What is Marimekko Day? The annual Helsinki event fostering community and legacy

By Linnéa Pesonen

Marimekko spring/summer '24 collection. Photo: Marimekko

For decades, the annual Marimekko Day in May has held space in our calendars to celebrate one of the most legendary Finnish lifestyle brands. Below, a low-down of all you need to know about the event, and insights into how Marimekko has kept its icon status for over 70 years

Every May, Helsinki welcomes summer with the joy-filled Marimekko Day, an event stretching back over 30 years honouring one of Finland’s most iconic design houses. And just like the trees and flowers bloom across the city, flourishes of Marimekko’s vibrant colours and exuberant prints can be spotted everywhere, especially at Esplanade Park, where the brand holds its annual open-air fashion show.


“In 1992, Kirsti Paakkanen, Marimekko’s visionary former President and CEO, came up with the idea of organising a colourful, inclusive, and open-for-all fashion show in Esplanade Park in Helsinki, embracing the concept of Marimekko as a community rather than just a brand,” explains Sanna-Kaisa Niikko, the chief marketing officer of Marimekko. “This marked the beginning of a new summertime tradition.” Completely free of charge, the runway show – which has become a mainstay of Helsinki’s culture – invites everyone in the Finnish capital to immerse themselves in Marimekko’s buoyant universe, attracting thousands of attendees each year.

Marimekko SS24. Photo: Marimekko

Photo: Marimekko

Photo: Marimekko

While all of Marimekko Day's open-air shows hold a treasured place in the brand’s legacy, this year’s spectacle, which took place last Friday, carried an extra special meaning. As 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the legendary Unikko (Poppy) print by Maija Isola, Marimekko dreamt up an event that put the revered flower motif front and centre. Models who sported the brand’s spring/summer ’24 collection emerged behind a giant Unikko flower, cruising down the Unikko print-paved catwalk, whose shape was inspired by the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, one of Marimekko’s key cities. In fact, to commemorate the anniversary, last week saw Japan enjoying its first-ever, very own Marimekko Day, as Unikko also took over the streets of Tokyo.

Marimekko has been all about bringing joy, optimism, and beauty to everyday life, and these themes are still as relevant today as they were 70 years ago

Sanna-Kaisa Niikko

For Marimekko’s SS24 line-up, creative director Rebekka Bay looked to both the past and present of the Unikko print, where the motif blossomed in its old glory and in new iterations courtesy of Finnish artist Antti Kekki. For the collection, Kekki conceived five contemporary explorations of floral patterns aligning with the abstract nature of Unikko. “The [Unikko] print is celebrated in the spring/summer 2024 collection in more ways than ever, including scale, placement, colouring, and techniques,” Bay told Vogue Scandinavia earlier this year. “We wanted to reflect Marimekko’s design legacy by highlighting two equally meaningful design aspects of Marimekko – the dress as a canvas and bold patterns bringing joy to people’s everyday life.”

From the Marimekko open air fashion show on Marimekko Day in Helsinki. Photo: Marimekko

Photo: Marimekko

Photo: Marimekko

As gentle indie bops by Finnish artist Arppa engulfed Esplanade Park, models selected from diverse sources, including the streets of Helsinki and the city’s music and art scene, showcased a range of breezy A-line frocks (a signature for the label), funky knitwear, playful co-ord sets, and sleek swimwear, all exuding the cheerful Marimekko spirit with their bursting, vivid colours.

For over 70 years, Marimekko has maintained its solid icon status, with its unfading popularity serving as a prime example of enduring appeal. “From the beginning, Marimekko has been all about bringing joy, optimism, and beauty to everyday life, and these themes are still as relevant today as they were 70 years ago,” says Niikko. According to Niikko, the brand’s world-famous prints may be where the magic lies, conceived at the company’s beating heart, the printing factory nestled in eastern Helsinki. “Marimekko has always walked a path between art, fashion, design and architecture,” Niikko says. “And the fact that we have an archive of over 3,500 print designs and are constantly creating more, means that we are continuously able to delight our audiences with different prints, scales and colourways.”

From Marimekko's open air fashion show . Photo: Marimekko

Photo: Marimekko

Photo: Marimekko

Looking to the future, Niikko envisions Marimekko evolving further, always keeping its finger on the pulse and shaped by current times. “During the past years, we have focused on modernising our brand, defining and sharpening our ready-to-wear collection, and refining our most iconic archetype silhouettes,” she says. Case in point: the label’s first-ever denim collection, set to hit stores in August. But most importantly, Marimekko will continue to spread the gospel that first made it Finland’s most beloved brand.

“We will continue to explore new ways to bring joy to our customers’ everyday lives,” Niikko says. “Marimekko’s founder, Armi Ratia, once said that Marimekko could have equally well been a flower shop, an ice cream parlour, or modern jazz – the most important thing is to bring joy and optimism to people around the world.”