MARIMEKKO ARRIVES IN BEVERLY HILLS

A festive crowd celebrates the opening of the latest Marimekko store in Beverly Hills.

The Finnish clothing and home textile brand Marimekko opened a store in Beverly Hills Friday. The grand opening was preceded by an invitation-only star-studded party Thursday night. Finntimes was there and met the CEO of Marimekko, Mr. Mika Ihamuotila.

 

The CEO of Marimekko, Mika Ihamuotila with his wife, Helena “Kitty” Ihamuotila.

You have been busy opening stores abroad lately, haven’t you?

-Yes, I just returned from a two week trip to Asia. Last week we opened stores in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Tokyo and Shanghai. Last week we opened a store in Palo Alto, California as well. In the middle of it all, I flew into Helsinki to open our new store there.

There are also spanking new Marimekko stores on New York’sFifth Avenue and Newbury Street in Boston.

-We wanted the best possible location in each city. The new stores are big as well.

Ihamuotila, 48, admits that the opening frenzy is not business as usual for Marimekko.

-This if far from ordinary for us, these are exceptional times.

The Beverly Hills store is the 103rd Marimekko shop. Since Ihamuotila took the helm of Marimekko some five years ago, the company has opened 20 new stores a year – most of them in Asia and the United States.

Guests arrive at the new Marimekko store, located on 370 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills.

-If we did not do brisk business, I wouldn’t have the courage to expand so vigorously. We are doing really well at the moment. Our collection has been well-received around the world. Our show at the New York Fashion Week received praise from fashion magazines. A week ago we published our quarter annual report. In it we told our international sales have increased by 23% and our revenue has doubled. It looks good, but one has to remain humble, as the economic situation in the world looks troublesome.

 

The children’s corner was temporarily turned into a bar on the opening night. The bar served tasty Marimekko drinks, of course.

The Beverly Hills store offers a wide range of Marimekko products.

-Fashion has become an ever important part of Marimekko. Here we have separate departments for men’s and women’s fashions. Then we have bags and even iPad covers. In the new Marimekko stores, our fabrics have been placed in the very center of the store. Many other fashion brands have forgotten their roots. We want to shine a spotlight on our fabulous fabrics. There is also a children’s corner here and all the glassware and ceramics can be found in the back of the store. They are rather new product categories that we didn’t have five years ago. There are also wooden and fabric jewelry here.

 

Barbara Tuuri tries on a Marimekko fabric. Mika Ihamuotila wants to honor the history of the brand by displaying fabrics in the center of the store.

How well do Americans know about the Marimekko products ?

-We have ten shop-in shops in Crate and Barrel stores. We are increasing our visibility with these new Marimekko stores. Our ambitions are on a totally different level than at any time in the company’s history.

Now that we are in “Hollywood”, do you have celebrity endorsers?

-Last week Sarah Jessica Parker was photographed wearing Marimekko, Elton John wore Marimekko shoes in Saint Tropez and Anne Hathaway has been seen wearing our clothes almost weekly. It seems to me that we are at a time when marimekko clothes are being widely used.

 

Irina Björklund performs at the Marimekko opening in a Marimekko dress.

Ihamuotila has no plans to use star power in advertising.

-We have no such plans, nor do I think we will use stars in the future either. We think of Marimekko in organic terms. If someone likes our clothes, fine. However, I don’t like the idea of paying a star to wear Marimekko. It doesn’t seem to fit our values. Many other brands pay actors up to hundreds of thousands to wear their clothing.

The marketing is done mainly via media articles and public relations.

 

TV journalist Abdellatif Mouffakkir and his wife, consul general of Finland Kirsti Westphalen, were taking pictures and trying on mittens at the grand opening of Marimekko.

-We employ one of the best PR firms in the United States. I have had nine interviews with American news media. Through these news articles we aim to inform the public about Marimekko’s values, history, production and design. There’s less emphasis on advertising.

How do you feel now that the Beverly Hills store is reality?

-It feels really good. As I was walking here tonight I saw the store full of people. I passed a restaurant next door that is a favorite place for actors and directors to dine in. They were curious to see what was going on in our store next door. As I saw the bright Marimekko colors through the large windows, I felt proud about our brand and people. It feels incredible but it is true!

 

Colorful Marimekko dishes are the latest addition to the Marimekko line of products.

Mika Ihamuotila comes from a famous and prestigious Finnish family. His father Risto was the chancellor of Helsinki University and uncle Jaakko was the long time CEO of the Finnish petroleum company Neste. His gradfather Veikko served as a minister in the Finnish government and his mother was a textile designer. The family still owns a manor house in Espoo named Hista.

 

Mika Ihamuotila discusses with actress Anna Easteden at the Marimekko opening.

Mika Ihamuotila became the CEO of Marimekko in 2007 after acquiring 13% of the company stock. Just a year earlier Ihamuotila underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. It took him months to recover from the serious procedure. Last year he was once again under the knife for the same reason. But you would never know it by looking at the man. He looks tanned, healthy and strong – not to mention handsome as hell. I ask the famously private man about his health.

