While Marimekko is a global business, it’s very much a local one too. The fashion and homewares company still prints many of its own fabrics at its headquarters in Helsinki - the same textile printing facility that they have been using since 1979. And a great deal of its designers are Finnish women. The Marimekko label, started in 1951, is an institution in Finland, a country where design is not held up high on a pedestal but seen as a part of everyday living. Minna Kemell-Kutvonen has played an important part in the Marimekko story. Like many at the company, since joining Marimekko in the early 1990s, she has worked her way up the various divisions and now is head of home products and print design. “Design is all about building the future,” she says. One of her ranges the In Good Company table setting concept has become a part of Marimekko’s continuing collection. “I had the pleasure to lead the project and direct the work of great designers,” she says. “I think that actually is the most important thing I have to offer – give talented people a chance to shine.”
Which five words best describe you? Light (positivity), stone (strength), water (movement), fire (passion).
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I’ve graduated from Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu, the School of Art and Design Helsinki, with a Masters degree in fashion and clothing design. I’ve had a long career here at Marimekko. Before my current position, I actually worked in several different departments. I first started as a designer’s assistant and then became a freelance designer. I continued working as a sales executive before becoming a store manager. After this, I got offered a position as a collection coordinator and shortly after, as the creative director of the interior decoration department, then soon after of all product lines. Since 2014 I have worked as the director of home products and print design. I can say that I have truly had the chance to grow with Marimekko and all the experienced people working here.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I’ve learnt that in the end you are always alone, not matter how good the company you are in is. I find this to be a positive thing: you must make decisions with which you can be happy. You have to believe in yourself, especially when others doubt you and be able to stand behind your choices.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Creating the aforementioned In Good Company table setting concept.
What’s been your best decision? I have been lucky in the sense that there are quite a few of them. The best is absolutely moving to the countryside from the city: making the decision to bring up our children in a way that offers them tools with which to understand the world around them.
Who inspires you? Our children. They have the ability to question things all the time.
What are you passionate about? Light and colour. Those two things have a lot to do with everything in my life. I love observing the change of seasons and how the changing light transforms our living environment.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi is one of my most important role models in designs, but I meet her quite often. I would also love to meet Yayoi Kusama. I recently saw her exhibition in New York and I was very inspired by it.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I dream of my kids being able to fulfil their own dreams, because that is a part of building the future. I have been very lucky: so many of my dreams have already come true, I am living my dream right now.
What are you reading? I like to read biographies. The most recent one was by Tove Jansson.
images courtesy of marimekko