/MAꞬƏˈZIːN/: Finland, a little giant of pattern design

Finland, a little giant of pattern design

From the dawn of industrialized weaving to the demands of the contemporary chic, the inspiring surroundings in Finland have surrounded people everywhere in the form of pattern design.

Taimi (1961) from Finlayson
Taimi (1961) from Finlayson

Cotton kick off of the 19th century

According to Opetin magazine’s interview of Mailis Linnola from Finlayson – a textile design company known for patterns such as Coronna (1958), Taimi (1961), Optinen Omena (1973) and Aalto (1977) – Finnish textile design is getting popular globally, and people are willing to relocate to Finland for employment in the industry, as she receives job applications for open positions from all over Europe.

This is not the first time for Finlayson to attract talent from abroad since the company itself – contrary to what one might think, judging by the name at least – was established by a Scottish engineer James Finlayson in 1820, just fifty years after the spinning jenny was introduced by an Englishman James Hargreaves and the industrialization of weaving was kicked into high gear.

Following suit, cotton manufacturing Finlayson became the biggest factory in Finland in 1840s and the biggest among the Nordic countries soon after, remaining that way for the following 70 years all the way to the end of the First World War. So great was its importance to the country and its economy that the Finlayson factory in Tampere has even been attributed to having housed the very first set of electric lights in the Nordic.

Coronna (1958) from Finlayson
Coronna (1958) from Finlayson

Post-war era brought fame

More acknowledged outside Finland with its 159 stores world wide in the present day is Marimekko (est. 1951).

Known for its large patterns, the company rose to fame when Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of US president John F. Kennedy wore Marimekko – not just one, but eight dresses altogether – in public during the presidential election campaign after being scrutinized over her pricey taste in fashion. Affordable Finnish cotton designs became a topic in the US thereafter and many doors were opened.

Marimekko became a concrete symbol for certain kind of social rebelliousness.

Cindy Babski wrote in the New York Times that “people of a certain generation — those who came of age in the 1960’s — they [Marimekko] represented more than just a brand name: they conjured up an image and an era”.

If only one pattern were to be selected as the all-time definite Finnish household icon, it would most likely be Unikko (poppy) from Marimekko introduced in 1964 by designer Maija Isola. After more than fifty years, albeit with some changes to the pattern, Unikko is still a persistent eye-catcher, whether on curtains or cups: it has become the de facto pattern of the Finns – like it or not.

Other well known Marimekko patterns include Kaivo, Joonas and Lokki which most are, though designs of the 50s or 60s, still present in the pattern scene, these days maybe more than ever.

Unikko (1964) from Marimekko
Unikko or poppy (1964) from Marimekko

New generation regaining success after 2010

Another Finnish company with a long history dating back to the dawn of modernism is Nanso (est. 1921) which is known for its night wear collections – also among the lad clientele for its Black Horse boxer shorts brand. Finns seem to have an appreciation for such everyday clothing items which do the hard work, having voted in a survey in 2017 Nanso as the most prestigious clothing brand in Finland.

Emphasizing patterns – like Paulakukka, for example – as the core of their brand and having a demand for over 60 new designs each year, Nanso head designer Noora Niinikoski gives credit in Fab magazine to a productive freelance designer Reeta Ek for her fresh, clear and contemporary style.

In 2017, Ek won the Young designer of the year award which was awarded for the 17th time by the Design Forum Finland. According to the jury, Ek’s fresh, timeless and personal works have enabled classic brands such as Nanso and Marimekko to regain their respective commercial success.

There is plenty of regaining to be done since the 2009 economic hardships hit the export reliant country of Finland severely, causing devaluing in big companies such as Nokia mobile phones.

As for Ek herself, after being charmed by the rococo era and the designs in old wallpapers, she feels that she has returned home to the childhood minimalism. She believes it takes courage to design simple.

Ek’s designs include Lukko, Britta, Kampa, Pino, Pilkahdus, Sumppu and Raesokeri.

Pilkahdus from Nanso
Pilkahdus from Nanso

Niinikoski finds in Ek’s works the kind of imperfection within the harmony which makes the design interesting. She talks about Northern aesthetics.

These days the Northern aesthetics can be unraveled also to designers who are not born in the country of the northern lights and the midnight sun – like James Finlayson back in the day – as there exist education programs for design and textile related fields in Finnish institutions such as Metropolia University of Applied Science and – as in Ek’s case – Aalto University’s School of Arts.

Markku Väisänen

パターンデザインの小さな巨人 フィンランド


19世紀 綿の興盛



先人に続き、フィンレイソンは綿紡績業で 1840年代までに国内最大の生産規模を達成、直後には北欧最大規模にまで拡大した。その勢いは第一次世界大戦終焉まで70年余りも続くことになる。フィンレイソンの存在が国と経済に与えた恩恵はとてつもなく大きい。タンペレのフィンレイソン工場において北欧初となる電気照明が導入されたことからも社会発展への貢献が垣間見える。



大胆な柄で知られるこの企業は、アメリカ合衆国ジョン・F・ケネディ 大統領の妻ジャクリーン・ケネディ夫人がその洋服を着用したことで一気に世界的知名度を上げた。高価なファッションで世間の注目を集めていたケネディ夫人は、1着にとどまらず8着ものマリメッコの洋服を身に纏い、大統領選挙期間中に公衆の前に登場した。手が届く価格帯のフィンランドのコットンデザインはアメリカ中で話題となり、マリメッコにとっての新たな活路が次々と開いていった。





2010年以降 再びの成功を勝ち取りつつある新世代









Markku Väisänen