With its oversized imagery and brightly clashing colors, Marimekko textiles are unmistakable. The Finnish company began in 1951 as a textile design firm specializing in hand silk-screened cotton fabric. The patterns created by Marimekko designers were a departure from traditional Finnish floral patterns, though the graphic, modern Marimekko imagery was definitely inspired by aspects of Finnish heritage and landscape. To promote their textile designs, the founders of Marimekko created a collection of unrestrictive garments utilizing their textiles. From the beginning, Marimekko garments were loose and unstructured, meant to allow freedom of movement. Marimekko gained widespread popularity in the United States when Jackie Kennedy purchased several Marimekko dresses in 1960, which she wore throughout her husband's presidential campaign.
Marimekko's design philosophy is not based on the concept of the eternal new. New textile patterns are gradually introduced, while old designs are kept in regular rotation. Even today, the garments designed by Marimekko are loose and unstructured, not too far removed from the earliest Marimekko shift dresses. Both then and now, the focus is on the textile design, not the actual shape of the garment. These designs were widely influential throughout the 1960s, inspiring many imitations. The Marimekko maxi dress below was worn by the donor's wife to their 1973 engagement party.
Marimekko's founders envisioned their textiles as part of a larger lifestyle movement, a "part of modern interiors and modern life."1 During the 1960s and 1970s, Marimekko fabrics were often used in interior decorating, with large Marimekko fabric panels hung on the wall as if they were paintings. By the 1990s, Marimekko designs were featured on a variety of products for the home, including sheets, towels, dinnerware, umbrellas, etc. In 2008, H&M paid the ultimate fashion tribute to Marimekko by offering a fast fashion mini-collection of garments featuring Marimekko textile designs.
1Sullivan, Mary. "Finland: Free-Form Fashions in Bright Cotton Are Made for Modern Living." New York Times 25 Aug. 1960: 34.