Marimekko, a label know for its extraordinary bold prints, was put on the fashion map by Jackie Kennedy when she once bought out the collection of seven shift dresses from a boutique in Cape Cod.
The unknown Finnish label was soon after featured on the cover of various magazines, and has since held a permanent place in the fashion world.
Marimekko has thrived on developing unique prints, designing collections for the home, womenswear, menswear and a children’s line – along with many collaborations on various high-profile projects including a summer collection with H&M and a new design project with Avon cosmetics.
My personal favorite is the womenswear collection developed by designer Samu-Jussi Koski, which has an assortment of chic, casual day dresses, delicate party dresses and a sportswear line in bright colors and unique shapes.
So why haven’t we seen the line in every boutique and high-end department store in the States? Well, good news travels fast, and Samu-Jussi Koski was recently promoted to Creative Director and plans to move forward with a U.S. re-launch this coming year.
Samu-Jussi Koski graduated from Lahti Institute of Design in 2001 and is continuing his education via a Fashion Masters degree at the prestigious Polimoda University in Florence, Italy. He’s been crowned in various articles as the “Marc Jacobs of Finland” and has worked as a clothing designer for Marimekko since 2004 where he specialized in designing for womenswear and childrenswear collections.
Samu’s unique approach in interpreting new shapes to show off the vintage print designs has revived Marimekko’s 60’s feel into a modern collection without compromising the company’s aesthetic. It’s a recurring design battle to base a collection off of prints, but Samu has been able to master this beautifully.
“Shapes are developed from the Marimekko prints, which means you can’t have too many seams because it will interfere with the design of the print, “ Samu commented.
I recently interviewed Samu to ask him about his design aesthetic and to find out what he sees for the future of Marimekko as Creative Director…
JC: What made you decide to work for Marimekko and stay in Finland after graduating?
Samu: My mother wore Marimekko when I was growing up. The prints were all around me, even on my pillowcases. I also love the history of Finland and really wanted to bring something from Finland abroad. I always knew I wanted to work for a Finnish designer.
JC: How do you approach your designs when each collection is based on prints?
Samu: I basically work with 3-4 prints for each collection involving a mixture of vintage and new designs developed by our print designers. I mix solid colors to calm down the vibrant look. It’s really important that all our fabrications are natural – we do not use synthetic materials.
JC: What is your own personal design aesthetic?
Samu: My personal style has been described as classic, feminine and flirty. A classic look with a stylish twist.
JC: Who is the Marimekko girl?
Samu: The “Mari girl” is someone who is really into life. She’s cool and unique. Loves jazz music, architecture, books. She’s intelligent and beautiful but not in a classic way, more of a personal way. I’ve always admired Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst and Chloe Sevigny, and I could see them wearing the line.
JC: What was your specific inspiration for the Fall 2008 Collection?
Samu: The collection was based on a Slavic bohemian feel. Finland is located between Russia and Sweden, so literally between East and West. Dealing with contrasts, energies that are at the same time traditional and radical, asthetic and ornamental, everyday and festive, urban and country life-inspired, anonymous and aspiring towards eccentricity.
JC: What are the design challenges you face with each collection?
Samu: We have many designers and they each have their own lines so we really have to clear up our collections and try to consolidate under the Marimekko ideology.
JC: What are your plans as Creative Director to re-launch in the U.S.?
Samu: We are pursuing the best co-operators to work with us to create great new opportunities in the U.S. We opened 15 new shops in Japan in just the past 2 years alone, so the next big step for us is definitely the U.S.
JC: What do you see for the future of Marimekko?
Samu: I would like to see it find its way into the hearts of many people. Our heritage is very rich and we have the best print designers in the world, so what else can we expect besides a great future!