display manager Giorgio Armani.[3]

Pioneering design[edit]

Two pioneering designers set the tone for Marimekko: Vuokko Nurmesniemi in the 1950s and Maija Isola in the 1960s.[4][5] Nurmesniemi designed the simply striped red and white Jokapoika shirt in 1956. Isola designed the iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern in 1964.[6] Marimekko's bold fabrics and bright, simple design strongly influenced late 20th-century taste.[7] Many of the early Marimekko designs, including Isola's Unikko, remain in production in the 2010s.[8]

Commercial growth[edit]

Marimekko spread to America in the 1960s.[9] It was introduced to the United States by the architect Benjamin C. Thompson, who featured them 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.[10]

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. In 1985, the company was sold to Amer-yhtymä. In the early 1990s, Marimekko was in a bad financial condition and close to bankruptcy. It was bought from Amer by Kirsti Paakkanen, who introduced new business methods in the company and helped to revive its popularity.[10]

Later in 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 then a Marimekko dress. In season 5 the series introduced tablecloths with Marimekko prints.[10]

In 2005, Marimekko's revenue had quadrupled since Paakkanen's purchase, and its net income had grown 200-fold. 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. By 2011 there were 84 stores across the world.[10]

Marimekko products are made in China, India, Thailand, Portugal, Lithuania and other countries. Fabrics are printed in Marimekko's textile factory in Helsinki, but are not made in Finland.[11]


The logo of Marimekko has been in use since 1954. Armi Ratia wanted the logo to be simple and timeless. Graphic designer Helge Mether-Borgström used modified versions of classic Olivetti typewriter letters to create the logo.[12][6]

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 Mosaic plot or a proportional-stacked bar chart. In this chart, 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.[13][14] 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.[15] The Marimekko has a sister chart called the Bar Mekko in which the bars are of variable height and width.[16]


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 1960s—they represented more than just a brand name: They conjured up an image and an era."[17]

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.[18]



  1. ^ a b c d "Financial Statements Bulletin 2017" (PDF). Marimekko. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  2. ^ Larros, Heini (1 February 2008). "Marimekko Story". City (in Finnish). Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  3. ^ Kaj Kalin; Timo Sarpaneva; Marjatta Svennevig (1986). Sarpaneva. Helsinki: Otava. ISBN 951-1-07887-9.
  4. ^ Isola 2005.
  5. ^ Fogg 2008.
  6. ^ a b "About Marimekko: History". Marimekko. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  7. ^ Jackson 2007.
  8. ^ Sisson, Patrick (10 April 2017). "Marimekko's pattern of progressive design". Curbed. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  9. ^ Lange, Alexandra (23 June 2017). "Jane Jacobs, Georgia O'Keeffe, and the Power of the Marimekko Dress". The New Yorker. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d Qureshi, Huma (20 September 2011). "Marimekko's bid for world domination". The Guardian House and Home Blog. The Guardian.
  11. ^ "Printed in Helsinki". Marimekko. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  12. ^ Aav 2003, p. 324.
  13. ^ Smith, Alan (6 September 2017). "How to apply Marimekko to data". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Marimekko Chart". Mekko Graphics. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  15. ^ Few, Stephen. "Design Example: Marimekko Chart". Perceptual Edge. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  16. ^ "Bar Mekko". Mekko Graphics. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  17. ^ Babski, Cindy (3 January 1988). "Marimekko Changes Its Spots". New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  18. ^ Avellan, Heidi (6 August 2007). "Radikala ränder" [Radical stripes]. Sydsvenskan (in Swedish). Retrieved 5 October 2012.


Further reading[edit]

  • Cole, Drusilla (2009). The Pattern Sourcebook: A Century of Surface Design. Laurence King. ISBN 978-1-85669-621-0.
  • Suhonen, Pekko (1986). Phenomenon Marimekko. Marimekko Oy.

External links[edit]