By  on December 8, 2006

Despite spring-like weather, Berlin has outerwear fever, thanks to "Coats! Max Mara, 55 Years of Italian Fashion."

The exhibit, a cooperation between the National Museums of Berlin and the Italian fashion house, presents a historical and cultural glance at women's coats and a multifaceted retrospective of Max Mara through its core product.

About 400 objects are on display at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz, including 60 original Max Mara and Sportmax coats, capes and suits; sketches; photos; magazines; look books, and artwork commissioned by Max Mara reinterpreting its one-size-fits-all classic Coat 101801 from 1981.

The show was the idea of Adelheid Rasche, art and fashion historian and head of the Lipperheidesche Costume Library in Berlin, which is billed as the world's largest library and collection of graphics on the cultural history of clothing. She knew Max Mara had an unusually rich archive of over 20,000 pieces, and the timing was right. The company was reorganizing its archives, and together they worked to create what she describes as "a complete new category of fashion exhibition." Rather than concentrate on the culture of the designer star or specific periods of time, "Coats!" focuses on fashion as a multilayered system.

The exhibit is in keeping with the philosophy of Max Mara. "We're trying to make a point with this exhibition about where and what is fashion," said Max Mara chairman Luigi Maramotti. "It's too simple to say that fashion is in the minds of the designer and full stop. This doesn't give credit to all the people in the creative process of making a garment. I always say making a drawing or sketch is nothing. It's just the beginning of the process. Then you have to discuss with the patternmaker how to get the idea from two to three dimensions, not to mention all the technical questions and side aspects of making a garment. All these people are creative, and they make it happen."

Not that the company hasn't worked with well-known designers, as the sketches and models in the show from Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Luciano Soprani, Guy Paulin and Anne Marie Beretta illustrate. "But all the famous people who worked with us sat around a table with the people in the company and created a project," said Maramotti. Beretta still consults with the firm, but Max Mara now works on special projects with straight-out-of school designers.

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