Tag Archives: Marimekko

Marimekko. Between The Last News & Today.

Unikko 50 years, Marimekko, design

Image via marimekko.fi

Here we are. Hopefully at the end of this Marimekko-saga. Year 2013 was rough for the company. It’s reputation was in the crapper and they didn’t seem be to able to do anything right. So what has Marimekko done to get things fixed?

On September 30th last year they announced that Marimekko will no longer to collaborate with Kristina Isola. However, in the same breath they continued that her daughter Emma Isola WILL stay at the company. As one commenter on the Helsingin Sanomat-article said:

“Seems like a fixed deal. Mother ‘quit’s but daughter continues. How does it differ from before?”

Then another one builds on the work of Kritiikkiblogi, who made a case of nepotism in Finnish art & design education (I’m translating some Finnish expressions here and quite badly):

“Safety net jobs for the whole family. It’s just the way of the country and about the good sister-network. Hundreds of design professionals are trained in the adult daycare centers, and the few job opportunities go like this…I thought that the Helsinki University of Art & Design/Aalto Yliopisto had the market on nepotism (ex-dean and his children’s safety net jobs, the managerial positions and companies started within the university) but apparently not.”

Ow. The comments on various comments and other news articles played the same tune. I studied in Holland were there are frequently open design jobs but in Finland, they are few and far between. Not to mention, the problems with Finnish art school application system. In Finland there is emphasis on drawing skills and when you apply, you have to make three artworks. One with pencil, one with watercolour and one with whatever. Subjects change but the techniques… Never. Getting in depends on one very specific skill that doesn’t tell anything about person’s artistic skills and visions. Kritiikkiblogi wrote extensively about this system HERE (in Finnish).

Marimekko, business, art, design, layoffs, market, sale

Image via taloussanomat.fi

Then came some good news…In January, Marimekko published the news that they would be collaborating with Banana Republic. The collection will have 25 pieces and Marimekko told that it will significantly increase their licensing income. But that didn’t stop these news…

In February, Marimekko announced layoffs. There was a mini scandal when Mika Ihamuotila tweeted (and later deleted) a picture from a meeting with a text about nice textiles etc. and it turned out it was from the meeting they decided about the layoffs. For some weird reason, people thought it was tad tacky ;) They made the announcement at the same time with the news of opening of another 15-25 stores around Asia and North America. The only department safe from the layoffs is the Helsinki fabric printery. Which is positive as they seem to want to keep on at least some of their skilled workers.

And now to the BIG news…

Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, Marimekko, creative director, art, design

Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, image via yle.fi

In February, Marimekko made another announcement. They were going to move Minna Kemell-Kutvonen away from the Creative Director position and she will now be the Head of Pattern Design (well, we all know how well that worked before…) Then they launched a search for new Creative Director and today the news broke that the new CD will be Anna Teurnell from H&M!  She is the design director at the women’s fashion brand & Other Stories, which is owned by H&M.

This is all kinds of exciting, Anna Teurnell was part of the team that created Marimekko for H&M-collection few years back and I think she will bring the much needed sex appeal into the designs. Not that large print muumuu’s aren’t sexy but…They really aren’t. I have my doubts though. There’s a little sentence in the press release that makes me think that this change isn’t really going to change the corporate culture and subsequently the design process:

“Anna Teurnell’s artistic vision, internation experience and Nordic background are a great combination to help us to meet our high ambitions. I am also pleased that Minna Kemell-Kutvonen will now be concentrating on further strengthening our core competence, print design.”

So they get a new Creative Director (in fact they used the words Marc, Jacobs and visionary in their search) who is supposed to bring in all these new ideas in BUT you still separate your “core competence” from these new ideas. Marimekko potentially ties up Anna’s hands before she has even begun working there. And has Minna Kemell-Kutvonen showed any skill regarding print & pattern management before? Nothing in this entire story has shown any talent or regard for other people’s talent so far from her. But we’ll see. Anna Teurnell will begin working there in July, so we won’t see her handiwork until 2015. If it’s any good as this sneak peek from the Banana Republic-collection, we are in for a treat:

banana republic, marimekko, fashion, collection, polkadot, skirt

Image via @MikaIhamuotila, Twitter

See! No muumuus anywhere! I hope I don’t have to add anything to this story ever again and the next story about Marimekko will be about how I want to buy something from them or they have done something exciting design-wise. Fingers crossed.

