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.

THE LATEBIRDS GOT A LITTLE HELP FROM HOLLYWOOD

STORY: THE LATEBIRDS

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

PHOTOS BY JONNY KAHLEYN

The Latebirds, a Helsinki-based rock band, is still unknown to many US readers. However, the band has been together for 11 years already and has cut two records in their native Finland. They are now ready to conquer the United States with their North American debut album ‘Last of the Good Ol’ Days’.

The title says it all. The Latebirds is a truly retro 1970’s rock band – with an added twist of country and western and punk. The men behind the magic are: Markus Nordenstreng, who sings and composes most tunes; Janne Haavisto plays percussion; Mikko Mäkelä does bass and vocals; Jussi Jaakonaho is the lead guitarist and last, but not least, Matti Pitsinki, a master with his guitar who also tickles the ivory, aka the keyboards.

Markus Nordenstreng by Jonny Kahleyn

Markus Nordenstreng

The five man band performed recently at the elegant Bel Air residence of Finnish consul general Kirsti Westphalen. The stop at Los Angeles concluded a two week tour of the U.S. It encompassed club dates in the big East Coast cities New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. The band then headed to the Windy City (Chicago that is), and finally Los Angeles where the boys played at Amoeba Music in Hollywood, the world’s largest independent record store. The tour later ended in San Francisco. The reason for the big tour was to publicize their first record made in America “Last of the Good Ol’ Days”. The launch was made possible by generous grant from the Finnish government.

THE-LATEBIRDS-BY-JONNY-KAHLEYN - Jussi Jaakonaho and Mikko Mäkelä
Jussi Jaakonaho and Mikko Mäkelä

“It is great that the Finnish Ministry of Education and Ministry of Employment and the Economy support such activities. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to come here. Our tour budget was 15,000 Euros. The government aid covered about half of that”, lead singer and songwriter Markus Nordenstreng acknowledges. This is the Latebirds’ third album and by far the most difficult to get out.

“The Album was recorded here in the Santa Clarita already in the spring of 2007. We had a great producer, Jim Scott, who has worked with all the greats. But the release date was delayed by the record company. And, while waiting, we went to Woodstock to record a bonus EP (a short, five-song CD that accompanies the main CD) that guest stars Kris Kristofferson”, Nordenstreng recounts. Kristofferson got interested in the Finnish band after hearing their cover version of his hit song ‘In the News’.

Markus Nordenstreng and Finnish Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

“I sent it to Kris. He liked our version so much that offered to sing on our album. Of course we couldn’t afford to hire Kris Kristofferson. We did not pay him a penny. He appeared completely free”, Markus says with a smile. Aside from singing, Kris is heard on the album in an unusual role – the voice of God.

“Kris has inspired our music, as have other rock and punk bands, as well as Finnish bands, like the Agents.”

The celebrity encounters don’t end there.

“We had a chance encounter with Bruce Springsteen in a Boston bar. I had previously interviewed him as a journalist and he remembered me. The Boss promised to attend one of our gigs in the future”, Markus says. At this point in the interview, he is called on the makeshift stage at the consular residence to perform. The music of the Latebirds is very pleasant and familiar indeed. At points one can hear influences of country and western. I noticed many guests tapping their feet; some with their head swinging in unison with the music, even though the crowd was a bit longer in the tooth than the band’s usual mid-twenty to thirty- something audience.

lead singer/songwriter Markus Nordenstreng

After the show, I had a chance to get reacquainted with Matti Pitsinki. Our first meeting took place in the Silicon Valley some ten years earlier when Matti playing for another band, “Laika and the Cosmonauts”. It was purely an instrumental, sixties’ style guitar band that for some strange reason attracted computer nerds.

“We became aware of that. I do not mind it, it’s nice that people like your music and we cannot choose our audiences. It was surprising, because we didn’t really have any hobbies or apparent connection to the IT-world”, Matti chuckles. He has been with the Latebirds since 2005. During the first 3 years, Matti divided his time between the two bands since “Laika” was still in operation. However that band dissolved in 2008 by mutual agreement among its members.

The Latebirds seems to attract celebs like moths to a flame.

“By no means were we after celebrities. However, you inevitably meet famous people in America. Friends of stars who attend our concerts report to them that it was a good experience worth going to. Then the stars eventually show up”, Matti explains. In addition to Kris Kristofferson, another Hollywood luminary was drawn to The Latebirds’ music.


“We were recording at Pliers, a recording studio in Santa Clarita. It is a nicely equipped big two-story warehouse. Producer Jim Scott knows how to create a great atmosphere and he also knows how to kick ass. One day, a casually dressed Minnie Driver came to the studio. She was doing her own album. Jim and Minnie were old friends and Jim had promised to give her some advice. While there, she saw us perform and stayed on to hear more.”

Markus Nordenstreng asked Minnie if she would do a number.

“Minnie agreed immediately. She performs the song ‘Underwater’. This is a mid-tempo tune that has underwater kinds of tones in it. Minnie did a beautiful job; she has a very good voice”, Matti says with praise. It turns out that the actress also has a sense of humor.

The Latebirds' newest CD: 'Last of the Good Ol' Days'

“As we were listening to the rough mix of the song, everybody else was sitting, listening and looking serious while Minnie was on the floor on her belly, making swimming movements”, Matti says with a laugh.

The Ladebirds’ first American tour was such a smashing success that the band members plan a return engagement on the new continent sometime before Christmas.

  The Latebirds – ‘Summer Becomes Fall’ video

Website: www.latebirds.com

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