Backstage at Antonio Marras RTW Fall 2020

Locked in his house in the Sardinian countryside and facing the blue of the Mediterranean Sea, Antonio Marras is living the isolation caused by the coronavirus outbreak with a new and unexpected sense of “recklessness.” His stores in Milan and Alghero had to temporarily close, production of the samples of his men’s spring 2021 and women’s resort collections are stuck because of the imposed closure of factories across Italy, fall orders were cut down and pre-fall deliveries may not be collected soon by retailers. Aware that a major storm is going to hit not only his company but the whole fashion industry, Marras is living the life of a modern Penelope. But, instead of weaving a shroud, he embroiders, does the laundry and bakes bread, channeling the ongoing uncertainty into creativity.

WWD: Antonio, what’s going on on the island?

Antonio Marras: Listen, this situation is so absurd and unprecedented….It exceeds any utopian fantasy. I came back from Milan to Alghero on March 5 and I have been quarantined in my house so far. I have never left my house in 20 days. I’m definitely finding millions of distractions, but when I think about the business, I don’t really know if we will manage to rise again. Everything is stuck…deliveries are stuck, nobody wants to receive orders. It’s a collapse. However, I have a lot of time, time spent at home that I never had before, and in this absurd, almost surreal situation I’m discovering new things that I have never done before. For example, I take care of the laundry and this morning when we talked about setting up the interview I was baking bread. And in the meantime, I also work.

WWD: Are you working on resort?

A.M.: Luckily, before the lockdown we had already delivered to the manufacturing company the project for both men’s spring and women’s resort collections. But then, the company had to close. Everything is suspended and now we are just waiting to understand what’s going to happen.

WWD: Are you really going to produce the resort collection?

A.M.: I really don’t know if we will make it and when. Whatever happens, even if the epidemic slows down, do you really think that in June we will all be ready to start again, business as usual?

WWD: I don’t.

A.M.: Me neither. Only those that have big organizations and financial structures, like Giorgio Armani, Prada or Gucci, will be able to immediately restart…only those that have capitals and structures. But for us, we are microbes — I cannot actually use this word now, ironic, right? — I don’t really think we will be able to restart on the spot. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel like we are in a sort of limbo.

WWD: How do you really feel?

A.M.: I feel this recklessness inside myself, which doesn’t really belong to me. I’m lucky enough to be in the countryside with the sea in front of me. I feel good. I’m surfing this situation of deep uncertainty. There were so many things I wanted to do and I never had time to do. I’m doing things nonstop.

Antonio Marras baking bread in his house in Alghero

Antonio Marras baking bread in his house in Alghero, ItalyCourtesy of Antonio Marras

WWD: This doesn’t really surprise me…

A.M.: I know…you are right. I cannot do nothing. I cannot stay still for a minute. Now I’m talking to you and at the same time I’m doing laundry. Patrizia [Marras’ wife and chief executive officer of the company], me and Leo [Leonardo, Marras’ youngest child] — Efisio [Marras’ elder son] stayed in Milan — are creating this family balance and each of us has duties. I also iron and I’m very good at that. I’m good and fast. I also repair old carpets, make embroideries, use the sewing machine…I do things [that] I would have never imagined to do. I also spend time in my studio downstairs…I’m reorganizing old boxes…a friend told me that I’m such an Aquarius…I start one thing and in the process I trip over other a million things. However, I always finish what I start…I just don’t have a linear approach.

WWD: Do you think a lot about what’s going to happen to your company?

A.M.: I do. Every day. But I’m also actually enjoying this spare time I have. It’s a slower, suspended time, which is enabling me to keep doing so many things. Ale, a few days ago, I cooked a bun with Leo, we also did a ricotta cake and a yogurt cake is in the pipeline.

WWD: When you think about the company, do you feel scared?

A.M.: When I think about that, I just see a dramatic situation. I don’t know how and if we will rise again. I don’t have a group supporting me, we basically lost two seasons, retailers are not collecting pre-fall orders. Our Russian clients sent a letter saying they are sorry about what’s happening in Italy, but they basically disappeared. I think that the other countries didn’t take what was going on seriously enough and they waited too long. Our health system is collapsing. My friends who work at the hospitals are exhausted. I made face masks for the doctors and the nurses of the hospital of Alghero…I actually distributed fabrics to my seamstresses in the area and they sewed them.

WWD: What are your biggest concerns?

A.M.: My biggest concern is that I’m aware I don’t have the tools to face the post-crisis phase. What’s going to happen? How many will survive? If we can continue to produce, I’ll have to cut 50 percent of the next collection.

WWD: This is hard for you, right?

A.M.: The thing is this: are you in the mood for shopping? It’s my least desire now and I live for fashion. Only one person told me that he bought a new pair of sandals and he got them delivered in five days. I said…mmhh, OK. I mean, are we crazy? My priorities are so different right now. But maybe I’m the one who is weird. I think that what’s happening is epochal, there will be a pre- and post-coronavirus.

WWD: How many employees do you have now?

