Marimekko puts a smile on your face. Between its bright colors and signature fabric patterns (Unikko’s oversize poppies have dominated the brand since 1964) and its happy approach to clothing, home wares, and accessories, the Finnish company founded in 1951 became a design icon in the 1950s and ‘60s and never looked back. Lucky us, we got to see the newest U.S. company store at 140 Newbury Street (the third in the United States behind New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts, with two more coming to California soon) at its invitation-only opening blast Tuesday night.
We are delighted to report they are selling fabric by the yard, along with their signature shirts, dresses, handbags, and irresistible I’m-a-kid-but-I-was-born-with-style baby and children’s clothing. We were mesmerized by the glass wall along the staircase where sparkling green and blue glassware was displayed and found the store’s lower level to be a hostess’s heaven of dinnerware and accoutrements.
In-house designer, Aino-Maija Metsola, who flew in from headquarters in Helsinki, gave us a guided tour of the new shop, pointing out her own designs along the way, animatedly describing her design process. “The first part is the most creative,” she says. “I sketch and work with different color combinations — it’s all about how the colors work together.” Bright colors are the brand’s forte, and she definitely has them in her portfolio (a table covered with her Juhannustaika, a painterly pattern resembling the watercolor sketches she uses to formulate ideas), but some of her recent patterns are more subdued. Jurmo, for example, has small undulating circles in royal blue, navy, and white that remind her of the smooth round stones on the shores of Jurmo, an island in the Archipelago Sea.
A highlight of the evening was meeting Jane Thompson, widow of Benjamin Thompson, the architect who founded the iconic Cambridge store, Design Research (1953 to 1978, see Back to the Future, Design New England November/December 2009), where Marimekko was introduced to the Boston market. Jane, a world-renown designer in her own right (see Winner Does All Design New England September/October 2010), also published a history of the retailer (known to its fans as D|R) with co-author Alexandra Lange, D|R Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes.
In fact, there were a number of folks at the opening dressed in Marimekko clothes they had purchased at D|R, and true to its reputation as a classic, every shirt and dress looked fresh and new.