Reflecting on 50 years of Marimekko’s Unikko pattern

When Jackie Kennedy appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1960 in a bright pink Marimekko print dress, the fashion world went crazy. But Americans were just discovering what Finns had known since 1951 when Marimekko was founded in Helsinki by Armi Ratia: the bold, fresh prints of this cotton fabric line were a wonderful way to make a splash. During the 1960s, flower power years, the fabric appeared on clothing and home furnishings.

In 1964, designer Maija Isola created Unikko, the friendly poppy fabric celebrating its 50 anniversary this year. In the 1970s, I recall many dorm rooms having stretched colorful Marimekko fabrics on the walls. Crate & Barrel began selling many Marimekko designs, including bed linens and placemats. Marimekko eventually produced many products in its graphic, simple designs from umbrellas to men’s shirts to tablecloths. Sarah Jessica Parker’s iconic character Carrie Bradshaw even wore a Marimekko bikini (and later a Marimekko dress) on episodes of “Sex in the City.”

I wrote an article about the 50th anniversary of the Unikko poppy fabric, which is being celebrated with a line of new products in many colorways; there is also an exhibit of Marimekko at the Finnish Embassy that opened last week. There are currently six Marimekko stores in the United States and Banana Republic just introduced a line of clothing made of Marimekko.

We asked readers to send us memories or Marimekko and photos if they had them of Marimekko in their lives. We would love to see yours. If you’ve got one of yourself in a poppy-splashed Marimekko bikini, do share.

My mother came to the US from Sweden in 1966, bringing a love of Marimekko textiles with her. Our family’s first dining room curtains were floor-length panels of deep blue with huge yellow flowers, and I’m pretty sure there was a matching tablecloth. When I was pregnant with my first child, my mom gave me a couple of the Marimekko maternity dresses she had worn when she was pregnant with me. I was touched that she saved them, but honestly, I thought they were blouses. I guess in 1969 hemlines were high no matter what trimester you were in. — Sara

What a lovely surprise to see industrial design being covered by the Washington Post in the recent “Marimekko’s flowers stay fresh for 50 years” article. I remember fondly the Marimekko design exhibit that came through Washington DC in 2004 and the many subsequent exhibits featuring the work Tapio Wirkkala, Nany Still and Oiva Toikka at the embassy during that same decade. For a few years, Washington was even graced with a Marimekko store in Silver Spring, as well as many retailers showcasing Scandinavian design in their collections.  — Douglas

I loved the article on Marimko in yesterday’s Post. I was first introduced to Marimeko in 1967. Design Research in Harvard Square had a huge selection of fabrics and clothing. I used to buy the coated fabric to use as a tablecloth. I had the blue flowers cloth for several years. I bought many dresses from them over the years. I’ve purchased sheet sets, placemats, napkins, purses,etc. When we moved to NYC in the early 70’s I needed some wall art. I went to the New York store on 57th Street and purchased a large fabric of parrots and had it stretched on a frame. It was so big that it would not fit in a taxi. My sister and I walked it to our apt on 64th Street. When we moved to DC the art came with me. I installed it in my new office at work and kept it until the early 90’s. Just last week I was in Boston and stopped in at the Marimeko store on Newberry (sp?) Street. Some of my favorite patterns are still in use. (In the last few years I’ve also visited the Marimeko stores in Helsinki , Stockholm and NYC.) I appreciate the simplicity of the patterns and the clear colors. All these years later the designs have proven to be timeless. Further the designs brighten up any decor regardless of the design era. Thanks for writing the article. — Betsey

Really loved the Marimekko piece, just read standing by my kitchen sink and with dish towel ( attached!) in hand. “ Susa “ – Maija ‘s term for Springing out the survival spirit of the Finns after centuries of Swedish and Russian suppression.
I’ve been to their offices a lot these past 5 years and also doing a lot of work there. This website owned by some friends might interest you. I want to open up a major “House of Finland” retail store one day here. Strictly Finn.  — Travis Price of Travis Price Architects

For my bridal shower last month, my friends had a Unikko cake made by Sugar Flower Cake Shop in NYC. My friends know I love Marimekko and that pattern in particular. It was incredible! Photo of the cake attached. They also had Unikko napkins, and pill boxes as party favors. — Alexandra


(Reader photo)

 

 

 

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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Ron Charles · May 29, 2014