Mika Piirainen's Marimekko

Mika Piirainen's Marimekko

Marimekko is one of the few companies that designs and manufactures their own fabrics, and fair-haired designer Mika Piirainen has been helping the company do both for 20 years.

That’s a long time for a self-described social recluse to be designing the unapologetically bold and cheerful prints that have become the company’s signature, but it’s turned out to be the perfect match.  So much so that Mika says he still feels like a novice designer - which is exactly what he was when he joined the company.

Back in 1994, when Mika was presenting his final student collection at the Ravensbourne College in London, it just so happened that Marimekko’s Christina Bade was watching. 

“I was invited for a job interview right after the show and in the middle of the interview the Marimekko CEO of that time, Kirsti Paakkanen, decided to hire me,” Mika says.

The then-43 year old Finnish fashion house was enjoying a second coming after being saved from bankruptcy by Paakkanen, and as a Finnish native and Lahti Institute fashion graduate, Mika couldn’t have been more delighted. 

Since then, Mika has designed kids wear, womenswear, menswear, bags, accessories and towels for Marimekko and while he says he strives to create something new every season, he also draws inspiration from the archives in keeping with Marimekko’s culture of resurrecting designs from years gone by.

 

“Nature is one the most important inspirations for me,” says Mika.  “Seasonal thinking has always been a crucial part of Marimekko design.”

Perhaps it’s this balance between timelessness and seasonality that accounts for Marimekko successful international expansion over the past five years, with multiple flagship stores opening in the US, the UK and even South Korea and Japan – where dresses are cut smaller and shorter.

Mika says Marimekko’s rapid globalization is another inspiration for him and he was a big advocate of the company’s expansion to Australia last year.

“Australians seem to like our colours, patterns and shapes which fit well with their relaxed lifestyle and surrounding light,” Mika says.

Mika’s first visit to Sydney was on a sabbatical midway through his career, a time when he fell deeply in love with the Australian seaside and landscape gardening.

“I just love the atmosphere in Sydney: the relaxed and good lifestyle of locals, nature and sea,” he says.

Mika is a man who is serious about his happiness, and in this way embodies the same values as the company for whom he’s worked for the past 20 years.

Case in point: breakfast.

“Since the early days of Marimekko, [the company] has always offered free morning porridge to all employees at the headquarters, the Marimekko House. During the mornings our canteen is full of smiley and happy Marimekko people.”

We can’t imagine them any other way

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