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On her own path

Portrayal of the Marimekko woman by photojournalist Meeri Koutaniemi and artist Paula Vesala.

Throughout its history, Marimekko has encouraged women to be themselves and walk their own path. Our spring/summer 2017 collection is dedicated to courageous women.

We have brought together two Finnish women known for their courage and strong professional integrity: photojournalist Meeri Koutaniemi and artist Paula Vesala. We can see their joint portrayal of the courageous Marimekko woman through the lens of Koutaniemi and read their personal reflections on courage.

In the new Koutaniemi-Vesala photos, following the Tasaraita (even stripe) pictures published earlier this year, Marimekko's bold design is represented by eye-catching styles from the 1960s and 1970s, hand-picked from our archives for the spring/summer collection.

The cotton fabrics used for the iconic garments were printed in our own printing factory in Helsinki, where Koutaniemi and Vesala met each other for the first time. Video: Silja Minkkinen.

Above: Paula Vesala and Meeri Koutaniemi wearing the Korppi silk dresses in the Tiet print.
Design: Liisa Suvanto and Katsuji Wakisaka, 1974

Women on their own path

Paula Vesala is a Finnish cutting-edge artist known in particular as a singer, songwriter and actor. At the moment, she is studying and teaching playwriting at the University of California. Vesala is a musical visionary who has always had the courage to cross boundaries and listen to her heart in everything she has done.

Meeri Koutaniemi is an internationally award-winning photographer and journalist whose work focuses on social phenomena around the world. She is especially known for her breathtaking photo reportage and views on women's rights.

Above: On the shooting scene in Marimekko’s printing factory in Helsinki.

Meeri's and Paula's thoughts on courage

What is courage?

Meeri: Courage is the ability to be intuitive. Intuition tells us when something makes us nervous or is frightening or exciting. Being intuitive comes naturally to kids, but for us adults, it takes courage.

To me, courage also means knowing how to overcome your fears. Being able to laugh at your own nervousness. To fully seize what inspires you and brings you to life. It means acting according to your own principles, against injustice.

Above all, courage is loving your fellow beings and the world without any prejudices.

Paula: Courage to me means being honest with yourself. Admitting what you really want. Courage is not being too hard on yourself when your goal is far away and others don't see yet what you are aiming for.

Courage is the ability to endure disappointment and fear. It is a burning need to do something, even if you have to suffer along the way. Sometimes courage is blind and may seem like a series of stupid choices. In the end, however, your decision may be rewarded:

A courageous person sees things worth encouraging in others. A courageous person also dares to lose, wait and give up.

What's the most courageous thing you've done?

Meeri: The most courageous thing I've done was to follow my own passion, although I had no certainty of what was to come. I left for India to try working as a photojournalist and to document the conditions of child labourers. The trip gave me the spur to do what I'm doing today. My work is about sharing stories about people's courage and ability to cope, and I hope these stories will inspire and encourage others as well.  

Paula: I've had a habit of taking a look at my life at regular intervals: aha, I'm now living in this part of the world and this is what's going on. Then I've moved elsewhere altogether or started a completely new career or thing. I've given up what I was doing and dared to see what was going to happen next.

At fifteen, I left my small home town to go to music high school in the bigger town of Kuopio some 100 kilometres away. When I was about twenty, I decided to leave Kuopio. Then came PMMP - a band I was in for some ten years -, music studies at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and so forth. I'm not a particularly security-seeking person. The most courageous thing for me is not to cling to the present; I dare to go forward.

Meeri Koutaniemen ja Paula Vesalan tulkinta Marimekko-naisesta.

Above: On the shooting scene in Marimekko’s printing factory in Helsinki.

The archival dresses seen on the photos will arrive in stores and online this week.

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