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Marimekko And Uniqlo’s Collaboration Is A Midcentury Dream

To distinguish itself from fast fashion retailers, the global Japanese brand is collaborating with iconic names like the Eames Office and Marimekko.

Famously donned by the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Jane Jacobs, and Georgia O’Keefe after it launched in 1951, the Finnish fashion and lifestyle brand Marimekko quickly found a fanbase among progressive, intellectual postwar women for its loose, liberating silhouettes and cheerful palettes. Now, nearly 70 years on, it’s brought its legacy to a new capsule collection with Uniqlo, launched this week.

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The nine-item women’s collection includes tops, sneakers, dresses, handbags in vibrant patterns by textile designer Maija Louekari, marking the latest instance of the legacy Finnish brand—a darling among midcentury design heads for its distinctively punchy, graphic patterns and layered, silkscreen aesthetic—taking its wares to a mass American market.

[Photo: Uniqlo]
“Brand collaborations and partnerships have been part of our company philosophy ever since the beginning and especially I would say within the last 10 years,” says Marimekko CEO, Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko. Since 2008, the company has paired with brands like H&M, Target, and even Clinique, with which it’s just launched a series of Marimekko-packaged lipsticks for the spring season.

Despite the fact that Uniqlo is a subsidiary of a Japanese retail holding company called Fast Retailing Co., the clothing brand extols virtues of the slow, and rather identifies as “casual fashion.” As Yuki Katsuta, Global Head of Design at Uniqlo, attests, “Uniqlo is not a fast-fashion brand. We don’t chase trends and we are meticulous in our design process as well as in the quality of materials we use. Our apparel isn’t intended to last only a season or two only to be discarded. Our apparel can be worn for five, even 10 years, making its very essence sustainable.”

[Photo: Uniqlo]
For a company that’s been upfront about its ambitions to become the largest global clothing retailer, pulling design icons from the midcentury modern canon seems to be part of a strategy to convey a slowness and longevity, even if the collections are only available for months at a time. Last year, Uniqlo released a similar collaboration with the Eames Office.

“These items weren’t flashy. They were simple and frugal, but also of such high quality, made of excellent materials and thoughtful design. These values expressed in the midcentury are synonymous with Uniqlo and the apparel we offer,” Katsuta added. “Our clothing is also about quality, functionality, and attention to detail, making collaborations from this era such a natural fit for our brand.”

Priced from $14.90, shoppers can nab the look and feeling of Marimekko for a fraction of the price—and with the credibility of an authentic collaboration. While Uniqlo’s rendition is not likely to become a passable heirloom, like the original, for fans of the Finnish brand’s bright punchy wares, it offers an undeniable thrill of a deal. “Through this collaboration, we want to make people’s lives better by infusing art into their everyday,” said Katsuta. “I believe Marimekko’s print design is truly a work of art. We are confident that Marimekko’s beautiful and timeless print designs can provide a lot of happiness, energy, brightness into people’s lives.”

About the author

Aileen Kwun is a writer based in New York City. She is the author of Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations On a Lifetime in Architecture and Design (Princeton Architectural Press), and was previously a senior editor at Dwell and Surface.

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