Marimo Fashion turned 10-years old last year, but as we all know, celebrations were not allowed. As a party to celebrate was not important to me, I decided to approach the birthday a bit differently and share the story and memories of my 10-year experience with its ups and downs in all honesty. There is a reason I decided so - last year or even the last year and a half have been a time of great change for my brand and we have so many good ideas for this year to come so I think we will start a new era and it’s the perfect time to summarize my emotions and experiences of the past.
BECOMING A FASHION DESIGNER
The story of my fashion brand started already in my childhood. As my mother is a tailor, I started to sew when I was 6 or 7 years old. At the beginning, I was sewing for my sister’s dolls, but while being around 10-11 years old, our mum said that it’s time to try to sew for yourself as well. I really liked it and I have made all my own clothes since then. In high school, I started to sew for my friends and during the university studies I made custom-made pieces for more and more women.
My first preference was to study fashion design at the Estonian Academy of Arts, but as the admissions committee thought I already have my own style, I could not enter there. Of course, being 18 years old, I felt that my dream was broken and I also had the feeling that probably I’m just not good enough.. I started to study materials science and technology at Tallinn University of Technology and hoped that I still have a chance to enter a master’s degree at the Estonian Academy Arts, but the year I graduated from Tallinn University of Technology bachelors degree, there was no admission to the master’s program of fashion design.. I call it fate. The master’s degree at Tallinn University of Technology was more than just interesting and I learned a lot! I got to know different types of fabrics and their properties, I learned to make base constructions for dresses, skirts, pants, and coats for different body shapes and making the patterns. I understood that clothing technology is the most important thing while designing garments. You have to know the basics to make your dream garments come to life! The history of fashion designers also shows that lots of designers have studied pattern making instead of fashion design!
Time went on and after my studies at Tallinn University of Technology the economic crisis hit (the year 2009) and it was really hard to find a job in the fashion field while you were freshly graduated from the university. I thought that now or never and decided to register my own company. I was dreaming about my own fashion brand already in high school, so I was thinking about it for years. I remember that I had many good job offers while studying at the university, but I said “no” whenever something was offered, because I had seen so many people find out in their 40s that they are living a life they have never dreamed of.. I didn’t want to make the same mistake. After my studies, I was also teaching at the Art Academy as I had the knowledge of clothing technology. I still take it with a little irony, that they invited me to teach there - I was not good enough to study at the Art Academy but was good enough as a teacher..
THE TWO MOST POWERFUL WARRIORS ARE PATIENCE AND TIME
The journey of my brand has not been easy. I think if somebody would have described to me how hard it is going to be I would not have started that journey.. I remember that my mother was asking, are you sure you want to do that? I was. And today I’m really happy that I dared to dream big enough.
Before I registered the company, I wanted to consult business-oriented people and luckily had a friend who had studied entrepreneurship and knew some people from that field. I remember the first meeting with these men.. I have to admit I was a bit nervous and I still think it was justified as I was a 23 years old girl who had no experience in business and they already had their companies or were experienced as mentors for different entrepreneurs.. I have realized over time that good things happen when you are a little nervous and so did at this appointment. Today I remember it more like a one-on-one conversation with one of those people - he asked me so many questions that nobody else even had the opportunity to ask anything :D But I impressed him and after some time he became my mentor and future husband. So I’m sure everything in our lives happens for a reason!
As a mentor, Raido, my future husband, pushed me further and I really liked those one-on-one meetings every 2 weeks as he asked questions I had not even thought of. As we know, the most inconvenient questions are the ones that help us to grow.
In the beginning, I was working at my home and doing all things alone. I was sewing, meeting the clients, making fittings, organizing fashion shows, making marketing, selling, etc. Raido introduced me to some of the key people I needed and our team very quickly grew from one to 4 people. I’m still very grateful to our team at the beginning of this journey who all are also shareholders of the company and we still have online meetings every month so I could get the feedback I need on the topics which are relevant at this moment.
