NEW YORK — Marimekko, the Finnish brand known for its colorful bold prints, today will unveil a 4,000-square-foot flagship at 200 Fifth Avenue here between 23rd and 24th Streets, across from Madison Square Park.
Outside the store, large beanbag chairs were casually arranged in a display for Wednesday’s private opening party. Passersby stopped to look, touch and even sit down and make themselves comfortable. It was all in keeping with Marimekko’s egalitarian philosophy. “It’s a very unhierarchical company,” said Mika Ihamuotila, president and chief executive officer. “Every morning we eat together the morning porridge. It’s the Scandinavian way. One of the first shirts we created, the tasaraita, which means even stripes, symbolized equality between men and women.”
Marimekko this year is celebrating its 60th anniversary with the theme “Why Not Together.”
Ihamuotila said Marimekko is “a brand that I don’t want to be in every corner” and discussed his aversion to advertising. “We don’t want to push,” he said. “We want people to find us.” It’s lucky then that the flagship is in the former Toy Building on a heavily trafficked block of the Flatiron District. Besides, with the flagship’s bursts of color and pattern from fabric print banners in the windows to bolts of iconic fabrics stacked on metal shelves, the store is hard to miss.
“We’re very strongly focused on the U.S.,” Ihamuotila said. “This store marks our strong willingness to conquer Americans’ hearts again.”
In the Fifties and Sixties, Marimekko had a strong presence in the U.S. When Jacqueline Kennedy wore several Marimekko dresses in 1961, there were those who said they helped John F. Kennedy win the election because they softened her image at a time when she was thought to be haughty. “For some reason, and I don’t know why, we became a very European company,” Ihamuotila said. “We kind of forgot the U.S. market for several decades. It could have been when the founder died in 1979. When she grew older, the company didn’t have the energy to go outside Europe.”
Marimekko has concept stores on Third Avenue here, and in Cambridge, Mass. There are six shops within Crate & Barrel stores and an agreement to open 23 by the end of 2013. Ihamuotila is open to striking up partnerships with other retailers but said space is key. Marimekko’s Crate & Barrel shops average 1,700 square feet.
The flagship was designed by IMA, the Japanese architectural firm, in cooperation with Marimekko’s own store design team. Exposed pipes, whitewashed brick walls and oak planks give the flagship an authentic feel. Apparel hangs on 10-foot white wires suspended from the ceiling. It’s the only U.S. store where the world of Marimekko products will be displayed. That includes clothing, bags, jewelry and other accessories, furnishings, fabrics and tableware. In the back of the store, four beds stacked vertically recall “The Princess and the Pea” fairy tale, each with a profusion of Marimekko’s fluffy comforters.
Ihamuotila said he’d like to open stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco. There could also be room for more units in Manhattan. In three days of the soft opening, sales overwhelmingly exceeded expectations, he said.
And there are other ways to raise Marimekko’s profile. In two weeks, Marimekko will stage a runway show in Tokyo of its spring collection. “We thought we could do a fashion show in Madison Square Park in September,” Ihamuotila said, noting that construction issues delayed the store opening. “We’ll do it in 2012 for spring or autumn.”
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