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One of the amazing things about living in D.C. is how connected our city is with the world, thanks to the presence of embassies from around the globe. And sometimes, global fashion brands find U.S. embassies to be a great place to tell the story of their designs and how their brand connects with their national heritage.
That's the case for famed Finnish design company Marimekko, which is so strongly woven into Finnish life that the brand even outfits textiles and tableware for Finnair. "Marimekko has been for years part of Finland's DNA," President of Marimekko North America Isabelle Cadieux-Fabian told Racked DC. That's why hosting an exhibit at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. in honor of the 50th anniversary of Unikko, Marimekko's iconic poppy print, was a natural fit.
Want to visit the ultra-modern Embassy of Finland and see the Unikko poppy print in all colors of the rainbow? Mark your calendar for June 28 and 29, the last weekend the exhibition will be open to the public, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — it's closed this coming weekend, June 21 and June 22, for Finland's Midsummer holiday. If you can't make it, see photos of the exhibit after the jump and an explanation from Cadieux-Fabian about Marimekko's recent collab with Banana Republic and why the famous Unikko print stands for boldness and courage.
How do you incorporate Marimekko's values when you collaborate with other brands?
We basically try to find brands that embrace the sort of happiness that Marimekko stands for. As you may know, when Marimekko was founded in 1951, the reason why Armi Ratia, the founder, wanted to bring color to people's worlds was because it was shortly after the war. It was during the period of reconstruction, and everything was very grim. She felt there was a strong need for bright colors, for happiness, for joy. And this is to this day, something that Marimekko truly stands for. And that is true of Banana Republic. We thought that it was a happy marriage before the two.
How do you incorporate newness and trendiness into that DNA and your heritage?
Marimekko is not about trends. It's about really being true to one's self. This is something that we strongly believe in. It's not about pretending to be something other than who you are. It's about being who you are and not pretending. Marimekko is never about trends, and we do not follow trends. I think we exist in a Marimekko universe whereby colors and patterns and prints transcend trends.
We do bring newness with colorways. As you know, Unikko, which is a print which was done by Maija Isola in 1964, that print is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The newness with that print over the last 50 years was bought through hundreds of different colorways. So this is how Marimekko remains relevant. Through its prints and through its colors.
Why do you think the poppy print is so timeless?
I think the poppy print is almost a translation of courage. The way the Unikko print came to life in 1964 is Armi Ratia, the founder of the company, stated that Marimekko would never do floral prints. That's pretty much what it took for Maija Isola to decide that she was going to a floral print.
She did quite a few of them, but the graphic nature of the Unikko print made it very timeless and it also showed the courage that she had to somewhat "stand up" to Armi Ratia at the time, who was herself a very strong-willed woman. And I think the poppy print really stands for that. It's a true testament to courage and being true to one's self.
Why didn't Ratia want to have floral prints?
Armi Ratia at the time probably thought it could've been too mushy if you want, that Marimekko was about bold prints. Maija Isola stood to defer. Through that Unikko became the most iconic print of Marimekko. It's a great story of courage.
What was it like working with the Embassy in D.C.?
The Embassy was very supportive of our efforts in showcasing Unikko. There's some very strong bonds between Finland and Marimekko. Marimekko is a company that is part and parcel of Finland. And Marimekko is very proud of its Finnish heritage. It never wanted to be anything other than Finnish. I think that strong bond makes it a natural partnership if you want with the Finnish embassy.
Is there anything the public should look for when they go see the exhibit?
The public can expect to see a myriad of Unikko prints in different color ways and different uses. They'll see it on fabric and dress, cushions. It's really a beautiful and colorful display of what Unikko has meant to Marimekko and also what Unikko means in terms of print.
Marimekko used to have a store in Silver Spring. Will you ever come back to the D.C. area?
We're not targeting the D.C. area but that is not to say that it will not happen. it definitely is a strong market and it's not out of the question that Marimekko may come back to D.C.
· Marimekko Celebrates 50 Years of Its Unikko Poppy Print [Racked Boston]
· Marimekko Vies to Revive Jackie Fashion Era With Modern Cuts [Bloomberg]
· Embassy of Finland: Celebrating 50 Years of Unikko [Official Site]