After 50 years, Marimekko’s bold poppy pattern continues to bloom

  • By Jura Koncius The Washington Post
  • Friday, June 13, 2014 12:10pm
  • Life

In 1964, when Marimekko’s red-and-white poppy pattern Unikko was introduced, America was poised to embrace flower power.

Since them, hundreds of items including tableware, sheets and sneakers have been produced in this bold print, whose name means “poppy” in Finnish.

The pattern became an icon for Marimekko, the Finnish company founded in 1951 by Armi Ratia that brought energy and innovation to the field of textile design.

The 50th anniversary of Unikko, designed by Maija Isola, is being celebrated with a recently opened exhibition at the Finnish Embassy in Washington and a new product launch.

The exhibit highlights a collection of Unikko ceramics, household products and dresses, and shows various color schemes it has manufactured since 1964.

A limited-edition 50th anniversary collection of trays, pitchers, pillows, bags and other Unikko items debuted this month online and in the six American Marimekko stores.

Isabelle Cadieux-Fabian, president of Marimekko North America spoke recently about the history of the popular brand and the company’s future.

Q: Why has this particular pattern had such staying power for Marimekko?

A: The pattern came out after Armi Ratia, the owner and founder of Marimekko, declared that Marimekko could never do floral prints. That was when designer Maija Isola, who was a bit of a rebel, created a collection of florals, one of which was Unikko.

The pattern was produced, and it’s very graphic and very in tune with the DNA of the company. Over the years, it has been done and redone in more than 100 colorways.

Through new colorations, it evolved and has always remained popular.

Q: What are some of the future plans for the company?

A: We want to increase our footprint in the retail industry. We are planning to open new stores. We have a partnership with Banana Republic for a collection of limited-edition clothing and accessories.

We want to find ways to bring the brand to customers in new ways.

Q: Do you own anything in the Unikko print?

A: I’m working at home this morning, so I can tell you that on my dining room table is a large Unikko tablecloth of pink and orange flowers on a dark brown background.

I have orange leather chairs around it. It brings so much energy to the room. I thoroughly enjoy it. Everyone always comments on it.

Q: Why is Marimekko timeless?

A: Its essence resonates with real values. It’s about happiness and being oneself, not pretending.

Once you are connected with those values, they become part of your life, like my tablecloth. This is something that represents who I am, and when I have people over, they see brightness and happiness.

More in Life

Heavy Hollywood headlines: Robert Horton’s movies preview

In the midst of all the sexual-misconduct allegations, the holiday film season offers some relief.

‘Love, Chaos and Dinner’ an Teatro ZinZanni’s original show

The “Parsian cabaret” is a superb circus dinner theater operation in Marymoor Park through April 29.

Denzel Washington’s remarkable performance isn’t helped by plot

The actor is convincing as an awkward, eccentric lawyer, but unconvincing contrivances pile up.

‘The Breadwinner’ animation is strong, but its story is stilted

The Cartoon Saloon film never lets you forget that you’re here to learn an important lesson.

Pianist Kaitlyn Gia Lee, 10, of Mill Creek, will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major on Nov. 26 with the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra.
Young pianist to perform Mozart with Everett Philharmonic

Kaitlyn Gia Lee, 10, of Mill Creek, will play the piano at the Music for the Imagination concert.

Liz Oyama as Belle, Jimmi Cook as Gaston and John Han as Lefou star in the Edmonds Driftwood Players production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” opening Nov. 24. Magic Photo
In Driftwood’s ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Belle has girl-power bend

Edmonds Driftwood Players presents Disney’s adaptation of the fair tale Nov. 24 through Dec. 17.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with reads, listens

Pay tribute to the contributions of indigenous people to national history and culture.

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Barrel-aged Belgian Winter

Made in 2013, the dark strong ale was stowed away in barrels. The brewery tests one each year.

Franken’s rising political star obscured by accusations

He faces an ethics investigation after allegations he had unwanted physical contact with four women.

Most Read