For the first time, Max Mara on Monday held a runway show of its resort 2019 collection at the family’s Collezione Maramotti museum in Reggio Emilia, which displays priceless works by contemporary artists. This was the ideal backdrop for Max Mara’s creative director Ian Griffiths, who turned to what he deemed “the most appealing part” of the Arte Povera art movement for inspiration. “The Fifties and Sixties, the tactile and materiality of the conceptual artists of that period,” said Griffiths during a preview, naming Piero Manzoni, Alberto Burri, Pino Pascali and Jannis Kounellis. “I know that this is a precious location for the Maramotti family, very dear to them, and I am honored to be showing here for the first time. It’s a great challenge for me, and I wanted to create a collection that would be worthy of the venue.”
Griffiths conceived a lineup of sophisticated, luxurious designs that was perfectly in tune with Max Mara’s aesthetic and that subtly referenced the artists’ works. Case in point: Giovanni Anselmo’s Torsion sculpture from 1968, a leather cloth sunken in a large cement block and twisted around a wooden bar that holds it in place, became the inspiration for a beautiful torchon motif with crystals that stood out on a one-shoulder evening dress.
Prints from Kounellis and Gastone Novelli were splashed as geometric elements on light cream dresses. “The letters dance on the fabric as in a ballet,” Griffiths said. Long pleated skirts pointed to the textures and graining in the works of the irreverent Manzoni.
Griffiths revisited Max Mara’s staple pure camel coat with the Anima, or “Soul,” coat, cocooned in see-through and delicate organza and pure silk. “It’s a padded coat, but it’s not synthetic, it’s all natural and in natural colors, and the transparencies are a reference to Burri,” the designer explained.
Another Max Mara signature coat, the 101801, was worn like a cape, with feathers adding a feminine touch to the cuffs or the neckline.
The purity of materials and lines were part of a “reset,” Griffiths said. A white tuxedo in super-fine wool contrasted with a black georgette ruched caftan.
The color palette hinged on black and white, with touches of cream, pale apricot, lilac and aubergine.
Under the industrial building’s concrete and glass ceiling, the 30 models snaked around impressive art works by the likes of Vito Acconci, Erik Swenson, Mark Manders, Barry x Ball and Tom Sachs to the tunes of Nino Rota music for Federico Fellini films mixed by New York-based DJ Johnny Dynell.
The Collezione Maramotti is located in a former Max Mara manufacturing plant in Reggio Emilia, a 90-minute drive east of Milan, and near the company’s headquarters. The art collection was initiated and built over the years by the late Max Mara founder Achille Maramotti. He also collected art from the 16th and 17th centuries and passed his passion on to his children Luigi, Ignazio and Maria Ludovica.
“We’ve done shows for pre-collections in Shanghai, Beijing, New York, London, showing that we are an international company,” Griffiths said. “In this case, we underscore that yes, we are international, but also an Italian brand, and its values derive from the location where it was founded, the land of Ferrari, Ducati, parmesan cheese and ham. People have it in their blood here, products are consistent and more beautiful.”
Max Mara’s strength is also in manufacturing products of the highest quality, something first identified by Achille Maramotti. “Max Mara can do 2,000 coats that will all be the same, the customer knows that a Max Mara outfit will always be produced with the same attention and quality and design,” Griffiths said.