Designer Spotlight: Marimekko’s Mika Piirainen

On Friday I walked over to the Marimekko flagship on Newbury Street to meet Finnish designer Mika Piirainen, who was in town to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Marimekko’s iconic “Unikko” print. You know, the oversize mod floral that immediately springs to mind when someone utters Marimekko.

Mika Piirainen, who graduated from the Lahti Institute of Design and Fine Arts in Finland, is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. He snagged a position with Marimekko back in 1994, after the head of women’s fashion for the brand saw his final student presentation at Ravensbourne College in London.

He says, “The Marimekko people came to critique the show, and afterwards, they told me to call them. I had an interview within a few days, and got hired as a design assistant in the middle of the first meeting.” Then he adds, “I was lucky.”

That fateful collection was inspired by milkmaids in the Finnish countryside, and he reprised it just three months after starting at the firm. He says, “I redid the milkmaid collection in black, navy, and white, using the same shapes and materials. They sold quite well.”

Piirainen worked on staff at Marimekko for several years, and then transitioned into a freelance role, which has been good for both him and the company, which has almost 20 freelance designers on tap.

He says, “At this point I’ve done everything—women, men, kids, umbrellas, towels.  I used to do lots of kids, but I’m done with that. Now I concentrate on women’s clothing and bags. “As for how many pieces he puts out, he recalls, “One year I made 140 pieces, now it’s more like 20 to 30.”

He favors simple silhouettes that let the textile designs speak for themselves. And although he sometimes designs his own prints, he also likes to use those created by young designers. He’s also been using lots of archival prints for new pieces he designs. After all, Marimekko has about 3,000 prints in its archives.

Piirainen explains, we have to check in with copyrights, talk to them about scale and color. Some like to have input, others say we can do whatever we want.”


Mika Piirainen and I chatted on the lower level of the Marimekko store.


Then we went upstairs so he could show me some of his designs. Piirainen designed this Silvi dress, as well as the actual textile pattern, named “Sato.”

Mika Piirainen Textile Design Marimekko

Piirainen prefers a neutral palette. With “Sato” he used black & white, playing with the positive and the negative. He hand draws his textile designs, rather than designing them on a computer. He makes big swishing motions with his arm to describe the movements he used in the studio while putting these freeform lines to paper.


Marimekko celebrates the 50th anniversary of its “Unikko” floral this year. Love the Unikko bean bags.

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Design Diary: Back Bay, the Day After the Day After

It finally hit me today. I slept in, wandered upstairs, and just kind of sat at my computer, with that feeling in my stomach. Thankfully, my husband had been able to come home last night, for a bit of family time—being reunited is good—and for a few hours of much needed sleep. He left again before dawn. The boys seem fine. The one that was in the area during the explosion takes refuge in the amazing law enforcement and hospitals we have here. He is energized by the presence of the police, the National Guard, and the SWAT vehicles. (Boys.) School reopens tomorrow. Baseball practice went on as scheduled tonight on the Boston Common. The Public Garden is in bloom. People are moving through. #BostonStrong


All was quiet on Beacon Street as I left my house this afternoon.


Walking towards Newbury Street on Exeter, like I do every day.
But today, there are a couple of abandoned blockades on Marlborough.


The major media team vans are parked on the Comm. Ave. mall.


News crews are set up in the middle of the street.
Anchormen’s noses are powdered.


Not much traffic.


School reopens tomorrow.
Teachers and parents met today about how to talk to the kids about it.


On Newbury, businesses are open, but access towards Boylston is blocked.


The sign said “Street Closed”, but the camera doesn’t pick it up.


Walked one block on Newbury to my CVS.
Behind, on Boylston Street,
is the Crate & Barrel and Starbucks near the second blast,
which you likely saw on TV.


Picked up and dropped off my husband’s shirts at the dry cleaners.
Normally it’s not something he’d dream of asking me, but in this case . . .


Turned around and walked down to Dartmouth.
Not particularly crowded, despite the gorgeous weather.


