I first heard about Marimekko three years ago. My mom burst into my room after a shopping spree, raving about the newest additions to her wardrobe from this Finnish brand I’d never heard of. I remember her pulling out one brightly colored dress after another from her bags, scattering abstract prints and floral patterns everywhere.
Since that day, Marimekko has been a household name for us, our collection of products growing to include cushions, mugs and towels among other things. Little did I know, I would be sitting across from the brand’s CEO during her visit to the adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach telling her about my mom’s love for their plates.
Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko has built her entire career at Marimekko. She started as a summer employee at the iconic Finnish brand, where she was immersed in its philosophy: Empowering people and bringing happiness to their lives with bold prints and colors. Its mission began in the 1950s, where it became synonymous with challenging cultural norms with bold and innovative designs. Finnish for “Mary’s dress”, Marimekko wanted to create clothes that enabled women from all walks of life to be themselves.
“At Marimekko, we promote equality and self-expression. Our founder, Armi Ratia, proclaimed, ‘Marimekko is not about trendy fashion. We make timeless and lasting products, which are by chance often very fashionable’. Such an approach rooted in sustainability is perhaps more relevant today than ever before.”
Creativity is king
On her journey from a summer employee to CEO, Tiina has been in many different roles at Marimekko. “Being at the company for so many years has given me an insight into different sides of the business. But I’ve realized something:
Tiina sees creativity as the output of bringing diverse people together. It’s about learning through trial and error; a willingness to accept and be open to other ways of thinking.
“Creativity is everywhere! You just need to bring it out by ensuring that people’s talents, capabilities and experiences are highlighted in a way that complement one another. I’m inspired by our employees every day – while each person brings something different to the table, we always work together as one team to reach our goals.”
The other piece of the puzzle
What makes the fashion industry so special is that creativity is so pervasive. But in today’s context more than ever before, what sets you apart from the rest is how you guide that creativity in a meaningful way.
“Having a joint meaningful purpose, strong values and clear design principles allows everyone to direct their creativity in a way that will add value for the consumer,” Tiina explains.
This guiding principle has encouraged Marimekko’s creative community throughout the decades to develop a unique language that intertwines the boundaries of art, fashion, design and architecture in a meaningful way, which in turn translates into beautiful and innovative products for consumers.
Achieving our mission
A culmination of creativity and purpose means Marimekko’s DNA has become very recognizable, while at the same time it continues to wow its consumers in bold, exciting and sometimes even surprising ways. Pointing to its Kioski capsule, Tiina talks about the brand’s first foray into streetwear with a range that features t-shirts, hoodies and scrunchies in the most iconic Marimekko prints.
“For us, streetwear is casual, easy and approachable – it’s very democratic. Everyone understands it. This falls in line with our philosophy in a super relevant and surprising way,” Tiina points out, “To ensure a successful future, it’s important to know the core of your DNA and have the courage to translate it in a timeless way for the future.”
Marimekko’s mission of empowering people to be happy as they are through bold prints and colors is embodied by Tiina’s positive energy and true passion. After I said goodbye to her, I thought about my mom running into my room as I reflected on the brand’s purpose of bringing joy and beauty into everyday life. Her smile that day was a testament to the fact that Marimekko had already achieved that goal; proof that combining creativity and purpose can have much more than a just a business impact.