Streamlined Finnish design is known the world over. Shops of the famous Finnish design houses Marimekko, Iittala, and Kalevala can be found along Helsinki’s Esplanad.
Marimekko is known for its unique textiles and silhouettes adorning everything from clothing, handbags, scarves, accessories, linens, appliances, and more. The seminal Marimekko pattern is the jumbo flower pattern, which can be bought in a variety of different colors. Marimekko’s most famous fan in the US was Jacqueline Kennedy, and the flower pattern is reminiscent of the styles she wore in the 1960s and 1970s. Marimekko’s other patterns are strongly geometric. Marimekko’s home interior lines make it easy to decorate an entire room in a unifying theme without being too matchy-matchy. Marimekko has two stores on Helsinki’s Esplanad, one shop in the Kemp Gallery, and their products are sold in Stockmann, Helsinki’s leading department store.
Iittala has been the first name in glass and ceramic products in Finland since 1881. Known for their functionalism and minimalism, Iittala’s objects can be used for many different purposes. For example, a vase can become a display for floating candles, candle holders can be used as candy dishes, or a cappuccino saucer can double as a dessert plate. Iittala has a ceramics brand called Arabia and a kitchenware line called Hackmann.
Alvar Aalto, the famous Finnish architect, and designer, worked at Iittala. His kidney shaped Aalto vase, sold in a variety of different colors and sizes, remains one of their most beloved items. The cylindrical Aino vase, created by Aalto’s wife, is also still for sale. Every year Iittala designs and releases a different type of glass bird, which becomes collector’s items. Many Iittala pieces are popular for wedding gifts in Finland with “flocks” of birds displayed artfully in many Finnish homes.
In addition to their business, Iittala hires artists in residence who have no pressure to create commercial items but are instead encouraged to pursue their art. You can visit the Arabia factory store in Helsinki at Arabiakeskus, Hämeentie 135, to buy Arabia, Iittala, Hackmann, and Finlayson (textiles) products at discounts ranging from 10-20%.
The designs for Kalevala jewelry are inspired by the mystical Finnish national epic poem, the Kalevala. Kalevala jewelry is made of gold, silver, and copper. The designs are unique and bold. Kalevala recently hired Japanese designers, who bring an eastern sensibility to some of the jewelry lines. You can visit the Kalevala shop in Helsinki at Strömbergintie 4, near the Market Square and the Senate Square. You can also buy their designs in Stockmann and in the duty-free shops on the Baltic ferries and at the Helsinki airport.
When you need a break from shopping, stop into one of the many cafes lining the Esplanad to recharge and refuel.