The Great White Way: Marimekko

Wednesday May 23, 2012


In the late 19th Century, the strip of Broadway running north from 23rd Street was named “The Great White Way,” in recognition of the fact that it was one of the first streets illuminated by electric light.  That strip, which runs through the NoMad neighborhood, is once again earning the name.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight some of the exciting new spots lighting up Broadway.

Marimekko is the fourth stop on our trip along The Great White Way.  At the turn of the 19th/20th Century, Ladies Mile, stretching from 24th down to 14th Streets, was home to the biggest names in American retail . . .names like Stern Brothers, Bergdorf Goodman, B. Altman and Lord & Taylor.  In fact, all the avenues and side streets were chock-a-block with all types of emporiums where one could find unique items from around the world.

Where Marimekko now stands, the Fifth Avenue Hotel allowed the first street level stores on Fifth Avenue and two in particular became world-famous: Knox Hats and Maillard Chocolates.  [Knox had a particularly clever publicity stunt of exchanging visiting statesmen’s old hats for new Knox hats — including Abraham Lincoln’s.]  While the opulent shops with their exquisitely detailed interiors are gone, there is once again much to wonder at and buy in stores like Marimekko.

Marimekko opened its flagship store in NoMad last summer, selling inspired textile designs from Finland.  Marimekko’s best selling products include fabrics, kitchen and tabletop goods, and apparel. Their goal is to inspire people to participate fully in life and be creative, by bringing them great designs in color.   With patterns like these, who can doubt that they do?

The beautiful Marimekko storefront is bright and vibrant. It was created to serve as an invitation for passersby to come in and share in the creativity of Marimekko. Lynn Shanahan, President of Marimekko North America notes, “We enjoy the customer’s participation in the brand and encourage it in a space that allows them to wander.”

When asked why she chose to put the flagship store in NoMad, Ms. Shanahan said, “We were absolutely drawn to the people who make up a very special community within the city. The park was a significant part of the decision as it creates a sense of togetherness. It joins those who live and work in the area as well as visitors from all parts of the city and beyond. The Park offers a cultural experience with its art exhibits and myriad of interesting events – and we wanted to be a part of it.

At a recent presentation of the Flatiron Bid, Ms. Shanahan, noted that most flagships are planned knowing they will lose money, but the Marimekko store in NoMad is doing three times plan.

With NoMad increasingly attracting more and more design firms, it isn’t a surprise that we’ve noticed a lot of designers and their clients entering the Marimekko store, but the tremendous foot traffic is also attributable to a new influx of high quality specialized shop along the Great White Way.  Rather than national brands, stores like Maison Kitsune, Noir et Blanc, Eataly and Opening Ceremony are one again making the Great White Way a place where items, unique even in New York, can be found.

Marimekko, 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY  10010. 212.843.9121


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