Fashion

The Art of Printmaking With Marimekko

Hypebae goes behind the scenes at the dopamine-inducing brand’s print mill.

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The Art of Printmaking With Marimekko

Hypebae goes behind the scenes at the dopamine-inducing brand’s print mill.

Marimekko has become a mainstay in the heart of Helsinki. The fun-filled heritage brand’s typewritten logo and whimsical, floral patterns can be spotted around the quaint city center almost as often as stoplights or public trams. For the Finnish, Marimekko is a way of life. It has brought a child-like joy to locals since 1951 and it all started with a dress.

Jumping deep into the rich history of the ready-to-wear and home decor brand, Hypebae tagged along with Marimekko for Marimekko Day — an annual celebration of joy, color and Marimekko’s vibrant community. But this time around, there was even more to celebrate. The brand’s instantly recognizable Unikko floral print (an abstract pattern that has been iterated time and time again) turned 60 years old. A birthday celebration was also in store!

Marimekko, Behind the Scenes, Printmaking

We started off by visiting Marimekko’s print mill, where we were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at where all of the magic happens. What started as a textile printing brand called Printex, founded by Viljo Ratia and his wife Armi Ratia, later took off as archival designs were flying out of production. Marimekko was later born and the brand began producing more prints and color-explosive designs for wider audiences. Marimekko is all about originality — and this authenticity is then reflected in each wearer who sports the dopamine-inducing pieces in their own way. Unikko, one of the brand’s first fan-favorite prints, was created by artist Maija Isola. To this day, the brand works with artists from all over the world who bring their own flair to the garments, imbuing them with various vibes but never straying from the merry Marimekko mentality.

Maija Isola went on to design over 500 prints for Marimekko, but Unikko really stole the public’s hearts. Marimekko’s printing mill was built in 1973 (before that, prints were hand-drawn or hand-dyed onto garments) and ever since then, the brand has brought forth over 3,500 different prints and smiles to faces from Finland to New York City.

There’s something really distinct about a Marimekko piece. They’re instantly recognizable through their energetic color palettes or relaxed silhouettes, but I’ve seen tastemakers with aesthetics that completely oppose each other really make a Marimekko garment their own. What really ties it all together is a celebration of expression and that same energy pulses through the print mill. There are over 3,500 Marimekko prints (including the undeniable Unikko) produced in the mill and each design is a labor of love between the design and printing teams.

After taking a look behind the curtain at where the patterns come to life, we headed over to the color kitchen — it’s where the cutest combos are cooked up; they are mixed manually and stored in a color archive, to be revisited again and again. A small but mighty in-house textile design team conjures up the brand’s signature patterns, pulling inspiration from nature and archival looks, many of which are housed in the print mill. The team sees the prints as living, breathing organisms, learning from them and constantly listening to the expressiveness they bring forth. After each print is created, they are hand-checked by a quality assurance team — a tedious process that we witnessed firsthand.
Marimekko, Behind the Scenes, Printmaking
Fashion should be fun. It’s meant to light up our souls and spread happiness and it’s pretty hard not to feel joyful when looking at a Marimekko print. After our exclusive look at the print mill, we headed to Esplanade Park to see the brand unveil its Spring/Summer 2024 collection, an ode to sunny summer days. The park was packed with fans of the brand who gathered around a Unikko-printed runway ahead of the annual open-air fashion show. This year, there was an added excitement buzzing through the air as the brand celebrated a huge milestone with Unikko’s 60th anniversary. The print could be spotted, scattered throughout the park in the form of tote bags, midi-skirts and free-flowing dresses.

The collection itself was characterized by maximalist tones and utilitarian silhouettes, including oversized coats and button-ups, poplin dresses, skirts, swim and playful accessories. Unikko symbolizes a universal sign of joy and that cheerfulness could be felt radiating across the entire park. Before we ended the day, we had a chance to connect with Marimekko’s CEO and President, Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko, who shared her outlook on the new collection and what the brand stands for: “You can see that Marimekko is for everybody — it’s a very inclusive brand. Design should be part of everyday life. Our prints are very much a collaboration between artists, designers and the creative community.”

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