A.M.: We are 20, based between Milan and Alghero. But if the situation continues to be like this for a couple of months, I really don’t know what’s going to happen. They are working from home now and I’m connecting with the design and product team via Skype, but it’s very different than being physically together. And you know, we had to close the stores in Milan and Alghero.

WWD: How much does retail account for?

A.M.: Quite a lot. We had to close just right at the kickoff of the season and when we reopen, we will be forced to make 50 percent markdowns. And consider that in June we are receiving the fall collection.

WWD: So early, right?! Do you think that, without the coronavirus, something would have happened anyway at a certain point? Delivery schedules seem to be so inappropriate for the times we are living.

A.M.: I was thinking about this yesterday. We talked several times about this…arriving at the showroom overwhelmed, tired, in the vortex of the collections and pre-collections…I think we all agree on the fact that there is a major surplus of products, a certain attitude of fashion, this constant desire for new things. What’s currently happening will transform things radically. We will have to understand the dynamics and the protocols to manage change.

WWD: What do you think is going to happen?

A.M.: Maybe only two coed shows a year? I don’t know, maybe. Sorry, can we talk about Pitti Uomo? They didn’t postpone it yet. I mean, do you understand? They postponed the Olympic Games. I think it’s insane. Can you imagine how people are going to react? We don’t have a Chinese mentality. When they are asked to do something, they just do it. We are different. It took 20 days to make people understand they had to stay home to try to stop the contagion.

WWD: What’s a possible solution?

A.M.: I don’t know. I think that the best thing would be to work all together, create cohesiveness among brands and designers. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. I mean, I’m on my island, away from everybody, but I don’t think it makes a big difference. This whole thing is no picnic.

Antonio Marras' Nonostante Marras showroom during Milan Design Week

Antonio Marras’ Nonostante Marras showroom during Milan Design Week  daniela zedda

WWD: Have you and Patrizia already sat down to discuss a possible future for the company?

A.M.: To be honest, I’m too worried to do that. I feel scared. I’m still nurturing the hope that we don’t need to take drastic decisions, that things will magically go back to normal. However, the moment when we are forced to do that will come. Sooner or later. Right now, we live day by day. We face one day at a time. We juxtapose work to other activities, we keep ourselves busy. I have all this absurd, amazingly terrible time to dedicate to millions of activities. Am I a fool? Did I lose my mind? I’m fully aware of the moment, but I feel powerless. What can I do? I can only count on my resources. We are small, independent.

WWD: Do you think that the government can make a difference supporting the industry?

A.M.: It seems that our sector doesn’t exist for the government. It’s the second biggest industry in our country, but it seems that we are invisible. In the national newspapers, there are usually 10 pages dedicated to sports and maybe one maximum about fashion. For many, fashion is an ephemeral world made of sex, parties, drugs and rock ’n’ roll…all things which I’ve never really seen in my career. I think it’s a world perceived through a distorted filter. I think that people see only the show-off in fashion, what revolves around the industry, not the industry itself.

WWD: Do you think that what we are experiencing now is going to have an impact on the creativity of the future?

A.M.: You know, I’ve always immersed myself in a world of drawings, craftsmanship, one-of-a-kind special pieces. I think that we will see a return to value and authenticity.

WWD: Have you ever experienced a moment like this before?

A.M.: 9/11 was terrible. It definitely changed our life forever. I will never forget that. However, it felt different. That emotionally touched everyone deep in the heart, but being in Italy and not in New York, it was not so direct. It was an epochal tragedy, it actually generated a profound change in our lives, but this virus is different. This virus is affecting every single individual, rich or poor, small or big. And it hits hard the older people, those who surround us, whom we love. No one is immune and we are all vulnerable.

WWD: But, you still believe in fashion, right?

A.M.: Of course, I do. I live on fashion, I live on images, I love things, I love to experiment, I feel this subtle fil rouge connecting all the things I like and I do. Even now, I’m experimenting with new things and I make mistakes because I don’t have the skills and those mistakes become ideas for something else. I’m rediscovering things, I’m putting them in order and they are becoming inspirations. I was going to do this exhibition at Villa Carlotta by the Lake of Como, which was postponed because of the virus…I’m taking the chance to revise things, modify them, add something else…lemons to lemonade.

WWD: Were you planning to do something special for Design Week?

A.M.: Of course! The restaurant and everything. I designed a sofa that was expected to be unveiled during the Salone and I was also supposed to show my new collection of ceramics. But the Salone has been rescheduled to June and who knows if it’s going to happen.

WWD: Rescheduled to June, the same week of Pitti Uomo and the men’s shows…

A.M.: Insane, right? I think that was a very bad idea. Design Week is so important both in terms of creativity and business. It deserves a fully dedicated moment. We will see if it ever happens this year…who knows?

WWD: By the way, before letting you go to your multidisciplinary schedule, I need to tell you that I have a great admiration for Patrizia…I see from Instagram that also in quarantine she continues to be so impeccable and elegant.

A.M.: [laughs] I know…she is incredible. If she wants to wear a hat, she keeps it also when she cooks. She is a fantastic cook and she prepares these awesome meals in 10 minutes. But she cannot renounce her look and her style, even at home.

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