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Poppy Art

March 23, 2008|Erin Weinger | Times Staff Writer

The day after Christmas, 1960, Jackie Kennedy went boating for the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a bright pink dress that, like its wearer, was simple in design and bold in character. Its creator was Marimekko, a Finnish company that was relatively unknown until that lucky fashion choice put it on style radars worldwide.

Today, the biggest fashion news for spring is exuberant color and pop-floral prints, and Marimekko is primed for a major comeback. Manolo Blahnik uses the house's whimsical prints for his spring collection. J. Crew and D&G's latest offerings use color and shape in a distinctive Marimekko way. Avon will introduce a Marimekko cosmetics collection in the fall. And on April 10, H&M will launch a 70-piece Marimekko tribute line using styles from the company's archive.

The company was started in 1951, when Armi Ratia joined her husband's tiny textile firm to escape a mundane career in advertising. She used the same bright hues that are now everywhere in ways never seen before. Marimekko became known for the Unikko fabric of pop art-quality poppies. The design debuted in 1964, after Ratia's claims that florals had no place in her collection. Maija Isola, the brand's first designer, drew flowers anyway. And that's the print Blahnik features on his new slingbacks.

H&M skipped the flowers and uses lesser-known Marimekko prints instead. Abstract swirls in black and white adorn a mod sheath ($49.90) and a long halter dress with a sweetheart neckline ($69.90). Orange and magenta polka dots are surprisingly sophisticated on a loose T-shirt ($19.90). A hippie-style dress in brown, orange and pink features what can only be called a fleur-de-lis on acid ($69.90). The women's line also includes swimsuits, bucket hats and jewelry. Men's T-shirts use Tasaraita, a classic horizontal stripe from 1968 ($29.90).

The same simple stripes and patterns are found all over J. Crew. A strapless cotton dress with repetitive white circles has the Marimekko feel, down to asymmetrical space between rings. The same goes for a pink and white halter dress, which at $118 is pricier than a similar piece in the H&M line.

D&G's spring line includes red and white cotton poppy-print nearly identical to Marimekko's famed Unikko. The pieces are charming, if pricier than the other riffs on the look: a $595 sundress and $325 peep-toe flats.

Which worn together would be very Jackie O, indeed.

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