Marimo started with ready-to-wear collections 2 times a year and we launched our first women’s collection in August 2011. I’d say my design language was a bit different then (Check our Treasure Box to see clothes designed by younger Mariliis! :)), but the main idea has always been pretty much the same - I love wearable feminine clothes and classical style with details specific to me. Those details have changed from time to time and I’d say I have grown into a designer I have wanted to be. Today, when times are uncertain, I’d say that my classical style is our strength, but there have been moments when I thought maybe I should do something else to make a statement.. But as one of our team members says, we are the designers of our lives, so I’m really glad that I have consistently done what I believe in and found the community with the same values.
In the beginning, Marimo had no boutique. We were selling at some Estonian design shops and had our web page, but as you all know, 10 years ago buying online was not a thing yet. As we were growing, I felt that the first web we had, was not good enough anymore. We wanted to be an international brand, but the web didn’t support it. I remember one rainy evening when we were driving around with Raido and I said that everything is bad and I’m not getting anywhere with this thing I’m doing and if we can’t get a new web, we have to close the brand. To be honest, I was tired, I was unhappy and we had no such money to develop a new website. I had a big dream, but at this point, I had a breakdown. But as you know, it’s the hardest before it gets easier. Together with the team, we found a solution for the web, and the next collection was a breakthrough. It was Spring 2014. After the collection presentation on Saturday evening, we had a queue behind the store door where we were selling our clothes at the time on Monday morning. What a feeling was that!
SPRING-SUMMER 2014 COLLECTION PRESENTATION.
In December 2014 we opened Marimo Boutique at Tallinn Old Town and have been located there since. Marimo Boutique is this one place I always feel - I’d call it tranquility - it’s hard to describe the feeling I get every time I step into the door.. the minimalism we created together with the interior designer 6 years ago, still works. After opening the boutique, it was finally the time when we took our first employees and even though it was difficult to be an entrepreneur already then, I think I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship yet 😄 If you have employees, you are also responsible for them and the difficulty grows.
This was also the time when we started to make different events at our boutique to introduce the brand to more and more people and this is where I started to share my journey to the people who didn’t know anything about my brand yet. In our own place, we were able to experiment with different concepts and I have to say, the feeling that we finally had our own place, was so-so good. Those events have changed in time and last year when the most important thing was to be very creative because of the overall situation, we ended up having two small events with our VIP loyal customers and I think this is the direction in which we will continue. I really loved to have a small number of people around me who share the same values and are amazing women in what they do. I’m not the one to sell just to do business, I need to be a designer who brings value into people’s lives and makes them happy by wearing the most beautiful and well-fitting clothes. Of course - I also learn a lot from them, sharing our thoughts so directly.
MARIMO BOUTIQUE OPENING, YEAR 2014.
Photo: Christo Neemre
Being an entrepreneur means that you have to be very patient and consistent, the answer “no” is something you have to get used to. As I’m from a small place and the countryside, I didn’t really have any of the right contacts to grow fast with Marimo - we have grown step by step. Sometimes I have had the feeling that it all takes too much time, but now when for example an employee says that why the results come so slowly, I know how to calm them down, because I know that all great things take time and there is a lot of work behind every great achievement. I also have come to an understanding that great things can happen when you are ready for them - the company has to have a strong foundation to survive new challenges and every new step is a challenge.
The last 2 years have been all about growth and making the right decisions. It’s not been easy, but I and also our brand have been ready for those good changes. About 2,5 years ago I started to write an export plan. We were thinking about export several times in earlier stages as well, but once we didn’t get the export grant and the second time it overlapped with a happy occasion of getting pregnant with our first one. At that time I felt that I have to take a step back and see what is going to happen when having a baby. Everything went well, I was back at work 5 days after our first baby was born and I sincerely believe that it was the best thing that could happen at that time - having a child has taught me to take time for myself and my family who are depending on me, not to work on weekends, delegate more, focus even more, trust my instincts and to make decisions faster. I think all those things have been important for the growth and because of that, it’s been possible to avoid big mistakes.
