Prints and patterns are a tricky thing when it comes to clothing and accessories. When I lived in Hamburg and Amsterdam, I was surrounded by Scandinavian boutiques that sold nothing but the bold colorful designs some of the Nordic brands are so famous for. Despite my love of block colors at the time, I found myself drawn to these creations, and before I knew it, I had purchased over a dozen dresses in the most vivid patterns available - everything from retro to floral found a place in my wardrobe. Even though I could have gone on to buy a dozen more pieces, I did end up stopping when I one day tried on a dress in a boutique, glanced at the mirror and realized I looked like human wallpaper. Unfortunately the danger in cloaking yourself in certain prints is that you will end up resembling a walking version of other popular patterned items, whether it's grandmother's curtains, your own polka-dot carpet or those colorful plates you've been eyeing in the homeware section.
A safe bet when it comes to choosing patterned pieces is to go with something classic and this is where Marimekko has undoubtedly got the lead. An institution and household name not only in its home country Finland, but also on a global level, the clothing and textile company was founded back in 1951 by Viljo Ratia and his wife Armi who commissioned young artists to design fabric prints for the company. This resulted in a wide array of colorful bold patterned textiles, which were admired by many, but few knew what to do with them. In order to demonstrate their use, a small clothing collection was launched, designed by Riitta Immonen. Other designers soon joined the team, including Maija Isola who later created (amongst others) the famous Unikko graphic. By the mid 50s, exports began to the rest of Europe and the U.S. The biggest breakthrough came when Jacqueline Kennedy - criticized (mainly by her husband) for her love of Parisian Couture, which sparked fears she may alienate the American public - one day walked into a Cape Cod boutique and purchased eight dresses by an unknown Finnish brand. She wore these pieces throughout JFK's Presidential campaign and was famously snapped in a simple pink outfit alongside her husband for the cover of Sports Illustrated. The public loved it, JFK won the election and Marimekko shot to fashion fame.
Jacqueline Kennedy made Marimekko a househould name in the 60s by wearing the famous pink dress on the cover of Sports Illustrated (top left) and sporting the other seven dresses throughout the Presidential campaign. SATC's Carrie was partially responsible for the brand's revival, donning a chic number (right) while her apartment included a Marimekko curtain (lower left).
Being a textile company, Marimekko soon began applying their fabrics to everything imaginable, whether it was curtains, linen or kitchen ware. After Armi Ratia's death in 1979 the company flourished for a few years, then went through a few financial difficulties lasting until the 90s. Thanks to Kirsti Paakkanen who later took on as CEO, Marimekko grew again and even regained its fame in the popular media. SJP catapulted the brand into the must-have list of every fasionista when she not only wore a Marimekko bikini in Season 2 of SATC, but also sported a colorful dress later on and had her apartment decorated in its prints. But even without its famous clients, it's hard to resist the bright patterns this brand offers.
Overview of the ground floor which housed mainly clothing (left). Some of the patterned dresses and coats (right).
As Helsinki is Marimekko's hometown, finding one of their boutiques here isn't really difficult. In fact, it might probably be your first stop if you ever visit. I went to two stores on the Pohjoiseplanadi, but would recommend the larger retail space in the Kämp Galleria. The grand pillared entrance with its elegant white walls contrasted nicely with the vivid colored prints that greeted you. A fair warning: if you're not into bright hues, you might want to skip this one. Despite being a company that offers everything from tea cups to curtains, Marimekko's clothing won't make you look like the aforementioned human wallpaper.
Mannequins wearing patterned and non-patterned pieces (left). Of course the changing rooms are decorated in the signature prints as well (right).
Smaller items on the center tables included socks (middle), mittens (top right) and scarves (lower right).
While some of the dresses may never find their way into my wardrobe, most of the monochrome prints would work very well in an urban environment. Many of the clothes don't even feature prints, so you won't have a problem finding a simple velvet blazer or a pair of black cotton trousers. The most classic of prints - the various striped dresses and knits - had their own section on the lower level along with the homewares, and if you are still wary about patterns, you can always go with the colorful tights, socks or scarves.
For a more classic look, there's a large selection of striped tops, dresses and pyjamas on the lower level..
The ultimate gifts for your pet (left) and more cute pieces including striped toys (top) and little knit dolls (lower right).
The more tempting items tend to be the gifts and bags. There were tables filled with cosmetic pouches, wooden jewelry, umbrellas and even small Marimekko dolls. I sighted poppy-printed stationary, pop-art paper napkins and an entire children's section which included toys, small suitcases and dinner sets. If you don't have kids, don't worry - besides spending money on yourself you can also spoil your pet with everything from chic water bowls, rugs or even a little bed.
Overview of the lower level (left). A selection of cushions, cups and trays in the Unikko print (right).
One of the largest sections was the homeware and interior design department. Beware that entering this area will result in a sudden urge to redecorate your entire house or apartment. As witnessed by yours truly, who couldn't stop drooling over tablecloths, cushions or bed linen... all of which came in well over 20 different designs not to mention the fabric or wallpaper - entire rolls of these were available in a far corner.
A selection of more patterned goodies, such as (top row) card holders, jewelry, napkins, linen pouches, (lower row) coin purses, wallets and cosmetic bags.
I could go on and on, but I'll just let the pictures do the talking. Thankfully Marimekko is easy to find throughout the world, with independently owned concept stores or stockists situated on all continents and online sales available as well (such as here). The perfect way to brighten a gloomy winter day if you ask me. The only problem will be choosing among the huge selection of prints...
Selection of Marimekko Home Interiors for the bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen (images: Marimekko).
Address: Kämp Galleria, Pohjoisesplandi 31, 00100 Helsinki
Opening Hrs: Mon-Fri: 10:00-20:00, Sat: 10:00-17:00