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Flower Power: Marimekko Celebrates 50 Years as a Design Icon

by Ian Michael Crumm
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 17, 2014

While Marimekko's Unikko print may be the perfect floral frock to flaunt around the city (see the womenswear dresses in hot pink), this year the Finnish design brand celebrates the Unikko's 50th anniversary with a well-rounded home decor collection.

On a rare trip to the United States, Mika Piirainen, designer at Marimekko, stopped by the Boston store to celebrate Unikko's 50th anniversary at a party for the brand's top clients. EDGE chatted about the evolution of the Unikko print, fashion trends, his inspiration and more. Here's what we concluded...

Evolution of the Unikko
In 1964 Maija Isola, Marimekko's best-known designer, created the floral Unikko print. Fiercely independent-minded, Isola strived for freshness in her designs even if her decision to create a large simple floral print went against owner Armi Ratia's wishes. The print was a huge success and to this day helps define Marrimekko as a bright, simple and internationally known brand. Designer Piirainen says that Isola was "a little rebel" whose design decisions have contributed to a print that has about 80 different color ways in production and over 300 color ways in test. Unikko is timeless with its large shaped graphic yet soft appearance.

Designer’s Inspiration and Work Process

It all starts with the print. Piirainen says, "Start everything with the print. First I choose the print, then I think of colorways, then choose what material and then after that start to think about shapes." Since the design house is built around prints, it’s imperative to understand how prints interact with themselves. "It’s very important how you cut a print and then how it’s positioned," says Piirainen. Print and pattern alignment is a key aspect that differentiates Marimekko from many other companies that neglect this important design aesthetic.

Playing Favorites
Piirainen pulls inspiration from many sources. When asked if he has a style/designer icon he remarked, "I’m a big fan of Albert Hitchcock and I think all of the Hitchcock women are all of the best fashion icons in the world. If you look at the dresses they wore, the cuts and colors are so perfect."

Speaking of color, Piirainen feels like a father when it comes to using hues in design. "You can’t have a favorite color. You can’t say I like my sister and that brother is really odd. It’s how colors are put together. There are no ugly colors in the world." When it comes to personal preference, not pertaining to his work, Piirainen loves navy and yellow.

Home Decor

There’s an extensive line of home products in the current Marimekko collection, especially the new Unikko 50th anniversary pieces. Pieni Unikko pillow shams, Mini-Unikot fabric notebooks, bowls, plates, tablecloths, shower curtains - name it and there is a good chance there’s a Unikko rendition of the home accessory. The bright prints look great against neutral color palettes. Try a Unikko shower curtain in a stark white bathroom.

Trending with Current Fashion
Not only is Marimekko celebrating the 50th anniversary of Unikko this year, it’s also celebrating a recent collaboration with fashion retailer Banana Republic. A limited-edition capsule collection featuring almost 25 print-heavy pieces including women’s shorts, tops and accessories. The pieces feature some of the brand’s most iconic textile designs including Siirtolapuutarha (abstract floral print) and Kivet (large dots). Although the collaboration as well as Marimekko’s collections generally feature womens wear pieces, the floral trends can be seen throughout design industries. Modern interpretations of more traditional floral prints are trending in menswear. Deus Ex Machina is showing a relaxed sports shirt while retailer ASOS shows relaxed black and white floral T-shirts on models with exaggerated beards. There’s no denying that florals are here for the long haul.

Indulge in Unikko
Left you wanting more? The brand is available in major U.S. cities including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York, San Diego San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. Fans are uploading Instagram images with #Unikko50, which enters photos for publishing consideration on Unikko’s celebratory 50th anniversary website.

Ian Michael Crumm is an EDGE contributor. He likes trying new foods, shopping for eccentric accessories and laughing with friends. Follow his travels via Twitter and Instagram @IanMCrumm.


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