Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Sorry Tale


Going back ten years, being a young art student, about to graduate, you find 
out about this competition, set out by the legendary Marimekko company no 
less. The brief is just perfect for your training - that is to design a pattern for 
them. What's there to lose, you think, and perhaps you didn't have much time 
(or talent) for a serious proposal, so you decide to source some old obscure 
photos, trace the outlines, an voilà, that's your entry!

You may not have anticipated in your dreams winning the first prize, and being 
offered a full-time designer position with Marimekko, but that's what happened, 
and you went for it. The design soon becomes a 'classic' and appears on 
fabrics, quilts, mouse pads, etc. And soon you're amongst the young hot 
designers to take Marimekko to a new era, and you produce some decent 
designs over the years. Too late to fess up.

And confess you didn't, even on Wednesday, when the cat was out of the bag - 
you were busy explaining in which street corner you were at sketching the 
design and some such. On Thursday Marimekko had to come clean, and to 
admit the pattern is indeed based on a 1960's photo by Markus Leppo of The Esplanade 
avenue in Helsinki.

Oh, Marimekko, bring back the strong director Armi Ratia and the strong designer Maija Isola.

(Before you lose what's left of your credibility.)

(this is just the last of the 'copying' scandals dragging Marimekko down this year)

Photo Markus Leppo, Pohjois Esplanadi, Helsinki, 1960's

I overlayed the Leppo photo with the Marimekko Hetkia mouse pad design.

Marimekko Hetkiä/Moments Mousepad, design by Maija Louekari

Marimekko Hetkiä/Moments Fabric, design by Maija Louekari


  1. Kristina Isola's admitted plagiarism and the investigation of Teresa Moorhouse's design...and now Maija Louekari and Aino-Maija Metsola? The corporate climate at Marimekko must have been dismal for the past several years to cause this kind of behavior. Like you, I blame the artists but agree that management surely has to take some of the blame.

    Do you know the back story about why the heirs sold the company and why Ristomatti Ratia went out on his own? I have a feeling it's an interesting one.

    1. When Armi Ratia died in 1979 Ristomatti didn't manage to run the house as well as his mother (and also lacked her charisma). Admittedly the fashions had also changed in the 80's, and Marimekko's large bold designs did not sell as well as before. There was a significant decline in the company during this time, and it was soon sold to a large 'faceless' Finnish firm, Amer, which was not involved in design/arts at all, and it seemed they weren't terribly interested in their acquisition, and thus Marimekko got quite neglected. It wasn't until in the beginning of the 90's when the company was saved from bankruptcy by a new owner, Kirsi Paakkanen, who had the right attitude for the task, and made Marimekko flourish again. She sold the company to a banker Mika Ihamuotila in 2007, but he hasn't managed to continue Paakkanen's success. I remember him saying in the press at the time he took over that Marimekko won't be concentrating in fabric design in the future, and that might be a reason for its diminished status and lapsed standards in the company.

  2. By the way, here's a link to Armi Ratia's biography:


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