Today on Allies we are talking with Keri Wise, the Marketing Manager for Marimekko North America.
Keri started out at Marimekko in 2012 as a Store Manager in Boston. Four promotions and six years later, she grown to become the Marketing Manager for North America. She is responsible for the US Marketing strategy with goal of growing brand awareness and increasing sales.
Marimekko is an incredibly female positive brand, from founder Armi Ratia and its first lead designer Maija Isola, to its modern savior, Kirsti Paakkanen, what is it like to work at such a historically female focused company?
“It’s dreamy! Marimekko is currently 93% female globally – and there is definitely a powerful female energy that pumps through everything we do. From the designs and patterns to the actual management of the business there is a strong sense of community that makes working here very special.
Our founder, Armi Ratia, was a trailblazer (way ahead of her time) and she realized the importance of liberating women and so she gave them bold, loose-fitting dresses to wear proudly in every-day life.
From day one of working with the brand it was easy for me to tap into that supportive and empowering feeling and my confidence grew rapidly because of it. I owe a lot of my career and personal growth to Marimekko’s community.”
The company encourages women to live unselfconsciously through liberated shapes and over-the-top prints. Has this pursuit impacted the way you live your life?
“I have always loved the power of “being yourself” so it was effortless for me to connect with Marimekko as a brand. Not only do they encourage this empowerment, they demand it. When I started, I was shy and hesitant to make my opinions known, but I knew I had a voice to share. The stories from Marimekko’s vast history encouraged me to be as bold as the patterns we were creating!
Marimekko designs come to life because of a collaboration of artists who are encouraged to follow their own inspiration and management bold enough to allow them to create – knowing this gave me courage to do the same in my work. I found my voice partly because the people I am able to work alongside were actually listening – and this is a pretty rare thing! This affected my life outside of work as well – my inner strength grew and I started to trust myself more.”
Marimekko was “feminist” before it was a topic of conversation, do you think that has helped the company achieve so much success?
“Yes. Marimekko came to life at the exact right time – it was introduced to the US in the 60’s (actually 60 years ago this year!) and became a huge success after Jackie Kennedy purchased a few dresses and was photographed in one on the cover of Sports Illustrated during the presidential campaign. Quickly after Marimekko was everywhere and bold, liberating design started taking over the dull, more restrictive fashions of the 50s. Marimekko never had to state out loud they were particularly feminist….they just “were”. Which is so much cooler.
Even now when the topic of female empowerment is in daily conversation and branding, we can authentically state we have been doing this for years! Even WWD called this out in a review of our SS18 presentation: “It was a gentle reminder, but the label’s message was clear: Gender equality? Lifestyle? Wake up, folks — Marimekko’s been doing this since the Fifties and Sixties” That makes me really proud to be a part of this company’s history.”
What was the best campaign you worked on at Marimekko?
“My favorite campaign was in 2017 when we re-introduced 5 dresses from our archives. The original designs came from the 60’s and 70’s and were reproduced for our SS17 collection. It was the easiest collection to market because it was just as simple as telling our true brand story. Each dress had a story to tell (as most of our items do) from the design of the prints to the era in which they were introduced. It was almost impossible to keep these in stock! The success of the campaign helped to not only solidify our values but it was a reminder to always stay true to our values. Our founder never set out to be trendy, she was more interested in being timeless. In her own words, she explains this as “I really don’t sell clothes, I sell a way of living. They are designs, not fashions.”
How does Marimekko aim to empower women through the brand?
“To put it simply: By encouraging women to live and dress boldly, while always staying true to who they are.”
What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career/early in your life?
“I would tell myself that it is OK to not have all the answers yet. Allow time and experience to help shape the future and stay present in the moment. I learned to trust myself much more over time when I realized that stress and worry only lives in the past and in the future. I was probably about 27 when I started learning to live in the moment, then it took another few years to really understand what that could do.
I became much more confident and even productive because I was able to shed the fears of what the future would be and began accepting my life just as it was. I swear once I started recognizing this my career took off and I was able to grow and learn much more quickly!
My other favorite advice is that what you do MATTERS. When we smile at each other and treat people with respect that comes back to us 10 fold. This is especially helpful to consider when we are in challenging work situations. Positive energy can help shape your company culture (no matter where you fall on the hierarchy). Male or female… this is a powerful rule to live by.”
Are there any campaigns from the past year that you think were particularly effective? (name names!)
“The Levi’s “I shape my world” campaign. They started to tell stories of women who fearlessly shape their world on their own terms through a video series using diverse, strong females from around the globe. As a brand with very high awareness… they used their platform to spread these stories in an authentic, supportive way. They had courage to make the videos about the women in them, versus the brand.”
Thank you Keri for being our first Allies contributor! We have many more incredible woman to spotlight in the coming weeks, so don’t forget to check back in. To continue the conversation and to be featured on an upcoming installment of Allies, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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