KIRA VIKMAN, REPORTING FROM NEW YORK
So, here’s the question: when does summer start? It varies according to culture and climate. In the Nordic tradition, Midsummer is celebrated at the time of summer solstice, around the 24th of June (“From here on it will only get darker, winter is on its way.”). Summer is the time when Finns really come to life, and due to summer’s light, bright and generally joyous effects on people, Midsummer is often the most well-liked holidays of many. Amcham wanted to bring this festivity to New York together with one of the most iconic Finnish brands –and global success story– Marimekko.
Midsummer, in Finnish called “Juhannus”, is a full-on feel-good event, nowadays frequently spent in traditional Finnish weather including rain, cold and snow. Weather forecasts for these few days are, in fact, one of the biggest topics of news in June, and today, a theme and inspiration of various memes. Midsummer in the Nordics is usually celebrated by traveling to the countryside, staying up late savoring the night-less nights, eating plenty of seasonal foods, raising a glass (or more), and often lighting up a Midsummer bonfire (as if it wasn’t light enough already). Marimekko’s down to Earth patterns, colorful designs and relaxed, yet, classy grand lines and silhouettes perfectly represent the essence of Nordic Midsummer atmosphere and the Finnish lifestyle.
Amcham’s goal was to capture the combination of joy and tranquility of Midsummer in Marimekko’s Flagship store in the middle of busy New York City. We had the pleasure of hearing Amcham Finland USA’s Managing Director Megan Williams talk a little bit about Amcham and Erin Nordling, Marimekko’s North American store Manager, share the history of Marimekko and its journey to the U.S.
The brand of Marimekko described in one word is iconic. Some say Marimekko had the same effect on Finns that Coco Chanel had on French women. Marimekko was founded in 1951 by Armi and Viljo Ratia, after they discovered that the bold prints they had acquired were admired but not bought – people were not quite sure how to utilize the eye-captivating fabrics! Ratias found a solution, and put together a successful fashion show that displayed the fabrics in a new, approachable form: as clothes with clean cuts that characterize Marimekko’s line to this day.
Marimekko grew to be one of the most beloved Finnish brands. Marimekko paved its way into the hearts of Americans after Jacqueline Kennedy herself bought seven Marimekko dresses in the middle of her husband’s presidential campaign, and later in 1960 posed for the cover of Sport Illustrated wearing the brand. Since then, Marimekko’s designs have been showcased on everything from Finnair’s airplanes to The Sex and the City television series, and it has worked in collaboration with other big brands such as Converse and Manolo Blahnik. In the U.S., Marimekko clothing has been available since 1959.
Marimekko prints often have a unique story behind them. For instance, the perennial Stripe (Tasaraita) represents equality and Landscape and (Maisema) got its inspiration from lights and tones of nature. Probably the most famous of all, Poppy (Unikko), was a rebellious design created by Maija Isola as a protest for Armi Ratia’s declaration that Marimekko will never have flower prints. A good call from Isola, right?
One of Marimekko’s secrets for success is its ability to appeal to all types of people through their combinations of different elements: blending the Finnish, traditional style with modern and international aspects. Through their fashion and homeware, Marimekko brings all kinds of people together. That is something Amcham and Marimekko have in common. So together, we created a festive atmosphere built for networking with people from different backgrounds and industries, surrounded by delicious snacks, beautiful clothes, and upbeat music. What a way to kick off summer!