This year, the holidays may feel different, as people continue to socially distance in the midst of the pandemic. Marimekko, the Finnish fashion label, has partnered with Uniqlo on a limited-edition holiday capsule designed to evoke the warmth and coziness of being at home in the winter.
The collection, which drops on Black Friday, is Marimekko’s fourth collaboration with Uniqlo. This time, the two brands have chosen nine prints from Marimekko’s archive produced between 1956 and 1970. The patterns feature a deep, jeweled palette of reds, blues, and greens, and are splashed on an array of cosy sweaters, flannel dresses, and puffer jackets.
Marimekko, which is based in Helsinki, will be 70 years old next year. Known for its bold, graphic prints, it has an archive of more than 3,500 designs. Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, the brand’s head of product development and design, tries to create collections that convey a particular mood and message—this year’s holiday collection is no different. “Our aesthetic is all about perfection in imperfection, and a human touch,” she says. “We have always been known for our overlapping colors, our organic, even abstract shapes, and bold use of colors. Ultimately, the goal of our colorful design aesthetic is to bring more joy to people’s lives.”
The prints in this collection were created by two legendary designers, Maija Isola and Annika Rimala, who worked at Marimekko for decades and helped define the brand’s aesthetic. In the early ’60s, Isola created the Lokki print when she saw the sun shining through the folds of a curtain, creating a wave pattern; she designed the Kaivo print when fetching water from a well and observing circles of ripples forming beneath the surface. Rimala created rhythmic curlicued prints that came to define the free-spiritedness of the ’60s.
For this collaboration, Kemell-Kutvonen says the team deliberately picked prints that have international appeal, but that are also distinctly Marimekko. While Marimekko is well known in Northern Europe, it is less widely popular in North America, though it has exported to the U.S. since the mid-1950s. (Jacqueline Kennedy famously bought seven Marimekko dresses in 1960 and wore one on the cover of Sports Illustrated.)
With this collection, the brand hopes to deepen its presence in the U.S, according to Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko, Marimekko’s president and CEO. For starters, the lineup is far less expensive, which might introduce the brand to a different demographic. (The Uniqlo collection ranges from $19.90 to $149.90, which is much less than standard Marimekko products.) “Collaborations provide us with an opportunity to build Marimekko’s global brand awareness and reach completely new target audiences,” says Alahuhta-Kasko. “We work with partners with whom we believe we can create something new and exciting, even surprising.”
Uniqlo, which is based in Japan, has a massive global reach, with more than 2,200 stores across 25 countries. It has become a collaboration machine, helping niche designers and artists reach a wider audience around the world. In 2020 alone, it has partnered with Ines de la Fressange, Jil Sander, Christophe Lemaire, and Takashi Murakami.
Marimekko veers towards the maximalist in its aesthetic, but its patterns are now so iconic that they’ve become classic. Alahuhta-Kasko says customers tend to gravitate toward looks that reflect their own sensibilities, then wear them year after year. “What defines our target customer is attitude,” she says. “We are a brand for people who walk their own path.”
Next year, the brand plans to launch Maripedia, an online print library of all of its patterns, which people will be able to browse. It will also publish a book called The Art of Printmaking, which will delve into Marimekko’s legacy of creating patterned fabric in its Helsinki factory. The Uniqlo x Marimekko capsule launches on November 27 online and in stores.