As fans of mid-century modern furniture, we would argue that plenty of wonderful things came from the 1950s and 1960s. In design, architecture and fashion, however, as in virtually all industries at the time, certain groups were underrepresented and unappreciated. One striking exception to the rule is Marimekko. Founded by a woman, featuring female designers and still employing a number of talented women (including their CEO), Marimekko is worthy of praise and recognition not just because of their history, but because of their exceptional contributions to modern design.
Even if you haven’t ever heard of the company Marimekko, there’s a good chance that you would recognize their designs. The Unikko Poppy print, for example, is arguably one of the most recognizable textile patterns of the 20th century.
Marimekko is a Finnish textile company based in Helsinki. The company was founded in 1951 by Armi Maria Ratia and her husband Viljo. The company was relatively small until 1957, when they participated in fashion shows in Milan and took on textile design on a world scale.
It was designer Vuokko Nurmesniemi who created the iconic Jokapoika shirt, seen below. The shirt itself is one of the earliest androgynous fashions of the mid 20th-century. Nurmesniemi later founded her own textile company, and some of her designs can still be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Maija Isola is responsible for the poppy print, a pattern and design that is still in production today. Walk into any museum or gallery gift shop, and there’s a good chance that you’ll find a calendar, tea towel or journal featuring the famous poppy. Interestingly, the company’s owners were radically against the idea of a floral pattern - something they thought to be old-fashioned. Isola, however, created a flower pattern that was strikingly modern and anything but ordinary.
While Marimekko was huge in Finland and throughout Europe, they made it big in the United States thanks to a very stylish woman: Jacqueline Kennedy. Jackie O purchased seven Marimekko dresses, and she wore them frequently throughout her husband’s 1960 Presidential campaign.
Marimekko is one of the definitive brands of the mid-century, but it is still very much in pop culture today. Marimekko was worn by cast members of Sex and the City, and you can buy Marimekko sheets from Crate and Barrel. Marimekko even recently collaborated with Finnair, and you can spot the ubiquitous poppy print on the sides of certain planes!
For many, Marimekko is more than just a textile company. They are an arbiter of modern trends and an icon of 1960s fashion. Their modern designs also happen to look fantastic when paired with mid-century modern furniture. A piece of vintage Marimekko fabric makes for stunning wall art, and their contemporary pillow covers can bring life to a vintage sofa.
Make the most of your Marimekko pieces by pairing them with great vintage furniture. At the Trystcraft shop, we’ve got a great range of pieces that also embody the spirit and style of the 1960s.