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GRAY gets the scoop on the latest launch with a Q&A with the iconic Finnish brand.

A woman's feet in sandals on a floral hammock against green hills.

A hammock in Marimekko's Primavera pattern is part of the new West Elm + Marimekko collaboration.

The days are getting longer and warmer, which means summer is right around the corner. In preparation for evenings spent in backyards, on patios, and atop roof decks, West Elm has launched its second collection with Finnish design house Marimekko. Tailored for time outside, the capsule includes poolside accessories (umbrellas, chairs, a portable cooler), textiles in juicy shades of yellow, orange, and red, and pieces perfect for lounging (chairs, hammocks, and umbrellas). Drawn from Marimekko’s archive, three patterns—Primavera (1972) and Kaivo (1964) by Maija Isola and Papajo (1968) by Annika Rimala—will adorn the collection.

To get the details on the new launch, GRAY spoke with Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, design director for Home & Print Design at Marimekko, about the brand's history—the founder once banned floral prints!—and what sets this collaboration apart.

The collection features three archival Marimekko patterns (L-R), Papajo, Kaivo, and Primavera.

GRAY: What makes Marimekko such an iconic brand?

MINNA KEMELL-KUTVONEN: When Marimekko was founded in 1951, its unparalleled printed fabrics gave it a strong and unique identity. Our design philosophy has always been based on creating timeless designs, both in terms of aesthetics and longevity. We want to provide our customers with timeless, functional, and durable products that bring them long-lasting joy and that they will not want to throw away.

With our brand collaborations, we want to create something special and surprising for customers around the world by combining the core expertise of both partners.  Pairing Marimekko’s art of printmaking with West Elm’s contemporary approach has resulted in this joyous and playful summer collection showcasing the best of both brands.

A woman holding three large colorfully patterned pillows.

Pillows from the West Elm + Marimekko summer collection.

GRAY: How did you choose the three patterns for the collection?

MINNA KEMELL-KUTVONEN: This collection is all about joyful summer living and we felt that these prints capture that essence. The collection includes large outdoor furniture such as a hammock and beach umbrellas which act as the perfect canvas to showcase some of our bold and graphic prints.

A funny story about Marimekko’s founder Armi Ratia is that in the beginning, she banned floral prints altogether as she believed that their beauty should be left in nature. Maija Isola had a different view and in response, she sketched over 50 floral prints, which famously struck Armi Ratia due to their abstract nature. After that, she commissioned even more floral prints, one of them being Primavera, which Maija Isola created whilst living in Algeria in 1972.

A blue-and-white patterned textile blowing in the wind.

A rug in Markimekko's Papajo pattern.

GRAY: The two designers featured in this collection were prolific in their work, especially for Marimekko. What can you tell me about Annika Rimala and Maija Isola?

MINNA KEMELL-KUTVONEN: Both of these fantastic trailblazing women have played a massive part in making Marimekko. Maija Isola created over 500 prints during her years at Marimekko, and she is probably the most well-known print designer of her time. Annika Rimala was very much concerned with the zeitgeist of her time, and she wanted to free women of restrictive silhouettes. In addition to the many iconic prints she created for Marimekko, she also designed clothing better suited for an active lifestyle that she wanted to encourage women to live. Our design philosophy is still very much based on her thinking, and she famously said once that “a woman should be able to run wearing a dress.” This is something we still consider today when making our dresses.

The beanbag chair in the orange Papajo pattern.

GRAY: What makes this collection stand out compared to other outdoor offerings from West Elm?

MINNA KEMELL-KUTVONEN: Marimekko’s prints are known for their distinctive design language, which often—if not always—includes the visible and perfectly imperfect human imprint and the overlap of colors. Marimekko prints are so distinctive that they are instantly recognizable without any visible branding. The fact that the prints in the collection originate from the 60s and 70s—yet still feel extremely relevant today—is an ode to the timeless essence of our prints.


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