Image via marimekko.fi
Last time I wrote about Marimekko, was in September with this post where I summed up the copy scandal year. How I wish it would have stopped there but less than a month later a new story broke out. This time about a clothing pattern. Helsingin Sanomat broke the news:
Image via iltasanomat.fi
Three years ago, designer Marjut Rahkola approached Marimekko with her children’s wear ideas and was promptly signed on as a freelance designer. In her contract was stated that she would get royalties from every item sold (that she had designed). The general Terms of Contract (?) of Marimekko states that designs can only be changed/modified together with the designer. The changes wouldn’t affect the royalties paid. Everything was now on black and white and Rahkola showed them openly all of her designs. Production went ahead and the first collection was out 2012.
Image via hs.fi
Then 2013, Rahkola began studying at Helsinki Design School and didn’t visit Marimekko HQ that often. She had a verbal agreement that her designs would be co-ordinated in-house and then decided how they would proceed with them. When she went to visit HQ in June, she found out that Marimekko had brought back one of her earlier designs but this time it wasn’t her name on them. She sent an e-mail to the creative director Minna Kemell-Kutvonen about it and she responded via lawyer:
“No copying has been done, because first of all, it is not the same Pellervo-pant. It is brand new, separate product.”
The differentiation was further explained:
“The new product differs from Pellervo-pant by its scale and new pattern form and thus being much fitter and narrower where as Pellervo-pant was charmingly slouchy.”
If you go back up and look at the technical drawing, how much difference you see? Technical drawing for clothes are the blueprints. What you see is what you get. True, this isn’t a copy case but an ethics and a contract breach case. And that’s what the designer thinks too:
“You can easily play this down. That it doesn’t take a long time to come up with this. But that’s not the point. I was the one who brought it as new to Marimekko. This is just the way they try to avoid royalty payments to the original designer. Diaper pants play a significant role in the current collection. Also, this tells a lot how designers are appreciated.”
Pellervo-pants aren’t the first and only diaper pants ever. But anyone who ever has made a clothing pattern from scratch knows that getting a good fit takes time. Rahkola herself said that she made 20 prototypes. Marimekko built on that work and probably would never had a diaper pant in their collection if it weren’t for Rahkola. Copyright laws weren’t broken but this clearly was done with the intent to stop paying the designer.
As per usual, Marimekko continued with their confusing statements. When Marimekko’s Communication Manager (my translation of the Finnish title) Merja Paulamäki was asked by iltasanomat.fi about this, she said (and she used pretty clever wording in Finnish…):
“Marimekko has had children’s wear in their collections for decades. Items for the diaper wearing ages have been in our collections also for decades. So as a product, they are not new.”
This is what pisses me off. She tries to imply that the designer claims that she was the one who brought the whole concept of children’s wear to Marimekko, by replacing the word diaper pants with diaper wearing ages, meaning toddlers of course. Then she continued:
“They are completely different product by their scale and fit.”
When she was confronted with the technical drawings, she responded with:
“I don’t know how to comment. I only know our products, not these drawings.”
So first you knew enough to say that the designer is wrong and then suddenly you don’t know anything? Maybe it’s time have an MRI. Also, Marimekko had the option to make a one-time payment to the designer but they chose the royalty-route. Instead of handling it like a business partner you are supposed to be able to trust, they decided, scamming the designer or in this case the correct word is developer, would make better financial sense.
This news broke out last October but as I was in Paris without a computer, I couldn’t write about it then. There have been a lot of changes within Marimekko-company followed by these scandals and my next post is about them.
Thrifty Finn- Your trusty Marimekko reporter