Plenty of tables open at Stephanie’s today.


People left flowers at the intersection of Newbury and Exeter.


Strolling towards Dartmouth.


A group of policemen in front of the Newbury Street Starbucks.


Some news activity at the corner of Dartmouth and Newbury.


A sign like that of dearest Martin.


And of course, cops here too.
That’s Old South Church to the right.
Across Boylston, with the flags is the Boston Public Library.


Boston is still beautiful.


Headed back home. Trees in bloom on Comm. Ave are lovely.


A little later I head to Boston Common.
National Guard (I think) in camo.
Police cars from as far as Cape Cod are in the vicinity.


SWAT truck is undeniably cool. And scary.


He runs off to baseball practice, undeterred by the spectacle.


I walk home through the Public Garden, which is blissfully free of all that.


The willows are surely weeping today.


But the trees still bloom.

Storefronts: New Shops On Newbury Street

Sashaying (ok, not really) around town (well, around the Back Bay) to a crazy number of appointments last week in preparation of my summer migration to Cape Cod on Friday, I pretty much went the length of Newbury. Other than getting some much needed exercise, I was able to scout the latest developments on the storefront

As promised in April, Diane von Furstenberg has arrived – almost. The sign says they’re opening this summer. DVF chose a parlour level space on the second block of Newbury, between Berkeley & Clarendon. It’s above Skin Health Spa, next to BCBG and Max Mara, a few doors away from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Cannot wait to shop for new wrap dresses!

A block down, on the second floor of the old Waterworks boutique, massage master Michael Moore is opening an outpost of Moore Massage. I’ll see you there for sure. He’s a-mazing, and a nice guy too.

Sweet Cupcakes has picked a perfect spot – above Bostone Pizza – for its third location. I prefer Party Favors squishy, and sickly sugary treats, but Sweet’s little gems are really pretty and the shop’s ambiance lovely (designed by the very talented Annsley McAleer).

Rescue, a buy-sell-trade boutique that originally opened in Allston has recently moved to Newbury Street. (They must have been doing well.) I didn’t have time to stop in but it looks promising.

Finally, two (TWO!) “urban” pet shops are opening right on Newbury. Really? How long do you think they’ll last? That’s in addition to Pawsh on Gloucester. Now, if Polka Dog moved to this side of town, that’d be another story. We shall see. — Just in – my publicist friend says the Fish & Bone owner also owns Fetch in Portland, Maine, so she might have an edge.

There are two French clothing companies on expansion rampages coming to town, but more on that tomorrow!

Diane von Furstenberg | |  Moore Massage73 Newbury Street 103 Newbury Street

Sweet Cupcakes
225 Newbury Street

Rescue244 Newbury Street

Fish & Bone | | Audrey’s Supplies & Services217  Newbury Street                                        Newbury Street (bet. F&G?)

Deal Alert: Cynthia Rowley Sample Sale in Boston

I was so excited when Cynthia Rowley opened a boutique on Newbury last year. Partially because it reminds me of my twenties in New York City; one of my favorite charity gala dresses is a Cynthia Rowley. I’m doubtful I will ever squeeze into its size 2-ness, yet I will never part with it. That said, I’ve hardly bought a thing at this still new shop. Well, now’s my chance. The Boston sample sale starts tomorrow and goes through Sunday, 10am to 9pm (really, in Boston, 9pm?!), up to 80% off on clothing and accessories. See ya there.

Wear It Now Tulle Dress

Shop Alert: Second Time Around, Three Times on Newbury

Is consignment shop Second Time Around trying to taking over the world? It’s certainly aiming to dominate Newbury Street. Yesterday I spotted its third outpost, at #324, between Hereford and Mass Ave. True, that last block of Newbury is like its own little world, but seriously? If they have that much stuff, then we’re all buying too much and disposing of it too soon. Though they do take on extra stock from area boutiques too. I should probably clear my closet and see if I can get some extra cash. Everyone else is doing it.