Friday, November 9, 2012

Designer of the Month: Marimekko

While November's Designer of the Month is unusual in that it's a company, rather than one specific person, it's unique and enduring vision and contributions to the design word make it just as significant as any of the other designers profiled here. Founded in 1951 by textile designer Armi Ratia (1912-79) and her husband Viljo, Marimekko is unique not only in that it revolutionized modern printed fabrics and fashion, helping to bring Finnish design to a global audience, but that it remains as popular and relevant today as it ever was. And for a company that's now over 60 years old, that's saying quite a lot.

A Marimekko photo shoot for Life magazine, 1965. Photography by Tony Vaccaro/Life. Courtesy of Cathy of California.

Derived from the vernacular Finnish form of the girl's name "Mary" and mekko, which means "dress," this unique combination of the modern and traditional proved invaluable to Marimekko's success both in Finland and on an international scale.[1] Marimekko began as Printex, a textile company that had primarily focused on the production of oilcloth, and which was acquired by Viljo Ratia in 1949.[2]  Viljio expanded Printex, but it was his wife, Armi, the company's art director, who truly built the company into Marimekko, both a "purveyor and advocate of a highly distinct and fashionable lifestyle concept."[3] Armi Ratia hired young artists and designers with a fresh vision,  encouraging them to both experiment and respond to the changing artistic and social ideals of the time.[4] This month, we'll take a look some of those designs and the ways in which they've shaped the international fashion and design worlds. I hope you'll join me.

[1] Bard Graduate Center online, "On View: Past Exhibitions, Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture,", (accessed November 7, 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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