Thrifty Finn- Feeling like she has given everything she has to this story

Related reading:

Marimekko. Freelancer’s Nightmare.

marimekko, home, decor, Finland

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:

Marimekko, Pellervo, freelancer, ethics, copyright

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.

pellervo, pattern, technical drawing

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

 

 

 

Mayday, Mayday

Our minister of foreign trade (who btw has blocked me on Twitter) just got re-tweeted by the Marimekko CEO.

I leave you to judge if Marimekko has other design problems other than plagiarism.

Marimekko. Conclusions.

marimekko, copyright, scandal

Image via Marimekko.fi

What a week. In my last post I talked about Mika Ihamuotila’s TV-interview, which didn’t go too well for him. If you remember, he got caught by surprise when the journalist showed him the picture from 1960′s. He still stayed in his position that no copying had happened but about 8 hours later, the company released a statement saying that Maija Louekari’s design was inspired by the Markku Leppo’s photograph.

I’ve linked to Kritiikkiblogi several times during my Marimekko-reporting, as he writes and argues more intelligently than most people (I included). His analysis of Hetkiä/Moments print is brutal and he says about the birth:

Maija Louekari’s drawing was born most likely like this:

1. Competition for young designer gets 21-year old student of Taik all excited
2. Louekari gets an idea to use a cityscape as a basis of her work
3. Urban Sketching is no longer in the curriculum of Taik, so she proceeds to the direction of Taik-library
4. She takes few photography books from the shelf, section 75 Graphics, Photography
5. Book by Markus Leppo, Helsinki ja helsinkiläiset 1966, is found.
6. The other copied photographs are found next to Leppo’s book, which “inspires” Louekari and she then proceeds to trace through even more winning images.
7. The (competition) win brings a profession, honour and glory.

About the technical aspects of Hetkiä he says:

My suspicions were raised by three issues: Urban Sketching-experience, pictures of different cities and few car details. Louekari wasn’t outside herself, in different cities, sketching and drawing. She traced through, which you can see in the closing patterns, even line thickness and the closing elements on the front that cover the backgrounds.

He finishes off with following conclusions:

-Marimekko’s CEO is constantly deceived by designers’ art ‘loans’, deceptions of birth of the art and covering up the chain of events.
-Marimekko’s communication manager betrayed the CEO: Mika Ihamuotila went to the interview armed with false information, wrong attitude to design and searching pity. The communication manager did a company-wide murder/suicide (with her actions).
-Marimekko’s owners are amazed how it’s main value giver, meaning artistic quality and value, is totally disregarded by its design directors as well as management.
-Marimekko’s creative direction has completely lost its way. (Kemell-Kutvonen and Karske)
-University of Art & Design and its teachers are, in their part, supporting the copying and stealing the birth of art when birthing art
-For years, has Louekari been aware of the copied Hetkiä-print on Barcelona-bags but haven’t defended her rights. Louekari has been avoiding confronting the bag because she herself copied her work by changing it, meaning covering the origin of her work. This proves a small feeling of shame and difficult forthcoming for a period of 10 years
-Marimekko may have intentionally adopted one of the main points of Moorhouse-effect, meaning, the deliberate covering of the birth of art. The picture from Esplanadi was taken, just in case, if someone asks after the background story.

When the second statement from Marimekko was released, it didn’t take long before industry people began arguing that copying happens all the time and it’s just the way things are. However, during Kristina Isola and Metsänväki-scandal, the union for designers, Ornamo, told in YLE-news that “designers rarely copy” but from the comments I’ve seen, designers in Finland do NOTHING but copy. Someone even tweeted that her design teacher said that nothing new can be made anymore, everything is done. I say, stop talking like this. You are arguing for running the design education to the ground and yourselves out of work.

Another aspect is that this past 6 months has been a steep learning curve for Finnish companies when it comes to communicating with the outside world. Marimekko has been making mistake after mistake, showing arrogance and disregard to their clients and fans in every turn. One of my Twitter-followers, Sami Sundell, sums things up in his blog: “It doesn’t matter at all how things are done within the business. You are not communicating to the insiders but to the audience.” He then proceeds with a comment about another tweet: “In a way Mika Porspakka is right: copyright isn’t necessarily relevant in this case. It doesn’t change the fact that there is a need for discussion in the topic itself and the industry standards.”

