The bold prints of Marimekko are the first to come to mind for many when thinking about Finnish design. The brand’s impact reaches beyond Finland, however, as Marimekko is said to be one of the world’s first real lifestyle brands offering fashion and accessories alongside home décor in seamless harmony.
The story of Marimekko began in 1949, when Armi Ratia began to gather young artists to bring a strong voice to her husband’s Helsinki-based textile printing company, Printex. To bring visibility to the unique patterns her team was creating, Ratia organized a fashion show where the pieces sold on the spot. Just five days later, on May 25, 1951, Marimekko was officially registered as a company. Marimekko translates to “Little Dress for Mary,” made by combining the “Mari,” a Finnish name symbolizing the eternal women and “mekko,” a Finnish word meaning a simple, peasant dress.
Giving women freedom of expression in dress was a central mission of Marimekko. Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi joined the team in 1953 with the intention of designing clothing women could move freely in. Alongside these loose-fitting frocks, she also created the unisex button-up shirt Jokapoika (Every Boy) to challenge gender norms. Jacqueline Kennedy was seen sporting these dresses on the cover of Sports Illustrated which helped put the revolutionary designs on the map.