-Perfect, couldn’t be better, he responds.

Mika Ihamuotila is married to Hannele “Kitty” Ihamuotila, née Mandelin. She was beaming at the store premiere by his husband’s side. They have four sons. Mika Ihamuotila’s hobbies iclude reading, tennis and nature, especially the Finnish archipelago and the Alps.

 

Kitty and Mika Ihamuotila opened the 103rd Marimekko store in Beverly Hills.

It was a fun opening indeed that read like who’s who in the LA Finnish circles. Consul general Kirsti Westphalen was having fun with her husband Abdellatif Mouffakkir. They were taking pictures at the Marimekko photo booth and trying on mittens. Barbara Tuuri from Warner Bros. was there. The patrons of everything Finnish, Mirja and Ernie Covarrubias were mingling in the crowd, sipping Marimekko drinks. Mirja met up with media personality Sauli Koskinen, who was there with some friends.

Mirja Covarrubias connected with Sauli Koskinen.

Sauli Koskinen came to the Marimekko opening with his friends.

Finnish actresses Susanna Finn and Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä were present, as was the ever so lovely colleague Anna Easteden. Magician turned movie mogul, Iiro Seppänen had just returned from a six-month vacation to see the wonders of the world. Iiro’s Pan Pacific Entertainment focuses on U.S. -China -collaborations. His latest endeavor was a Chinese TV series featuring wing suit jumpers.

These days movie producer Iiro Seppänen spends half of his time in China.

Janne Kouri, who runs a gym for the paraplegics showed up with his banker-wife Susan.

Gym entrepreneur Janne Kouri with wife Susan.

The crowd was entertained by the lovely actress-singer Irina Björklund and her five man band. Irina sang and played the saw – yes, the saw. She recently recorded a brand new album in France in which she sings in French.

 

Irina and her band, all dressed in Marimekko. From the left: Janne Haavisto, Joe Karnes, Janne Lappalainen, Irina Björklund, Peter Fox and Markus Nordenstreng.

The store looked fabulous. Everything was bright, elegant – and I’m afraid quite expensive. This is definitely not a store for the bargain hunter. A canvas shopping tote for 21 dollars, anyone?

A couple browses Marimekko products in the brand new store.

However, if you want to remember that special someone this holiday season, you cannot go wrong with Marimekko. Finntimes wishes the new Marimekko store the best of success.

Marimekko marketing director Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko was happy after a successful opening.

ART, SCIENCE AND SPIRIT

 

Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil got its Hollywood premiere.

THESIS OF EVIL

The Finnish trio from Oulu, Jukka Vidgren, Juuso Laatio and Petteri Staven recently visited Hollywood, where their 35-minute short film Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil was shown at the L.A. Short Film Festival. I sat down with the men to discuss their movie, which they describe as a dark comedy.

All the men hail from the northern city of Oulu, which in the last decade has emerged as a high tech hub. Petteri works at Nokia as a motion designer. Juuso and Jukka have a production company – they make commercials and music videos.

 

Jukka Vidgren, Juuso Laatio, Petteri Staven, Juha Nieminen

Where did you meet each other?

“Juuso and I were media students at Oulu University. Juuso is more into graphics design, photography and I am more into producing. We knew each other way back from school. This film actually started as our final thesis for the university, but it grew from there to a full-blown indie production” director Jukka Vidgren, 29, says.

“We made it with a technique called “motion novel”. We took photographs of our actors, made backgrounds with computer graphics and then blended them together, added sound effects, voiceover and music. It’s a new kind of a narrative technique,” Vidgren explains.

In other words, the actors in the film are presented as still images and the movement is limited to other elements, such as smoke, fire and other special effects.

Do you have to be an actor in a motion novel?

“Yes, it’s a still image, in which you have to convey a specific emotion. You only get one frame to cover a whole lot of dialogue.”

Where did you find your actors?

“Here and there. We had to use actors whom we knew. The villain is played by Pentti Korhonen. He is an actor in the Theater of Oulu. The others were students and other people we knew.”

 

The voice actors were cast in Canada and the U.S.. They were compensated for their work with a grant from the Finnish Film Foundation. In addition to that, they collected 8,000 euros from crowd funding.

 

Director Jukka Vidgren in front of the Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

What is your movie about?

“It’s like a superhero story with a super villain. The film is about a super villain, who is the most successful and known super villain in the world – Dr. Professor. He is trying to take over the world. Our hero is Alphaman, a superman kind of a figure, who is trying to destroy Dr. Professor’s plans.”

The idea reminds me of another new Finnish sci-fi movie, Iron Sky – why is that genre so popular in Finland right now?

“Genre films in general are getting big in Finland. Sci-fi is one of them. I don’t know if I would categorize our film as a sci-fi movie – it’s a fantasy film. We have had very few genre movies of any kind in the past – action, sci-fi or fantasy. They appeal to our generation of filmmakers, who were born in the early 1980’s,” Jukka Vidgren believes.

