Marimekko (Helsinki, Finland)


marimekko store helsinki
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.

marimekko helsinkiMarimekko's FW09 collection by designer Samu-Jussi Koski (images: Marimekko).

marimekko looksFW09 collection by Mika Piirainen, Ritva Falla & Rinne-Niinikoski (images: Marimekko).

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.

marimekko helsinkiJacqueline 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.

marimekko helsinkiThe festive entrance (left) and an assortment of items towards the front (right).

marimekko helsinkiOverview 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.

marimekko helsinkiMannequins wearing patterned and non-patterned pieces (left). Of course the changing rooms are decorated in the signature prints as well (right).

marimekko helsinkiSmaller 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.

marimekko helsinkiFor a more classic look, there's a large selection of striped tops, dresses and pyjamas on the lower level..

marimekko helsinkiA section dedicated to the little ones.

marimekko helsinkiThe 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.

marimekko helsinkiBed linen, cosmetic bags and dining sets.

marimekko helsinkiOverview of the lower level (left). A selection of cushions, cups and trays in the Unikko print (right).

marimekko helsinkiThe large fabric and wallpaper department.

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.

marimekko helsinkiBags and purses in various prints, including the iconic Unikko pattern.

marimekko helsinkiA 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...

marimekko helsinkiSelection 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
Marimekko Homepage

59 comments:

  1. Oh I love Marimekko!=) Bought some babyclothes for my friends baby there last time I was in Finland.

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  2. well I'm into bright hues so I love this post! Yeah about wearing patterns I don't have a lot of pattern shirts just because I'm afraid they'll go out of style etc but the ones I do have I love!

    And lol on your Eliza Dusku comment, hey she's looking glam now maybe she'll win the oscars too HAHAHA

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  3. I love the retro feel of the clothes! Lovely post!

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  4. I'm not usually huge on prints and a lot of color-but these are v pretty xo

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  5. I love Marimekko, especially the homewear!


    P.S.: Please don't forget to join for my newer giveaway!

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  6. although I am not a colorful dresser myself, I love many of these. sometimes I wish I would love colors more :))
    have a sweet day, darling.
    xoxo

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  7. Here at home in Paris I have splashes of Unikko here and there - towels, coasters, tins, oven gloves... I was expecting this post - and you didn't disappoint me.

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  8. Happy sweet monday to youuu!

    I WANT THAT SJP DRESS! ;)
    The print is simply amazing!!!!

    One of my friends is collecting vintage Marimekko "prints" and when she shows me one of her new pieces I´m always surprised about wonderful prints.

    You are so right ;)
    Shopping at The Mall or Prada etc is always great. Did you know that finally also Dior has a new outlet at The Mall? Some pieces still expensive but some shoes from 09 had great prices.

    GOOD NIGHT & SWEEEET DREAMS!!!

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  9. wow so many gorgeous prints and patterns!!

    thank you so much for the birthday wishes! i finished the anne rice book - was fantastic. can't wait to borrow more from the library. currently reading the sophie kinsella book :)

    xxx

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  10. While I'm finding it terribly difficult to wear prints they seem much easier to integrate in interior design. Also I'm impressed by the variety of Marimekko's designs. Another great, informative post! Sabine x

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  11. living all of my life in Los Angeles, i've never heard of the brand/store...but if Jackie Kennedy was wearing it i should have heard of it!
    i don't wear too many prints...even in my boutique, prints don't sell very well. but the right print can be so amazing!!
    xox alison

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  12. Love the clothes in the second picture, the long tee-shirt with the bunny on it is so adorable!
    -Marz

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  13. What a fun read. I have adored Marimekko since the 70's. I would love to own today a set of their black and white dishes; just brings back memories of my youth. You are so full of knowledge it is incredible. The SJP drapes were one of my favorite M patterns. I spotted some yardage on Ebay last year but it went for such a high price. Thanks for this great post. Have you ever thought of writing a book on your travels and experiences? All my best, deb

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  14. Oh, the clothes are very Lolita-like in their babydoll aesthetic; yet the prints remind me of the sixties - tres fabulous!! :)

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  15. I'm totally wild for prints right now, but kind of satisfied with my current selection so you're totally tempting me right now...

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  16. Oh I love prints and the colors!! And the Jackie O tie in, I adore her so I eat that story UP.

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  17. Ah ha... yes, I agree...the pattern n' prints are a bit tacky if paired them wrong.....but you know since the street chic style is so IN these days, I don't think anything could possible go wrong. :P We might get dizzy by looking at a bad mix-n'-match but certainly it is fun and interesting to see how people like to dress themselves up. haha......

