the sally sisson blog

March 9, 2018

Wear Equality: Design of the Times

Last fall, on a guided walking tour of the Helsinki Design District, I learned a fun fact in the Marimekko flagship store. The Tasaralta, their iconic striped shirt (pictured above), is more than just a wardrobe staple. It’s also a bold statement piece.

Unlike the stripes on, say, the classic Breton or L.L. Bean sailor shirt, these ones are equally spaced. The even stripes symbolize equality—between genders and people of different ages, shapes and sizes. “Even stripes for equality” is the tagline.

This was news to me. I’ve been a fan of the textile brand for decades (even making curtains out of Marimekko sheets to match my Marimekko bedspread in my first college dorm room). But I guess I’d never given the stripes on their pillows and T-shirts a second thought.

Purposeful design is a hallmark of the company. “Fairness to everyone and everything” is one of their company values. The vision from the start was to create functional, everyday, often unisex (or anonymous) clothing that would suit anyone and everyone, “empowering people to be true to who they are.”

Last year the company teamed up with Equality Now, an organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of women and girls around the world. As part of a six-week campaign, Marimekko stores in North America and online donated $10 USD to the charity for each Tasaraita “even stripe” garment sold. Read more here:

WWD: Marimekko Partners With Equality Now for Partnership to Encourage Women’s Empowerment

Feminist icon, ahead of her time

Later that day I lingered in the Design Museum and learned more of the backstory. Finnish textile designer Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo founded Marimekko in 1951 after buying the Printex fabric company. These were drab post-war times and their aim was to crank things up with bold, colorful patterns and create inventive new designs. In the first decade Marimekko built up a solid line of clothing and home accessories, along with a loyal Scandi following.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the company really made a name for itself worldwide. That’s when Jackie Kennedy bought seven of their dresses in a single shopping spree, later showing them off on the campaign trail. Pictures of the First Lady in her crisp, modern frocks soon made the fashion news and, most famously, the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. The fashions were seen as comfortable and approachable, everyday designs for everyday life.

The late sixties brought bolder designs and political statements. 1968 saw the launch of the Equal Rights Amendment campaign in the U.S., a strike for equal pay by 850 women machinists at the Dagenham Ford factory in the U.K., and the election of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to sit on the U.S. House of Representatives. Looking back now, the debut of the Tasaraita even-striped T-shirt that year makes perfect sense.


“I don’t sell clothes, I sell a way of living. They are designs, not fashions. I sell ideas, not dresses.”

– Armi Ratia, textile artist and founder of Marimekko, 1963

It wasn’t until decades later that Armi gained the recognition she deserved as Finland’s foremost female entrepreneur—and one of the world’s most famous designers.

“At Marimekko, Armi Ratia was a textile artist, managing director, creative director, wizard of words, publicity guru, and wellspring of inspiration. She had an incredible ability to decipher the mood of the times and sense future trends. She also had a genius for recognizing talent and finding ways to realize even the wildest, most imaginative ideas. 

“Even today, Marimekko’s success owes much to Armi’s ideas. She was a trailblazer who made Marimekko a way of life, an attitude, a phenomenon embracing the everyday and the extraordinary.”


Another bold icon to celebrate on International Women’s Day, I’d say.

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November 12, 2012

Online content and social media promote healthy school, community and corporate partnerships

The Energy Balance 101: Enrichment Zone web content I developed last spring for the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation is now live on, and I’m excited to see kids already participating in these first weeks of September.

Developed to complement the existing standards-based Energy Balance 101 curriculum for grades K-5, the Enrichment Zone is a flexible program designed for after-school programs, clubs and community organizations across the country.

I’ve had a hard time explaining to people what it is, who it’s for and who’s behind it, so here’s the skinny:

HWCF + Together Counts!

What is the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation? It is a CEO-led coalition of over 200 organizations working together to help families and schools reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity – by 2015. With corporate heads from General Mills, Inc., Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.; Kraft Foods and Kellogg’s; Anytime Fitness and Sports Authority;  Hershey, Nestlé and Mars at the table, the impact is significant.

