Marimekko’s fashion and textile designs from the 1970s captured the free spirit and funky aesthetic of the decade with bold yet simple organic forms. The Finnish company’s approach to design also reflected interest in a youth culture which questioned conformity and authority. Marimekko famously blurred the lines of gendered fashion systems. The company also challenged traditional design methods, adjusting their approach to allow for mass customization.

As a designer for Marimekko, Pentti Rinta created pieces that customers could mix and match to suit their individual tastes. He also designed this textile, titled Heraaminen, with an enormous repeat size of almost 70 inches. With such an unusually large repeat, each dress or blouse could be made with pattern pieces cut from a different part of the design. A variety of unique looks could be cut from the same cloth, giving consumers more agency.

Rinta and other designers for the Marimekko brand created unisex garments, loose and comfortable leisure wear for women, less restrictive menswear, and fashions suitable for a wider variety of body types. Of the iconic looks, author Carolyn Benesh wrote in the periodical Ornament that they made her “feel free and individualistic, feminist and female … feminist and male … They signaled my growing and evolving social convictions about equality, freedom and justice. They mirrored my belief in the possibility of positive change, that we can make a difference if we so act.”1

Carly Lewis is currently earning an M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts and Design at Parsons. She has a B.S. in Textile Design from Philadelphia University and is focusing her studies on gender issues in regard to textile design practices in the 20th century.

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