Marimekko Exhibition in Tokyo

Marimekko Exhibition in Tokyo

On my way to MARIMEKKO’s exhibition at one of the most famous museum of contemporary art in Tokyo – the Bunkamura in Shibuya area – I was wondering why this design-brand is so famous in Japan, dedicating to it two months exhibition in the major art spot of Tokyo. After having seen the exhibition I’ve understood: Marimekko represents the base of all Japanese fashion styles, from Issey Miyake, passing through Yohji Yamamoto, till the easy-to-wear fashion of Uniqlo…everything is inspired to this brand’s concept.

However, let me start from the begin answering to the 5 W of the journalism:


Marimekko is a design brand of cutting patterns on printed fabric


Armi Ratia (founder)




Helsinki – Finland


“To encourage every woman to be herself and walk her own path.” (cit. Armi Ratia).


Is the 1949 when Armi Ratia, a young wife of the owner of a fabric company in Helsinki, put a step forward and start to work individually on her own idea of ‘innovative patterns’.


Few years later, thanks also to the collaboration of a creative designer such as Maija Isola, Armi Ratia starts her own business branded MARIMEKKO. In 1954 the logo comes alive, and from this point Marimekko signature starts to leave a sign in the history of design.

Thanks to the collaboration of artists and designers from all over the world Marimekko became a fabric pattern that anybody can recognize, yesterday and today.

But let’s have a closer look to the exhibition…



In the first hall I immediately find myself in front of few of the most famous printed fabric by Maija Isola and Katsuji Wakisala. And here we can see on main characteristic of Marimekko’s brand: contrast. On one side colourful flowers, on the other black and white stripes.

Another example are the dresses by Annika Rimala – who dressed women with flowers – which are antithesis to to the Liisa Suvanto’s ones, which represent the ‘black is always the best’ side of the wear-collection.


I keep on walking through the ink on silk kind of patterns by Mika Piirainen and the polka dots of Noora Niinikoski…amazing!



But it is only in the session called ‘New designers’ where I realize why Japanese people love Marimekko brand: here I could see the works by Fujiwo Ishimoto and Katsuji Wakisaka which started to collaborated with Armi Ratia in the ‘70s. What it is really interesting is the opposite personality of these two Japanese designers: on one side we have Ishimoto with his ‘kimono style on western dresses’. While, on the other side, Wakisaka amuse us with his ‘little houses pattern’ that reminds more the ‘baby painting’ inspired by the contemporary Japanese painter Nara Yoshitomo (see picture below to see to what I am referring to)!

Nara Yoshitomo_Armi-Ratia-1959_Marimekko_OraZero booboo_iso_Wakisaka_Marimekko_OraZero

At the end of the exhibition I am moved to tears… maybe because the last session is the one dedicate  to the ‘mass-products’ developed in the recent years that I know the most (here you can even find  a pair of Converse customized by Marimekko!). In any case, it is only at this point of the exhibition that I realize the real success of Armi Rita – disappeared in 1979 but still talking to today’s young generations – she could bring the design fabric patterns from the fashion catwalks into to the common people’s houses. It is for this reason that today  spectators feel so moved in front of these pieces of art.


Words by Elisa Da Rin Puppel

Official Marimekko website here


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