 

I will finish this off with one last quote from Kritiikkiblogi:

Supporting Marimekko is important. It won’t happen by staying silent and approving questionable methods for making art and creating. Support comes from harsh analysis and by presenting radical ideas.

Thrifty Finn- Wondering about the little bag from Barcelona that started this all.

P.S. I have another blog, Thrifty Finn’s Investigations & Opinions, where I wrote about various interesting topics. I know, I know. It’s ridiculously pompous name, but hey, being ridiculous and pompous are not reserved only for the men.

P.P.S. It’s hard to believe that paid professionals can’t create original content if us crafters do that shit constantly. For free.

 

 

Inspirations! Who? What? Where?

mika ihamuotila, marimekko, rovio

Image via MTV3.fi

I had my alarm clock on this morning so I could watch the Ihamuotila-interview on MTV3. I couldn’t get my eyes open. Thank heavens, there’s social media and I found abundant of links to the clip. The gist of the interview was that Marimekko and Louekari deny all the accusations:

Where’s the line between plagiarism and inspiration? “Looks like traced through baking paper”

In today’s Huomenta Suomi, the host Jesse Kamras showed Iltalehti‘s image to Marimekko CEO Mika Ihamuotila. Below is translated version of the original transcript found in here.

Kamras: This mystical Barcelona-bag and Maija Louekari’s Moments-print, yeah, there’s a picture in Iltalehti from 1960′s. By photographer Markus Lepo of Esplanadi. You could almost say it’s traced through baking paper so where is the line between plagiarism and inspiration?

Ihamuotila: It usually is, sometimes you move in a gray area. Sometimes it’s like a line in water, sometimes it’s hard to say. But usually it’s quite clear if it’s original inspiration, which is no where near any other work, so then you talk about a work of art that’s individual and original. -But this piece, you brought up right now, is it from today’s paper? It’s incomprehensible. That’s Maija Louekari’s one of a kind and original description of Esplanadi. And then some spanish bag manufacturer copied that and now Finnish press is claiming, based on a rumor that that (ours) is copied from that.

Kamras: But if you lay the Moments-print on top of the image, it’s one on one but is, is it inspiration?

Ihamuotila: For goodness sake, history of the world is filled with amazing but abstract works, based on views. And that is completely original and in my opinion very fabulous, that Maija Louekari’s original piece.

Well, I received a link here in comments and on Twitter, to this blogpost from 2011 and specifically to this picture:

esplanadi, markus lepo, marimekko, louekari

Image via mikasavela.tumblr.com

Yup. I’d say that’s definitely the original. The photo is by Markus Lepo and can be found in a book from 1960′s. Mika Savela says in his blog that the book’s name loosely translates as “Helsinki and it’s people”. He then proceeds to discuss about how it is cool that this image and the city life in it, “trickled down” through decades and found their way into various products:

mika savela, marimekko, hetkiä

Image via mikasavela.tumblr.com

You should go and read the full post HERE at mikasavela.tumblr.com. He writes in English.

So what does this mean to the copy claims? Well, it still could mean that the photo was made originally into a print by the spanish company. Marimekko’s defenders say that every designer have lots of inspiration pictures and after a while they blur together and so on. I say it’s entirely possible that a Spanish  designer bought copy of the book on some holiday to Finland. I have my share of vintage photo books from abroad for exactly this reason. They are cheap and they are cute.

It’s also possible that Marimekko did the print first. However, we have an iffy beginnings story. In yesterday’s statement we saw sketches of city views but we didn’t see the original concept board/images they were based on. In such, using vintage/retro tourist images for a basis IS a fun concept. However, now it’s too late for Marimekko to say that it was their original intention as they didn’t say so originally.

Marimekko’s defenders have jumped on the poor woman who brought up the similarities between the bag and the Marimekko-print. Questioning her background and whatnot. I’ve responded to them and I write it down here too: It doesn’t matter what her background is. She can be drug addict, disease-riddled prostitute but it doesn’t change the facts if the bag is older than Marimekko’s Hetkiä. Even if it turns out that Marimekko was copied, still, all she did was that she brought it up and even then, it’s good for Marimekko because then they can start legal proceedings against the Spanish company.

Now, all we have to do is found out the manufacturer of the bag. Then this will be solved. (Well, not for Marimekko. They have serious problems with their creative, business and communication processes).

Thrifty Finn- Loosing Twitter-followers faster than I can type Marimekko :D

P.S. I will be back to regular blogging soon ;)