Max Mara: Romantic dignity
This is as debonair as it gets. Few brands in fashion better express what true luxury means more than Max Mara, which presented an elegiac, intellectual and rather brilliant collection on a sunny Thursday morning in Milan.
A blend of 18th centuary silhouettes, romantic attitude, exceptional fabrics and a soupcon of posh punk, this was a smash hit collection greeted with enormous applause.
Designer Ian Griffiths’ starting point was Max Mara’s decision to sponsor the restoration of the Gulbenkian Museum’s 18th century art collection in Lisbon – stemming from the house’s cruise show held there last spring, which led Ian to consider the past era as “a time that was very similar to our own. The ideas and the communications of that time in the coffee houses can be compared to today on social media.”
Through Voltaire he discovered, Emilie de Châtelet, the thinker’s great companion. Who was known for her charming Discours sur le bonheur, and for translating Isaac Newton into French.
“She was completely ahead of her time, and she spent 10 years locked away in her own Chateau du Cirey, spending her days in scientific experiment and philosophical discourse,” marvelled the designer.
This led him to begin designing something she might have liked to have worn, “though of course from the other end of the telescope it’s about something to wear now,” he smiled.
“It’s a more rational approach to what to wear at a time when fashion was apotropaic, my new favorite word, meaning like totemic,” said the well-read Griffiths, using the ancient Greek term for warding off evil.
A key element in the collection was the Banyan coat, a loose, dressing gown shaped garment, originally based on the kimono and introduced to Europe in the 17th century. It was seen in multiple versions in beige or caramel brocade, jacquard or cashmere. The Banyan was traditionally worn with britches, but instead chez Max Mara, it was paired with posh bovver boots or accessorized with leather obi belts or even corsets.
Also impressing was a great series of redingotes in double face cashmere – all perfect. As were more fluid coats gathered at the back, referencing court dresses from the reign of Louis 15th – and seen even in swirling parkas and ribbed cashmere cardigans.
Griffiths also boldly played with volumes, with coppery brocade bubble skirts, dresses and brilliantly billowing pant suits. The cast weaving past the giant fluted columns with real majesty to an ideally dramatic soundtrack of Addolorata by Ryan Bigelow, blended with deep funk.
Aided by some impeccable styling by veteran Tonne Goodman and worn on an array of new models, decked out almost modestly, their hair tied back with simple ribbons, this was a great display of very classy fashion.
Staged inside La Rotonda della Bessana, a former Renaissance hospital, the show also marked the return en masse to European shows of Chinese stars and influencers – as the effects of the pandemic finally eases on travel from China. Their photographers spending the half hour after the show shooting scores of influence peddlers under the finely lit colonnades, excellent social media brand burnishing for Max Mara.
Though the overriding memory of the morning will be a great collection by Ian Griffiths.
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