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  18. There's a Marimekko near my workplace and it's always so much fun to browse. Their prints are mesmerizing--they just draw the eye.

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  19. awesome, i love prints & colors :)

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  20. I love both prints and colorful dresses! Jackie is my fashion icon. Omg, I love those outfits!

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  21. I adore Marimekko, darling! Fabulous review and pics ~ would love to visit this shop!

    xoxox,
    CC

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  22. Nice article but there are a few inaccuracies. In the middle photo of Jackie Kennedy, she is not wearing Marimekko. All the Marimekko dresses she wore during the campaign were loose, as is the one in the left photo. She was pregnant during the campaign.

    The current CEO at Marimekko is fabulous and everyone who knows him believes he will do great things, but he is not the person who brought the company back from near oblivion. This person was Finnish advertising genius Kirsti Paakanen, recently retired.

    There is currently a design installation, featuring hundreds of pieces of Marimekko fabric and vintage Marimekko dresses at the original "new" Design Research, at 48 Brattle Street Cambridge MA designed by Architect, Ben Thompson the founder and owner of Design Research. This building opened in 1969 as D/R and closed in 1979. The original "old" D/R was located in a small house, across the street where the Gutman library now stands and opened in 1953.

    when the new D/R ended, the space was occupied by Crate and Barrel who gave up the location one year ago. at that time, the owner of the building, offered the space at no cost to Jane Thompson, Ben's widow for the purpose of an exhibit. The exhibit recreates, D/R with all it's midcentury furnishings and household objects. The exhibit was created by a group of volunteers with no budget. Thus it is viewable from the street only.

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  23. Hi there-a fabulous post indeed, it was very interesting to hear the history of this designer and I adore the prints too. I'm a great fan of vibrant bold prints, I'd sure be happy if I ever thrifted a piece of Marimekko!!

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  24. I'd like to correct my above post to mention that Design Research in Cambridge and later in it's branch stores in New York, San Francisco, Hyannis and a few other locations, was the store that brought Marimekko dresses to the US and popularized them beginning in 1959. A large part of the aforementioned, ongoing exhibit at 48 Brattle Street in Cambridge, is devoted to vintage Marimekko dresses. There are, at any one time, fifty to seventy dresses on display in the windows. The exhibit is changed regularly and all of it's items can be easily seen from the street, night and day. there have been quite a few articles written about this. the best of these is from Boston globe, but all can be accessed from the website of one of the exhibit participants. That website is www.thecottageri.com/design-research/

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  25. Another discovery for me!:-) I am such a chicken when it comes to wearing bright print, I always afraid to be overpowered and "swallowed" by them. I do, however, absolutely love prints on somebody else.The prints that I see on the pictures from Marimekko store look beautiful to me and not scary at all. I would love to try few pieces on! Thank you for the wonderful introduction :-)

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  26. @ Anonymous: Thanks for the additional information. I have tweaked some of what I wrote, but I was actually referring to Kirsti Paakkinen since she was the CEO. There was no info available that she had recently retired (the press release still stated her as the current CEO), so until I receive information from someone who isn't 'anonymous', I will leave it out of my post. I also left out the entire US history of Marimekko, as this is a Finnish company I visited in Finland and the focus was on the store itself. Anyone who wants to read up on Marimekko will probably go to wikipedia, the official homepage or one of the many Marimekko blogs, where they can find entire essays that include but also go beyond what you wrote.

    P.S. The middle image of Jackie O was taken in early 1960 during the Presidential campaign, despite what you say. Her pregnancy didn't show until a few months later (JFK Jr was born in Nov). Journalists have quoted this dress as being of the 'Cape Cod' selection, but they may have been mistaken. She also wore other more fitted dresses during the campaign trail, not just loose ones. Take a look at the JFK photo library for more.

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  27. Oh my god, you almost made me cry with this ! Marimekko is such a special name in fashion... a few months ago I met the coolest artist ever, she was wearing a vintage Marimekko and it was one of the moments when I felt that fashion is REALLY a blessing in our world !

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  28. Oh, prints.... I love them so much, but more like art, on other people or in editorials... If I wear a print top to bottom (i.e. a dress) I feel like I become a walking print... Just a print, with legs and arms... Makes me feel very uncomfortable. :) But I do wear patterned skirts with plain tops.
    enjoyed learning about Marimekko (would never know the name if you didn't post about it). Love those knitted toys so much, they are absolutely adorable.

    xxx

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  29. The dresses are so pretty and those items for the doggies are so fabulous. I love 'em all.

