Armi Ratia (1912 – 1979) co-founder Marimekko

Armi Ratia dress and design in black and white
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Armi Maria Ratia (1912 – 1979) co-founded the Finnish textile and clothing company Marimekko Oy. She is among Finland’s most famous female entrepreneurs. She was born in Pälkjärvi, in Ladoga Karelia.

Education

In 1935, she studied textile design at Taidteollisuukeskuskoulu in Helsinki.

Biography

Ratia started creating new textiles and clothing after completing her studies. In Vyborg, she opened a weaving business where, until 1939, she designed and created Rya rugs. She started working at her husband’s oilcloth manufacturer, Printex, in 1949, where she learned how to produce silkscreen printing by hand on cotton sheeting.

Ratia was encouraged to print her designs on fabric by Maija Isola, Vuokko Eskolin, and other designers. She created fabrics for dresses she made and first displayed in 1951 under the name Marimekko (‘Mary’s frock”). Later, the company was known simply as Marimekko. The prints started small and then grew bigger. The designs evolved into more complex abstract patterns with the addition of bird and flower motifs, primarily in the work of Isola. The items made by Marimekko during the 1960s and 1970s included jersey, wool, and cotton fabrics, paper products, laminated plastics, and table coverings, successful in northern Europe and the USA. The firm’s goods are sold today through franchise shops. (Byars, 1994)

Gender-neutral lines

Marimekko clothing was created to free women from the 1950s’ tight, body-shaping dresses and move them into fresh, free-flowing dresses, skirts, trousers, and shirts made of crisp cotton. The clothing was unorthodox, casual, and widely available. The name itself translates to “Mary’s dress” (the woman on the streets). It exuded a sense of sexual equality due to its simple, gender-neutral lines and free-flowing design. When Ratia was accused of peddling ‘sexless’ clothes, she replied, “A woman is sexy, not a dress’.

Sources

Armi Ratia – Wikipedia. (2016, August 27). Armi Ratia – Wikipedia. Retrieved January 1, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armi_Ratia

Byars, M. (1994, August 12). The Design Encyclopedia. https://doi.org/10.1604/9780471024552

K. (2013, May 3). Armi Ratia. Armi Ratia | Design History & Theory 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2023, from https://designhistory2013.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/armi-ratia/

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