We got the export grant at the beginning of 2019 and it has helped us grow, but we have also made the right decisions together with our team. We have focused more on the value we create and the main idea that I want to make women happy and feeling good in their everyday life. I think another very good decision I made around 1,5 years ago was to hire a marketing manager next to our brand manager. Until then I was making everything marketing-related myself but felt that I don’t have all that time and because of that, it was not possible to create the kind of value-based content we wanted. Thinking about which photo to post to Instagram around 9-10 pm and what to say with the photo and where I get the photo was not well thought through marketing, so we had to change it. We did and we also created a new online-boutique, so we were super ready when Covid hit all of us - I couldn’t be more thankful for my instincts and the fact that I really listened to them.
CREATING SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT.
Photo: Karin Kallas
Being an entrepreneur means that you have to be ready for personal growth all the time. Covid has taught me to be brave - hard times are meant to push our limits and be more creative to find new solutions on how to survive. It’s a bit funny to think that I’ve never learned English and I even remember that at one point I was afraid to talk in that language because I constantly thought that I will say something wrong.. Now I make videos and stories in English to communicate with you all. I’m also more an introvert than an extrovert so it’s been a challenge for me, but I’m really happy that this challenge came into my life. To always be learning I listen to podcasts all the time to hear the stories of other great people, I love to read books and I manage stress, which always will be there to an extent, by walking and running in nature beside spending time with my family of course.
I think there is one moment I will remember my whole life. The moment in August 2019 when I was sitting on my sofa and suddenly there was “another life” in our Instagram account going on - it was the day when the founder of School of Affluence,elegant Anna Bey, posted a video and stunning photos of herself in our dress. It’s the day when I met many of you. I’m happy that she found our brand and loves the quality and elegance we create. As our brand manager, Julia reminded me - the next day I was fulfilled with happiness and said that finally, I have an international brand! Moments like this make it all worthwhile.
ANNA BEY WEARING THE MARIMO LUNARIA DRESS.
Through the years I have searched for the right people for the everyday team and I have to say it’s not easy to find people who you can trust or sometimes life just goes the way that you have the employee you think is the perfect one for you, but its not her dream job, so she moves on with her life.. I can totally understand it and I always encourage people to follow their dreams, but as an entrepreneur, it’s pretty hard if people want to move on because you have to start teaching somebody again. But, I’m sure that things happen for a reason and I can say, that today I have a dream team. I have tailors who have the same quality standards I have, so it’s easy to work together, I have the best brand manager I could wish for as she shares the same values with me and wants only the best for our brand. We have a marketing manager who pushes me forward and has a fashion background, so now I know that those last 10 years which have been a total roller coaster have been all worth it - patience leads to great things! With a strong team, everything is possible and although the year 2020 was a strange one for most of us, we just tried to take the best of it and actually ended up making it our best year of all times!
Last year we also launched "The House of Elegance" documentary, which I share here to inspire you to do what you love, to be who you want to be, and to dream!
As you have read, during those 10 years, I have learned a lot, and I have decided that it’s time to take the next step, it is time for new standards! The next step for me is to grow and delegate even more to focus on the big picture of my brand. Growing a fashion brand means that you have a lot of different non-fashion or design-related tasks, meaning not too much time for the main things you love and which is why you started doing that business. I’d say that through the years there has been less time for the design process than I would like and I want to change it to focus on things that make me the happiest!
For me, the most important thing is to offer high-quality garments and service, but also a high-quality concept! For a while, we have been working with the capsule wardrobe idea and we see that this is the direction that we and also you want to go. This year is all about sustainability, creating a capsule wardrobe that is well thought through and timeless. The capsule wardrobe means that you have the perfect set of essentials that are tailored to perfection, suit with many different garments, and last from season to season. The main idea is to help you to look like the best-dressed woman in the room without having too many items in your wardrobe.
I made a little list of 5 pieces I have loved the most during those years and I can assure you that some of them are also included into the capsule wardrobe we have prepared for you ;)
1. Medinilla jacket
2. Nude pink Rubia lace skirt
3. Kaempferia Open Back pencil dress
Mariliis / Founder and creative director