(Updates with share price in last paragraph.)
Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Marimekko Oyj, the Finnish textile maker that wowed Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis and Chelsea Clinton with its bright fabrics, opens a New York flagship tomorrow.
The store on Fifth Avenue is part of the Helsinki-based company’s quickening U.S. expansion.
“It’s a good time to bring fresh colors, fresh identity to the market in these difficult times,” Chief Executive Officer Mika Ihamuotila said in an interview yesterday at the store, where the fabric’s bright hues contrast with the white, minimalist space. “And maybe in these turbulent times, it’s exactly what people are after.”
In July, Marimekko introduced an e-commerce site, selling home decor, textiles and accessories. A Crate & Barrel supplier since 1966, Marimekko is opening boutiques at the home-goods chain and aims to have 23 by the end of 2013. This year, the fabric maker also teamed up with Converse Inc., releasing a limited edition collection of sneakers adorned with its designs.
Marimekko’s U.S. expansion comes as new-home sales continue to decline, in August falling to a six-month low, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Consumer spending remains restrained amid fears of a double-dip recession and a 9.1 unemployment rate.
“I haven’t seen any forecast that would indicate that there would be a dynamic rebound in housing next year,” Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said in a phone interview.
This year’s home decor sales have been declining, said McNamara, who is based in New York.
“The difficult situation in the U.S. housing market is, of course, a concern,” Ihamuotila said. “But we also see that U.S. consumers are willing to change how their homes look. We see that the U.S. consumer wants to use more colors and more Scandinavian, more light furniture and textiles than before.”
Marimekko was founded in 1951 by textile artist Armi Ratia. In 1957, Giorgio Armani noticed the bright, bold prints that stood out in the post-World War II fashion scene, and ordered Marimekko dresses for a luxury Italian department store, where the designer was working as a window dresser.
Jackie Kennedy bought nine Marimekko dresses during President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election campaign, according to the company, and appeared wearing a red dress on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.
That made the Finnish brand famous in the U.S., though its popularity waned until Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore a Marimekko bikini and decorated her apartment with the company’s curtains in HBO’s “Sex and the City.”
Marimekko, which has a market valuation of $132 million, operates 84 stores worldwide, seven of which opened in the last six months. The shares gained 4.4 percent to 11.25 euros today and have fallen 22 percent this year.
--Editors: Robin Ajello, Kevin Orland
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