With this recent trip to Dubai being my first, I had a running list of things I wanted to see. The skyline, of course. The beach, for sure. But as a person visiting from Saudi Arabia and not the United States, commercial sights dominated my list. Dubai is a great retail destination. No doubt about it. The city has really made a culture of having an outpost for iconic retail giants and restaurants from other lands. You name it, Eataly, Clinton Street Baking Company, Nobu, Laduree, Muji, Shake Shack; it’s all there. And if it isn’t, it’s probably coming soon. As a design enthusiast and sewer, a trip to Marimekko Dubai was very high up on my list.
Marimekko is a Finnish textile, home furnishings and fashion design house, started in the early 1950s by Viljo and Armi Ratja. The couple purchased a company called Printex, a textile manufacturer and initially had little luck selling their textile designs, Armi hired designers to created clothing with the textiles to give consumers an idea of how use their product. Now recognized globally for bold, modern, graphic prints, this began Marimekko’s legacy as a Scandinavian lifestyle brand. The company’s website has a helpful timeline here, if you’re interested in reading more about Marimekko’s breakthrough moments. Apparently, Jackie Kennedy was instrumental in bringing the design house into American popularity when she purchased Marimekko dresses and wore them on the campaign trail in 1960.
I believe I was first really, really introduced to Marimekko when I worked at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. I worked in the Design Shop and often paged through two interesting books about Marimekko, Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture and Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes (this one isn’t all about Marimekko, but it figures prominently). Around that same time, a flagship store opened in New York and I was able to visit and explore that aesthetic. I have to say, I appreciated it then, but I wasn’t crazy about it. It didn’t fit my lifestyle at that point. I think there is something about Marimekko designs, maybe the boldness that requires space. Many of the prints are so large that you actually have to be able to move back far enough to get the whole picture. New York City living is not known for space. I imagine there are a number of different reasons, but I’m into it now, certainly more than I was before.
In Dubai, we visited the location at Box Park, but I’ve just read there is a Marimekko at Dubai Mall. If so, that one would’ve been much easier find. However, I’m sure the Dubai Mall location would be much busier. When we visited the Box Park store, on a weekday, it was totally empty. This made for easy shopping. I was particularly looking to take home some fabric and deciding on a fabric is always a stressful process for me. The less distractions, the better. I wish I knew the name of the excellent salesperson that helped us. She was warm and informative, but not too pushy. I decided on a dark, linen pattern and a Unikko print, Marimekko’s most iconic floral. The Box Park location also has a cute little Marimekko Café, but the view across the street is unfortunate. As you sit there, the sight of a busy road, a Pizza Hut and a bus stop disrupts your carefully curated, Marimekko zone. I have nothing against this bus stop. We used it to get back to the metro. But maybe, as my husband suggested, they can make some Marimekko screens to put up around the perimeter. Speaking of making, you can also pick out a fabric and have something made in house! How cool is that?