Friday, September 24, 2010

Design Research: Marimekko Mecca

The must-see design earlier this week at the Cooper Hewitt, was not on the walls, but on the staff and visitors. Vintage Marimekko was out in full force, as the National Design Museum celebrated this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Jane Thompson, and the publication of the new book Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes, by Thompson and Alexandra Lange.

Design Research was the legendary Cambridge, Massachusetts-based “General Store of Good Design” founded by architect Benjamin Thompson in 1953. D/R promoted simplicity, comfort, and affordable prices in home furnishings and accessories by importing well-crafted and designed products, chosen largely by Thompson himself, from around the world. Perhaps the most notable of such imports were the hand-printed fabrics of the Finnish company, Marimekko.

Design Research became the lifestyle emporium of a generation, supplying not only the d├ęcor of an American design revolution, but the wardrobe as well. What better garb for the enlightened, soon-to-be liberated D/R female shopper than a bold, colorful, loose-fitting Marimekko frock?

The evening opened with a film-in-progress by Caroline Van Valkenburgh, It Wasn't Just a Dress, about women and their treasured Marimekko dresses. It’s a fascinating look at the iconic dresses, and their legacy.

Following the film was a panel moderated by the book's designer, Michael Bierut “Game Change in the Design of Retailing.” The program can be viewed here.

Filmmaker, Caroline Van Valkenburgh, right and one of the film's subjects.

Jane Thompson

Co-author Alexandra Lange

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