PARIS — Marimekko has tapped a fast-fashion veteran to revamp its collections as it seeks to expand its global footprint.
Anna Teurnell, who most recently helped Hennes & Mauritz AB launch its new brand & Other Stories, this week took over as creative director of the Finnish maker of clothing, textiles and home furnishings in distinctive colored prints. Her nomination was revealed in April.
A graduate of Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Teurnell worked for H&M in several roles in brand management and design before being promoted to head of design at & Other Stories.
She will lead Marimekko’s design team and be responsible for the company’s strategy for fashion, bags and accessories as well as home products — the latter being a relatively new category for her.
“I want the Marimekko experience to be very inviting and inspiring,” Teurnell told WWD in her first interview since being appointed. “The collections and the store experience and the communication are quite fantastic, but I want it to be as relevant and modern and desirable as possible.”
Teurnell, who will split her time between Helsinki and Stockholm, said she would tap into her experience both as a designer and visual manager.
“I know I’m good at working with teams and having the team work towards a visual goal of a silhouette — in the ready-to-wear, for example, propose how you can use Marimekko trademarks in a contemporary way — so I will work a lot with fit and silhouette,” she explained.
Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, the brand’s previous creative director, will remain on the design team with responsibility for prints.
Teurnell, who was in charge of H&M’s Tribute to Marimekko collection in 2008, said iconic house patterns like Unikko, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, would remain at the heart of its collections, but she hoped to introduce more variety into the lineup.
“You can expect both — looking back at the archives, and also introducing new surprising things,” she said. “I think we lack a little bit of variety in the qualities.”
Teurnell hopes to add more knits and jacquards into the mix, as well as sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, better cotton and recycled polyester.
Noting an abundance of A-line dresses in the current collection, she said she planned to complement these with straighter cuts and longer hemlines. She wants to round off the collection with additional solid-colored garments such as fitted pants and skirts, printed shirts in cotton and silk, tunics, coats and shoes.
“I’m not only interested in sustainable qualities, I’m interested in the idea of timelessness. That is one thing with Marimekko that I really appreciate,” said Teurnell, a vintage fanatic who lauded the Finnish brand for its combination of practicality and whimsy.
“I like the idea when I set the table at home, for example, when I put the napkins from Marimekko on the setting, it adds some sort of joy to an everyday life moment,” she explained, adding that “strong women” like Marimekko founder Armi Ratia and print designer Annika Rimala were powerful role models.
Teurnell joins Marimekko at a time of rapid international expansion for the 63-year-old brand, whose early adopters included Jacqueline Kennedy. Mika Ihamuotila, president and chief executive officer of Marimekko, is banking that reduced reliance on the depressed Finnish market will help lift its profits in 2014.
“At the heart of our updating process are even more attractive products and getting them from the drawing board and into the stores faster and more easily. I believe that Anna Teurnell’s artistic vision, international experience and Nordic background are a good combination that is sure to be of help in achieving our ambitious goals,” he said.
Marimekko, whose shares are quoted on the Helsinki Stock Exchange, posted a net loss before taxes of 804,000 euros, or $1 million, in 2013 on net sales of 94 million euros, or $125 million.
Net sales outside Finland grew 16 percent during the period, with the Asia-Pacific region posting a 37 percent jump in revenues year-on-year, but wholesale sales were down in Scandinavia, Central and Southern Europe and North America.
Marimekko, which shut two of its Finnish production plants last year, said it expects net sales to grow by 3 to 8 percent in 2014.
The company, which had 133 stores worldwide at the end of last year, plans to open between 15 and 25 new Marimekko boutiques and shops-in-shop this year, mostly under license, compared with a total of 34 openings in 2013. The investment for 2014 is expected to total 3 million euros, or $4 million at current exchange.
The bulk of the expansion will be carried out in Asia and the Middle East, with the planned opening this year of two new stores in Japan, one in Mainland China and one in South Korea.
Marimekko intends to open a total of 15 stores in Mainland China and Hong Kong by the end of 2016, five stores and shops-in-shop in Taiwan by the end of 2018 and eight stores in the Middle East by the end of 2019.
The brand, which earlier this year collaborated with Banana Republic on a capsule clothing and accessories line, has six directly owned stores in the U.S.
Having booked write-downs last year on the tangible assets of its underperforming stores in Boston, Beverly Hills and Oslo, it is negotiating to terminate the lease on the Beverly Hills store and move it to another location.
Meanwhile, its shop-in-shop partnership with home furnishings retailer Crate & Barrel has just ended.
Under a separate deal with Canadian modern furniture brand EQ3, Marimekko plans to open 10 shops-in-shop by the end of the year. Eight have already opened — seven in Canada and one in the U.S. — and the remaining two will bow in Vancouver and Burlington, Canada.
It will also open two shops-in-shop in Mexico City this fall as part of a partnership with Mexican department store chain El Palacio de Hierro. In Europe, it plans just four openings this year, all in Finland.
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