Second Best: Marimekko's Silver Medal Bags

Second Best: Marimekko's Silver Medal Bags

In 2011, Marimekko printed 1.5 million meters of fabric.  Since then, the Finnish design house has more than tripled its textile output - but only the best of it makes the transition from fabric to product.  What happens to the rest is their ace in the hole.

All bright stripes, polka dots, big, bold flowers and geometric patterns, Marimekko has been making wide, technicolour waves since launching in 1951. 

Originally called Printex, the company was founded by Viljo and Armi Raitaj as an oil cloth factory but was converted to a garment factory two years later.  Armi asked some of her artist friends to apply their graphic designs to textiles, but it wasn’t until a small collection of unconventional, wide-cut dresses were made to demonstrate how the fabric could be used that the ‘Marimekko’ (‘a dress for Mary’) concept took off.

These days, Marimekko is one of the best known and best loved print maker in the world.  They’re known for their joyous, bold designs and the high quality of their fabrics - the quality control of which is notoriously strict. 

The fabrics start life as sketches, often inspired by nature, created by Marimekko’s team of in-house designers. These sketches are transformed into a repeat pattern by the company’s art studio, its colours decided in conjunction with the collection coordinator.  Print screens are created in the factory and dyes cooked up in the colour kitchen, then a sample is created for approval by the designer.  Once it’s been tweaked, printing begins in earnest – but every roll is then inspected by human eyes.  All of this results in some of the best and most highly sought after fabric in the world.

In fact, so desirable is Marimekko’s fabric that even the ‘silver medal’ offcuts, which don’t pass quality control in Helsinki, have become collectible.  In an effort to reduce waste, Marimekko have begun transforming these offcuts into carry bags – all made from the same fabrics that debut on the runways at Paris fashion week but, as they are cut at random, all completely unique. 

As every roll of fabric is graded individually and there are no guarantees around which will make the cut , there is no certainty either about the exact fabrics from which these bags will be made. As both diehard collectors and Bond girls will tell you, such mystery is part of the appeal.

Today we introduce our first collection of Marimekko’s silver medal bags. It’s the ultimate lucky dip, and a rare glimpse into the perfectionism behind every piece in Marimekko’s collection.

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Marimekko’s silver medal bags are available now.