This morning it is drizzly and dreary outside my window overlooking a small corner of the Elaintarhantie Park, a parade of umbrellas on the path below. From the second floor of the house, I look out at the tree canopy, now a lush, full green, leaves almost to full size.
There is much more to Finnish design than Marimekko, but here in Helsinki it does seem like she is everywhere. “She” being a company, with many designers, and an expert marketing team. Currently featured in an exhibit at the Design Museum, Marimekko (according to legend, mari=adaptation of the founders middle name and mekko=dress), is celebrating 60 years. Born in the early 1950’s in an era of development for a war-torn Finland, Marimekko was one of the earliest companies to embrace design as a lifestyle, quickly going beyond its original scope of printing bold, nature-inspired fabrics and designing dresses. In looking at over 4,000 items on display, I was struck by how much the company has been able to change and evolve though many ups and downs – while staying true to its original concept. A tribute to an icon of Finland – an exhibit where most of the visitors were wearing the same designs that were on display – both new and vintage.
Sharing a strong connection to place, and design inspired by nature and the landscape, the smaller Korea Design exhibit on the lower level was a delightful surprise. Traditional designs were combined with new interpretations, a journey into another place and time, where design is integral to ceremony and daily function.
In Finland, I am reminded that good design can – and should be – an everyday thing, infused with and inspired by nature. Celebrated in a museum, but also something that needs to be a part of daily living – function combined with beauty.