This week, we highlight the Finnish design company, Marimekko. As a long-standing leader in the fashion and design worlds, Marimekko has created timeless and colorful prints for over 60 years. I’ve followed the company from my days at NC State University and, as a designer, I have deep admiration and respect for Armi Ratia, the founder who created an empire by seeking beauty through design.

After World War II, Armi Ratia, a one-time weaver who was trained in industrial design, took interest in fabric printing; she wanted to bring happiness and color to distraught, post-war Finland. Working with full-time designers and buying from freelance artists, she began printing designs on fabrics that we now identify with an era, a culture, and a lifestyle.


From Anna-Liisa Ahmavaara in Finnish Textiles:

“Many people have pointed to that boundless longing for beauty that the war and the years following it produced, and to the fruitful process brought about by Finland’s geographical position: the ingredients being western rationalism on the one hand and the freshness and carefree spirit of the east on the other.”

The colors and patterns of Marimekko contain elements of many styles and artistic movements: the Japanese aesthetic, architectonic expressions, Arts-and-Crafts style, and modern art.


Marimekko’s aesthetic is bold, bright, and clean. Armi envisioned more than textile design; she approached furniture design, interior design, and architecture as a holistic lifestyle – Finnish modernism at its best.


Today, Marimekko continues to be a company thoroughly involved in corporate responsibility. Their design processes are established to allow minimal material waste, energy and water conservation in the printing process, responsible sourcing, environmental care, and active participation in the local community. They use organic cotton and natural materials to create quality products.


In part with the exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, the book Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture offers a retrospective look into the brand and its founder, Armi Ratia. With beautiful photography that captures prints and garments, a chronology of Marimekko’s ad campaigns, and behind the scenes images, the book is a comprehensive chronicling of the international developments and successes of Marimekko and its designers over the years.

To best sum up Marimekko, Creative Director Minna Kemell-Kutvonen states, “In general, when we talk about colours, we usually say here that the color doesn’t yell at you – it glows.”

Check back this week as we take DIY and culinary inspiration from the Finnish company.


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Click to read 3 comments
  1. Kate

    Isn’t that funny – i’ve just been perusing websites with Marimekko fabric designs as of late (as I do from time to time)?! And wouldn’t a huge Unikko-inspired flower make a great reverse appliqué (or other style) design on something…:)

  2. Lisa P.

    This book has been on my list for quite awhile now. I discovered Marimekko by accident. I found some really great pillowcases for free at a thrift store and looked the company up, only to discover the greatness that is Marimekko. I’ve long thought about fabric design, and Marimekko was one of my most suprising and inspiring discoveries as I started to look into the field. Incidentally, one of the pillowcases became my daughter’s Easter dress (link above).

  3. margaret

    I heard this afternoon that Les Blank had died and I thought of you and your post. I’m sorry for your loss. I would never have known about him except for you. You have enriched my life in many ways.