While our regular CWC events involving presentations, panel discussions, intimate conversations and (of course) plenty of socialising are always a hit, in late May, CWC Melbourne hit the road for something a little different. We hired a bus and hit the road to Bendigo Art Gallery for some in-the-flesh inspiration in the form of a retrospective of the work of Finnish textile and fashion design house, Marimekko.
After an early start, we hit the road on a two-hour bus trip, providing ample opportunity to connect and catch up with fellow creative lady travellers (and one very cute baby boy), and take in the sights of the countryside. A couple of hours later we landed in Bendigo. You could also call it temporary Marimekko-land, with many of the main street retail shops' windows proudly showing off bright colours and bold prints.
On arrival, we were treated to a special talk by the gallery, sharing the history of Marimekko. Despite most of our group considering themselves keen fans, many had no idea that the textile icon began life as a failed oil cloth design and manufacturing business. Viljo Ratia had enlisted his wife, Armi, to help design prints for the cloths. While the business ultimately did not succeed, they saw the opportunity to pivot and turn it into a textile house. A great lesson in how failure can lead to success! And also how women's creativity can play a big role!
After learning more about the history, including how Jacqui Kennedy helped crack the American market when she wore Marimekko while accompanying JFK on the campaign trail while the was a presidential candidate, we were set loose on the gallery to take it all in.
The exhibition itself included an extensive array of Marimekko's original textiles and garments from its beginnings in 1949 to today, as well as other amazing remnants from their history such as hand drawn concept development sketches for the company's logo.
One of the most striking experiences for me was discovering that prints I assumed to be vintage were actually designed in recent years, and vice versa, highlighting the timeless unique nature of Marimekko's designs.
The day included a picnic lunch enjoyed under crisp blue skies, with refreshments from Remedy Kombucha. Most of us also squeezed in a wander around the centre of Bendigo to make the most of the road trip.
By the time we arrived back in Melbourne, the skies were dark, but my heart and mind were certainly feeling very bright and inspired.
Phoebe Miller is a member of the CWC Board. Her professional background covers experience in marketing and communications for the corporate, arts and not-for-profit sectors. She also ran her own creative side project, designing and making accessories under the moniker Simply Phoebe. Follow her on Instagram (@simplyphoebe).
Image credits: Samantha Jayaweera