Marimekko by Dan River

I’m not going to pretend to know who came up with the idea of designer bed linens, but my guess it was in the late 1960s.  It was the era of the uber-licensees and everyone from Oleg Cassini to Laura Ashley was putting his or her name on sheets and pillowcases.  As Cassini put it in his book, In My Own Fashion, the licensing company would come up with the designs and he would approve them.  You can see examples of these today, and you’d never guess that a designer’s name would be attached.

On the other hand, there were textile designers who also had agreements with bedding companies, and it is immediately apparent that there is a real connection between their work and the finished product.  A good example of this is Vera Neumann.  Her original art was adapted by her design team to that it would work on the large scale of a bed sheet.

I was surprised to find  a set of pillowcases by the Finnish design house of Marimekko.  In 1959 their work was brought to the US by Design Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  In 1975 or so Marimekko and Dan River, a linen producer in Danville, Virginia, entered into a licensing agreement where Dan River made bedding with Marimekko designed fabric.  To me this is interesting because, whereas you’d never in a million years instinctively know an “Oleg Cassini” sheet without his signature, the second I spotted these pillowcases in the Goodwill bin, I immediately thought “Marimekko.”

These were dated 1983.



Filed under Curiosities, Designers

8 responses to “Marimekko by Dan River

  1. Lizzie,

    I’m a big fan of Marimekko’s bright graphic prints, but reading your post I remember that my introduction to them was in the 1980s via their bed linen patterns. I babysat a little boy who had bedsgeets with the Pikku Bo Boo pattern (I had to look it up – thanks Google) with cars and trucks on it, and later I’d see their patterns on sheets and comforters at the local linens store (Bed & Bath) where my pal Suzanne worked. It wasn’t ’til much later that I realized they did more than that, but now I’m hooked 🙂


  2. Marimekko bed linens were available in the late 60’s. I bought mine at a great store back then called “Akron” in southern California, which was a fore runner in discount design at the time (pre-Ikea).


  3. I love Marimekko and those pillowcases you found are wonderful!

    When I got married 11 years ago, Crate & Barrel was selling Marimekko sheet sets. We registered for and received the Unikko Poppy Print in red & pink. A few years ago, the fitted sheet started getting a hole that was too large to mend but I couldn’t bare to throw it out – so I made a 60s style dress! (Plan to blog about that sometime in the future.) I love that dress and get compliments all the time, and because it was well used and naturally “distressed” some people ask if it is vintage. And we still use the pillowcases and flat sheet with a newer solid red fitted sheet.


  4. Christina

    I put the designer bed linen question to a good friend of mine who was a print textile designer in the furnishing industry in the UK. She believes that the early 70’s saw the introduction of designer bed linen in the UK when Mary Quant did her daisy for Dorma bedlinen, closely followed by Linda Beard doing small single motifs for Coloroll, both matching existing designs on wallpaper. This was also partly due to the investment in wide width printing machinery necessary for bedlinen.


  5. ronald

    no one asked you, anger ball!


  6. Pingback: Q&A: Unison's Founders on Marimekko, Design, and the Future of Fabric – Chicago Magazine

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