Finland is like the little brother of the Scandinavian family. But the little brother is a grown up already. Since the 90’s the city of Helsinki has interacted actively with design, fashion and music, and continues steadily on the rise. Nevertheless, there are a few brands emblem of the Finnish culture, heritage from the last century. Alvar Aalto’s Artek is arguably the most important architecture and furniture design movement in Finland, pioneer of the Nordic Modernism since 1930 and onwards. Regarding fashion, a few new designers have successfully emerged from the scenario in the new century. However, there is a unique reference in the Finnish fashion design cultural background, Marimekko. Established in the 50’s, it is one of the most important brands in Finland, together with Nokia (IT) and the previously mentioned Artek. We met brand’s Creative Director Noora Niinikoski, an energetic and happy person that herself represents the core of the brand: brightly colored prints and patterns. This was backstage after introducing The Marimekko autumn/winter 2013 collection “Art of Print Making –Color for a season.” – The new collection reflects seasonal changes of the surrounding world. Autumnal weather patterns reveal aspects of intriguing beauty: highlights of color against a grey background. The design team was inspired by the clean geometry of the 1920s and 1930s art and its similarity with primitive folk art, and exuberant autumnal gardens. The designs, combining calm tones and vibrant accent colors, reflect a contemporary interpretation of Marimekko’s core.
You studied in London. Please tell me a little bit about it.
I started my studies in 1995 and graduated in 1998. I specialized first in Fashion prints and the two final years I specialized in knitwear. I enjoyed the studies a lot. The focus was very much in developing my personal artistic approach. I feel that I learned the mechanism of the creative process during the London years.
What is your opinion about design schools in Scandinavia?
I don´t know so well many design schools in Scandinavia. I only studied in Finland and then in London. I think the studies really depend on the staff that is teaching you and also the overall idea/method of teaching that the school has defined. At the time when I was studying in Finland the teaching was very different compared to London, but nowadays there´s ex-Central Saint Martins graduate Tuomas Laitinen teaching in Helsinki. So the approach has changed quite a lot.
Do you know about Aalto University? Is it a good place for design in Finland?
Lecturer Tuomas Laitinen is teaching at Aalto University and many talented designers are graduating from there. I think it´s a good place to study.
When did you start to work with Marimekko?
I started as a freelance designer in 2008. And as Head of Fashion Design of Marimekko in 2010.
Do you think the brand sells values of the Scandinavian/Finnish life?
Please tell me in short, how does it work for you the creative process when you face a new collection?
At Marimekko I always start with prints and colours. I select approximately half of the prints from our archive, which includes over 3.500 prints, and half that are new and specifically designed for the new collection. At the very early stage I also have several themes in mind. During the process the collection theme then starts to be more defined.
How do you relate the clothing collection with other lines such interior design?
We have few meetings during the process, so that the collections have some relations.
Do you work in Helsinki? Is there any HQ for all the design team?
I work in Helsinki. The Marimekko House is situated at the east side of the city. About 10 minutes metro ride from the city center. The building was designed in the 70´s . It´s quite a special working environment with all the printed fabrics all over the place. Also the printing mill is in the same building with offices. Everything and everybody are quite close to each other.
Besides the Stockholm Fashion Week, have you attend any other catwalks this season or perhaps you did it in the past?
As continuation to the previous presentations in conjunction with the fashion weeks of New York in September 2012 and Tokyo in October 2011, we decided to show this time in the capital of Nordic fashion, Stockholm. Scandinavia is actually one of our key market areas.
I think you recently open a flagship store in L.A. How does the American market work for you?
North America is one of our key market areas, too. We won the hearts of Americans in the 60s and 70s, and now we want to bring the Marimekko of today to the everyday lives of the Americans. In the USA we have opened during the past two years six own stores – among those NYC and L.A. flagship stores.
Which other markets are in your plan? Do you sell in Japan?
The key markets are North America, Northern Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Japan is actually the biggest market outside of our home market, Finland. In Japan there are 23 Marimekko stores.
Would you be so kind to tell me a few tips about Helsinki?
I like the market places like The Market Square (Kauppatori in Finnish) and Hakaniemi Market Square , and also the old market halls. Also during the summer there´s an open-air flea market at Hietalahti Market Square, which sometimes is a fun place to visit. The center area is quite small area, so it´s easy to walk around.
Text: Victor Moreno