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  30. i used to only wear color blocks and/or black (HA!), but i have tried more prints of late. it can be rather tricky. i don't want to look like I AM WEARING A PRINTED PATTERN!!! so i usually go for the more subtle stuff, or at least subtle colors. but it is good to be adventurous and TRY stuff.

    and i am afraid i would go MAD wanting to buy all the home decor stuff here. gah! i would. i just know it!

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  31. I am so jealous of your life! I have a whole Marimekko bedset! I LOVE it!!

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  32. classic prints are the way to go...agreed! but every once in a while it's nice to spice it up with something fiercely bold...a statement piece! yea!

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  33. The dresses are sooo pretty darling...i'm so into anything busy pattern right now :)

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  34. love the bold prints and bright colors youve shown here
    simply chic, love it
    thanks for sharing as always
    and thanks for your lovely comments, i appreciate it

    -cma
    COSMICaroline.blogspot.com

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  35. Growing up I always wore solid colors and the case still remains the same though I must say, I am warming up to the idea of printed tees and dresses.
    I love them, but I can't seem to get myself to wear them. :)
    Xx

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  36. yea, prints are definitely tricky on ME. i'm not as tiny as my tiny colleague but prints just look better on tiny her but not not-as-tiny-as-her me. i love those looks; i could glean some tips off them. great post, as always.

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  37. To answer your question, Molly Ringwald did't totally dissapear. She is now a mom on a really popular television show called the secret life of an american teen. Great post!
    XOXOX
    Libby
    http://fashionconfectionairy.weebly.com

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  38. the first dress is so so beautiful...what a nice spot ^.^
    kisses

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  39. I went to this store while I was in Helsinki! Marimekko is absolutely amazing...I dream of owning a closet full of their dresses, a kitchen full of their dinnerware, rooms full of their furniture...and so on. :-)

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  40. Cute looking store! I love the colors in the floral print in the second set of photos.

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  41. hello doll, let me know if you do come to London. we can go for coffe and shopping :) x

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  42. First, how is my favourite world traveller?
    Second, thank you for infusing pop into my day! Love those poppy prints, just what I need on this otherwise gloomy day.
    xo

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  43. HAHAHA yeah interns can be more a pain than helpful I agree, actually I thought of a game I can play where i show them Coach, Gucci and Guess logo. And they have to match it to the right brand. SOOOO MANY GUYS don't know it/can't tell the difference. Even some girls can't that I've met. It really amazes me. Hey, it can be part of how "observant" they are! ;)

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  44. you're such a talented journalist, i always find your write-ups fascinating.

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  45. one of my resolutions is to wear more prints - i adore nordic ones!

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  46. I am definitely very picky when delving into my colors and prints...always somehow have a feel like I am wearing curtains or look dated if I don't choose wisely...lol! However, when I do find just the right style (according to my taste) with prints, colors, florals I absolutely love them!!

    Have a good week and beautiful weekend coming! Oh, loved the 2% post too, just read it!

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  47. oh my, the dresses are so lovely. the bright colors and cute patterns. i love it!

    xx,
    betz
    http://herarmoire.blogspot.com

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  48. Marimekko is one of my all-time faves! And the blue coat in the sixth picture is incredibly stunning!

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  49. I find that I am very hit or miss with prints, I'd love to wear it, or refuse! There are some lovely looks in the FW09 collection pictures though. :)

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  50. Fascinating post! I thought the part about Jacqueline Kennedy was particularly interesting.

    I love the bright colors, especially the reds and blues.

    I think it's unlikely that I'll ever end up visiting Helsinki... but if I do, I definitely have a place I want to check out!

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  51. Marimekko is one of my favourite brands, so I absolutely loved this post! Your posts are always great, dont get me wrong, but this was amazing!

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  52. I am one who typically does shy away from a lot of bold patterns and prints. I usually stick with the solids, however the "more classic selection of striped tops, dresses and pyjamas" definitely does appeal to me!

    Very informative post as usual, and hope you are having a great week!
    xo
    Rachel

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  53. Thanks for you comment. Ii was difficult for me to find one too but now I have it!! Love this collection, so amazing. Kiss

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  54. i love marimekko! just discovered their tea assortment too, so yummie!

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  55. Nice article.
    I have a shop in France, mainly dedicated to Marimekko, and dispite the fact it's almost completely unknown here, people is very interested in this completely new esthetic.
    It's long term work, but it's working.

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