A Little Bit Dramatic

Seeing spots (and dots and stripes and swirls) with Marimekko

“There must be a reason to dirt a fine white cloth with print.” – Armi Ratia

Its fitting that an exhibit on Marimekko should take place at a textile museum. While the Finnish clothing company wouldn’t be out of place on display in an art gallery or costume institute, Marimekko is really defined above all else by its fabric. After all, one doesn’t immediately recognize a Marimekko dress by its cut or even its label; it’s those eye-catching, popping prints that you can see from space that have been the label’s defining factor and constant for the past six decades.

“Marimekko, With Love,” curated by Shauna McCabe, will be on display until April 21st at Toronto’s Textile Museum. If you’re in Toronto, it provides an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of prints. The show is a retrospective, technically, but trying to pick out the difference between a Marimekko dress from the early days and one from last week is an exercise in futility.

Marimekko opened in Finland post World War II. From its inception, it has always been about finding that fusion between fabric and art. Armi Ratia, whose husband had just purchased a small fabric company, began to curate designs from young contemporary artists. The dresses became literal canvases for young artists to develop prints and in 1951, a company was born.

The patterns might appear to be as uniform as a designer logo plastered all over a collection of handbags, but the company’s artists referenced everything—see a pattern in nature? Blow it up and set it against a contrasting colour. The consistency in patterns comes out of the similar treatment granted to unique motifs. Architecture, folk patterns, flora, and fauna are all fair game.

At the exhibit, many people showed up wearing Marimekko. We were able to spot from a distance even amongst the patterns on display, an unmistakable bat signal of pop art. I went to the show with former Wornette Katie. Unlike some of our coworkers, neither of us come to fashion from a textile background, and it was our first visit to the textile museum. We were Marimekko babies, wide eyed and ready to learn something new. In our excitement, we at one point stopped recording the exhibit and instead started recording the other attendees, regardless of what brands they were wearing.

The word “timeless” gets thrown around the fashion lexicon a lot. Ironically, it’s usually used to reference a very insular aesthetic—one with clean lines, muted colours, and anything that can blend into the background. the company is very much of its time, born out of a post-war hope and ready to align itself with the eager optimism of the upcoming sixties. But what’s most remarkable about it is that while it is such a specific look, it is one that is accessible and applicable across multiple continents, decades, and generations. In a room filled with Marimekko, each pattern still stands out.

For more about Marimekko, see issue 4 of WORN Fashion Journal.

photography // Katie Merchant

Mon Dieu! Fashion Pop

Our intern checks out the coolest fashion show to take place in a church basement

Welcome to Église Pop—AKA the basement of the most bangin’ church in Montreal.

Expectations: In the days of yore, before I found myself interning at WORN, I was able to build many misconceptions about fashion and its industry. Hearing that Montreal’s Fashion Pop included a runway show had me believe I was entering some absurd world populated by that type of human seen primarily on America’s Next Top Model. Coming to fashion from an academic background, I was worried I’d feel awkward and out of place.

Forgive me, for I have sinned. Fashion POP is anything but your run of the mill runway romp.

Fashion Pop winner Christine Charlebois revelling in her victory

Reality: I was pretty surprised to find my nervous, fashion show virgin self back in the basement of the French Catholic church where I had downed vodka and Red Bull and danced until 4 a.m. while Peaches spun records in a giant titty-covered leotard only a few nights before. (Those of you dying to ask Is the Pop Catholic? I’ll have you know the event is totally secular. Also: shush.)

There was no snobbery at Fashion Pop—just cheap beer, house wine, and a good old-fashioned survival of the fittest competition.

This, I could handle.

Fashion Pop designer Marie Darsigny.

Montreal chic outside of Église Pop.

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Me and Mrs. Jones: An Interview with the Editor of Plus Model Magazine

When fashion rags start promising a new me, my body begins to feel less like flesh and bones and more like a construction site. “With a little work,” the magazine covers promise, “this house will be ready for sale and looking fabulous before you can say summer. But…it’s gonna cost.” Thankfully this year, I’d already found Plus Model Magazine, a monthly online publication that sings to a completely different tune. In the editor’s letter of a recent issue, Madeline Jones wrote, “I truly hope this is the year that big changes will be made. Not just in the modeling industry, but in all of our personal lives. Stop the persecution of your arms, bellies and thighs and celebrate the bodies you were given by loving them inside and out.” Along with messages of body acceptance, Plus Model Magazine provides fashion inspiration for the curvy woman, information about the plus size modeling industry, gorgeous editorials, and interviews with strong and smart women, like the managing editor of BUST. I got a chance to interview Jones, the strong, smart woman behind Plus Model Magazine, to hear more about the publication and her thoughts on the fashion industry.

Plus Model Magazine, in its own words, “inspires you to thrive in your curves, crave contemporary fashion and design your life on your own terms, sans apologies.” Why do you think it’s important for a fashion magazine to have this message?

Many people underestimate the power behind fashion, especially to how it relates to women. Plus size women lack the images they need to inspire them daily; they do not have it in television, movies, or magazines. Have we seen more of a push towards acceptance in the last few years? Absolutely. However, this is all it has been, a step closer, but we are not there yet. Plus Model Magazine published it’s first issue six years ago. Without truly knowing whether this was a publication that would be accepted, we took the initiative and the feedback from brands, designers, and plus size women was overwhelming. It was clear to us, plus size women and this industry in particular was ready to grow with us and allow us to explore where it would take us. It was important for us put the goal of this publication out there for all readers to see. It would not only inspire us, but it would hold us accountable to our very own words.

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Seeing Red

Back in early March, I saw a girl on the corner of my street with thousands of red felt squares and safety pins stuffed in her shoulder bag and a messy hand-written sign saying “GRATUIT!” This was my first encounter with the carré rouge, the simple swatch of fabric that has come to symbolize the Quebec student strike.

It’s rare that a protest movement affects the way thousands of people get dressed, but the strike has done just that, turning the red square into both a symbol of solidarity and, for some, a conscious fashion statement.

If you’re unfamiliar with the politics behind the carré rouge, let me give you a brief rundown: In mid-February the provincial government announced a plan to increase tuition by 75% over the next five years. Student unions decided to strike, and, since mid-February, marches have taken place regularly throughout the city. What started as a student movement quickly morphed into a mass social protest after the provincial government passed the controversial Bill 78, which states (among other things) that a group of over 50 people is an illegal protest. Suddenly, it became less about tuition and more about the government’s dismissive (and borderline unconstitutional) behaviour.

The symbol came out of a 2005 student strike against funding cuts to grants and loans, and comes from the expression “carrément dans le rouge” or “squarely in the red,” which refers to the amount of debt students are facing.
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