How long did it take you to make this movie?

“About two and a half years. We had a small team of ten people and only ten days to shoot in the studio with actors. The post-production took about a year and a half.”

The title Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil was Juuso Laatio’s idea. He also served as the director of photography.

“I took all the pictures and did about 95% of the photoshop –keying the characters from backgrounds and doing all the color work and stuff. Petteri did the moving parts and there were many other people involved as well,” Laatio, 31, specifies.

Petteri Staven’s job title is motion visualist.

“I took the layers of the photoshop, which Juuso did and processed them in the after effects, which is also an Adobe product, so it was easy. The movement was not based on characters but smoke, fire and gunshots,” Staven, 27, explains.

How did you get to the LA Short Film Festival?

“We submitted our movie and it was accepted. It was pretty awesome, because we get to attend the opening night with some pretty big names and studios, like Marvel. We had conversations with other filmmakers and industry insiders,” Jukka Vidgren reveals.

 

Thesis of Evil is available on iTunes.

The filmmakers are already working on their next film, which is going to be a feature film. You can buy Thesis of Evil on iTunes for $1.99.

For more info go to: http://www.thesisofevil.com/

 

Juha Nieminen started his space studies at USC.

SPACEMAN

32-year-old M.Sc. Juha Nieminen was inspired by space after reading the recently deceased Neil Armstrong’s memoirs. This fall he began to study for a space technology Master’s degree in Space Technology at the prestigious University of Southern California, USC. He immediately joined the university’s hockey team. Thus, the first Finnish person whom he met in LA was the hockey player Saku Koivu. So far, the students have been lectured by Virgin Galactic’s president and an Apollo astronaut. About 1,500 foreign students at USC study space technology – the vast majority of them Chinese and Indian. Juha’s focus is the design of a new generation rocket engine. After graduation, Juha is allowed to work in the U.S. for a year. He would like to get a job in his field in Southern California, a hub for start-up space companies. Juha dreams of being able to travel in space one day. Meanwhile, the rocket man gets around on his bicycle, as he doesn’t have a car yet.

 

Juha Nieminen at USC

ACTING COACH

Beautiful, slim, dark and fiery Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä is a Karelian girl from  Lappeenranta, Eastern Finland. She studied drama in Århus, Denmark, as well as in Moscow and Amsterdam. MR arrived in the United States in 2004. Five years ago she graduated from Long Beach State University with a Master’s in Drama.  She was married for a while but has since divorced. At school actor-colleagues used to turn to her for help in different scenes, for she was able to shed tears at command and live each part to the fullest. So teaching came to her naturally. Today, Marjo-Riikka, 41, teaches in two drama schools in Los Angeles. She also has private students, and occasionally gives drama courses at various universities. Each week, she teaches about a hundred actors.

 

Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä teaches acting at the Chekhov Studio International.

The average person might think it is enough when an actor learns his lines, puts on a costume and then tries to bring the character alive. But as any professional, an actor needs tools to accomplish this. According to Marjo-Riikka, an actor is an explorer of humanity. She teaches Michael (Mikhail), Chekhov’s acting technique. This Chekhov was Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s nephew, who moved to the U.S. after the Russian revolution. Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, and Robert Stack used his technique. Clint Eastwood is one of the living disciples of it. In short, the technique stresses empathizing with the character and learning different emotions kinetically. As a result, the learning process is physical.

 

Marjo-Riikka takes a physical approach to drama coaching.

On a recent Sunday I got to attend a rehearsal Marjo-Riikka gave at the Chekhov Studio International. There were 10 students attending – seven women and three men – the vast majority of them young adults in their twenties and thirties. The venue was a dance studio with mirrored walls and bars. The students wore track suits and and were working bare-footed.  A random visitor could well have mistaken these for dance rehearsals. The session was very physical indeed – breathing exercises, throwing a ball back and forth with one’s acting partner and taking steps back and forth while reciting lines. The students were rehearsing a new play about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy clan. I even saw a Spanish-speaking Marilyn! She was played by a  Chilean girl, who spoke her lines in Spanish. Middle-aged Roxette Wilson is already a successful actor in her native Australia. She is taking lessons from Marjo-Riikka in order to keep her skills sharp. Marjo-Riikka’s courses last for four to ten weeks.  This was an intensive course and she was preparing to start a master class. Next January Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä will take a breather from teaching to appear in a movie that will be shot in Brazil called the Star and the Cross.

 

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki is formally installed as the new pastor of the Finnish Lutheran congregation in the Western United States.

FINNISH PASTOR’S INSTALLATION

The Lutheran Church of California and Texas invite you to the installation service of Pastor Jarmo Tarkki, PhD. The service takes place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 958 Lincoln Blvd,Santa Monica, on Sunday, October 21, at 2:00pm.