marimekko. Finland, 1951
There are few European brands as enigmatic or charismatic as marimekko. With a broad and passionate fanbase, the label known for its folksy, sixties-tinged pop patterns continues to enjoy cult brand appeal in many parts of the world.
As I write this, consumers in North America (apparently millions of them) are giddily awaiting the April instalment of Target’s design collaboration series, an extensive, accessible collection of vivid designs from Finland’s finest.
Marimekko is difficult to categorise: the worlds of fashion, artisanal craft and industrial design all inform its distinct voice. With typical Scandinavian quirkiness and quality, it’s an unusually polymorphic brand: few manage to straddle the worlds of fashion and decor as effortlessly, nor merge traditional and contemporary influences as elegantly as marimekko.
Like Alessi and Paul Smith, marimekko manages to be serious about design without being aloof or abandoning a sense of fun. It’s light and joyful, but never trivial, providing consumers with a payoff that resonates both emotionally and intellectually.
Collaboration plays an important role in defining the brand and sustaining the marimekko mythos. Inwardly, a studio culture attracts leading design talent and gives it the freedom to create. Outwardly, the brand avoids fashion industry exploitation platforms like fragrances and underwear. Instead, it puts its designers on pedestals and chooses collaborations with brands that can validate its rich aesthetic legacy and fuel its cult popularity.
The colourful Tribute to marimekko collection released by H&M in 2008 was probably the brand’s most high-profile moment, but recurring collaborations with Converse and Crate & Barrel have been hugely popular with US audiences, and date back 40 and 50 years respectively.
More than an important Scandinavian brand, marimekko is a gatekeeper of a certain Nordic flavour that appeals to affluent consumers around the world. The hip Australian skin care brand, Aesop, found in marimekko a platform sufficiently chic and credible to build a small line of sauna lifestyle products around.
When, in 2012, Finnair commissioned marimekko to style two of its planes, as well as crew and cabins, it reinforced both brands’ status as Scandinavian icons, while building valuable emotional bonds – especially with millions of Asian travellers.
“Collaborations Boost and Sustain marimekko’s Brand Appeal” is a post from Collaboration Generation: a series profiling companies who use brand innovation platforms to double down on specialness, and extend their reach and influence.