How is Michelle Obama involved? In May 2010 the First Lady, founder of initiatives like Let’s Move! and Partnership for a Healthier America, announced with HWCF companies their pledge to reduce 1.5 trillion calories annually by the end of 2015. These changes are being made through new lower-calorie options, reduced calorie content of current products, and reduced portion sizes of existing single-serving products.

HWCF + Discovery Education

Next the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation set its sight on the nation’s elementary schools. Developed in partnership with Discovery Education, the Energy Balance 101 program provides schools with a free online K-5 curriculum and resources to help kids lead healthier, more active lifestyles.

Energy Balance 101 Discovery Education Building on the success of its program in the schools, EB 101 began extending its reach to the home and out in the community. Fueled by a successful brand and social media campaign, the TogetherCounts movement has a wide following (and 12,000 followers on Twitter!). Check out this cute and super-quick Together Counts! animation to get what the movement what it’s all about:

Together Counts

Watch: What is Together Counts?

The next phase is underway. HWCF is rolling out programs and activities for kids, parents, families and community groups outside of school. Here’s where I come in. The Energy Balance 101: Enrichment Zone is now being used by after-school teachers, Girl Scout leaders, parents… pretty much anyone interested. More flexible than the in-school curriculum, it is modular in format to suite a range of programs and schedules.

The lessons and activities incorporate and reinforce Energy Balance 101 concepts; promote physical activity after school and on weekends; and inspire students to make healthy choices and be mindful of their daily Energy Balance for life.

Organizations like the following have already signed on as Enrichment Zone partners:

    • Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.
    • U.S. Soccer Foundation
    • National Recreation and Park Association
    • K. Kellogg Foundation
    • Gen Youth Foundation
    • Paul Pierce’s The Truth onHealth
    • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Together Counts!

Although separated into different web sites last year, all of the above can now be found in one place:

Here you’ll find interactive features and active social media channels for schools, homes and community organizations. It’s a fun way to track who’s doing what in K-5 schools across the country.

Check out the blogs, tweets and posts from schools and organizations already actively participating. I’ll be helping out with a pilot after-school program at Inly School in Scituate, MA and will blogging about the experience along the way. I’ll keep you posted!

Links and Resources:

Michelle Obama’s speech at the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation partnership announcement

Mars Candy And Michelle Obama Are Making Candy Bars Smaller — And Twitter Is FREAKING Out


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June 19, 2012

Content marketing + cause marketing: Public relations with a purpose

content marketing for SUBWAY

Copywriting + corporate clients

Around this time last summer, I was busily dealing with my own child’s end-of-school activities while developing a year’s worth of content for SUBWAY Kids™ (via the Boston office of ad agency Jack Morton Worldwide).

For the Random Acts of Fitness for Kids™ project, developed to promote physical fitness and healthy habits in elementary schools throughout the U.S., I devised 365 “random” content snippets, 52 weekly activities, 12 mini field day activities and a culminating field day program. I also wrote copy for a teacher’s guide, teacher calendar and planner, classroom poster, and collateral for teachers and parents. All in about two weeks while trying to leave on my own summer vacation. Phew.

Cause marketing + bonus branding

content marketing for Subway KidsSUBWAY® Restaurants has had a successful string of win-win partnerships with select organizations and government institutions, and is now widely known for its commitment to the fight against childhood obesity.

For the Random Acts of Fitness and related campaigns, SUBWAY Kids™ partnered with We Can!™ (a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program), the American Heart Association and Little League® Baseball and Softball.

For another campaign on conservation, it partnered with The Nature Conservancy to provide reusable lunch bags and educate kids about the importance of recycling, reusing and reducing waste. [See my blog post: Earth Day interactives: Copywriting with a conscience for corporate clients.]

The SUBWAY restaurant chain is now the largest in the world. According to the Wall Street Journal it surpassed McDonald’s last year as the world’s largest chain, in units sold. Not that it can be attributed to savvy cause marketing, but heck, they must be doing something right in the brand department.

Useful content for a range of constituents

June is field day season in American elementary schools, and also a time when restless kids get summer fever. The “Random Acts” guide also features quick exercises and activities that kids can do in the classroom to get their bodies moving and minds re-focused.

It also extends into the summer months, with ideas for at-home activities and seasonal recipes right through the last days of August, when kids are bored and restless once again, waiting for school to begin…

Happy summer!

(This year, I’m outa here!)





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