Francesco Risso and Renzo Rosso

MILAN — Marni is banking on Francesco Risso to further grow the brand, renewing the designer’s contract.

“Since joining, Francesco has taken on every bit of Marni’s DNA, whilst fully embracing his role as creative director,” said Renzo Rosso, president of Marni parent company OTB. “His unique leadership covers every aspect of his work, from style to interior design to marketing and the whole digital world, and he can count on an amazing global network of talents to help him express his vision. He has forged a new direction for the brand, rejuvenating it whilst also making Marni his own. I am delighted that we will continue to work together for many years to come.”

The company declined to reveal the length of the new contract, but it is understood it is a long-term agreement. OTB’s decision to reveal the extension firmly squelches recurring rumors about a possible exit of the designer.

Risso joined Marni in 2016, unveiling his first collection for the brand’s fall 2017 season, and succeeding the label’s founder Consuelo Castiglioni.

“Four years ago, I was humbled by the opportunity I was being given,” Risso said. “Today, I am even more grateful for this renewed stewardship. What we have achieved over the past years could not be possible without the trust of Renzo Rosso, the OTB group and the dedication of the teams around me. As the journey continues, I am excited to lead Marni toward the future, with even more creativity, honesty and commitment.”

The designer studied at Florence’s Polimoda, New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and Central Saint Martins in London. His work experience started at Anna Molinari, and after stints at Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Malo, in 2008 he joined Prada Group to work on the brand’s women’s show collections and on special brand endorsement projects.

“Remaining truthful to the spirit of the house, Risso has pushed the brand beyond its limits, fostering creativity at all levels and turning Marni into a playground for meaningful, artistic dialogues,” the company said. “Risso will continue to expand his vision for Marni, spearheading the brand image at global level and permeating all creative domains, from collections to communications.”

Rosso took full control of Marni in 2015. The brand was launched in 1994 as a fur collection, meant to diversify the production of Consuelo Castiglioni’s husband Gianni and his family’s company, Ciwifurs, a storied licensee for several designer brands. Retailers started asking for apparel to go with the furs and then accessories.

The Castiglionis first showed men’s wear together with women’s wear for spring 2002 and the category had its first solo runway show for fall 2006.

Risso has so far led Marni with an unwavering independent spirit and vision of fashion — and a touch of bravado. For spring 2021, the designer planned an ambitious video presentation: a livestream that would integrate narratives of more than 40 friends filmed in 12 cities around the world, from London and Shanghai to Dakar, Senegal, and Grand Island, Neb.

For Marni’s men’s fall 2020 show, Risso and choreographer Michele Rizzo were inspired by Prince Prospero, the protagonist of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” who locked himself in his safe castle to escape a horrible pestilence. In a dimly lit room where the audience stood on benches, the duo created a dance performance with young men and women slowly gyrating to tech music.

For resort 2021, Risso kicked off his Marni-Festo, “showcasing the essence of Marni,” he said at the time, instead of creating a new thematic world.

His designs are characterized by clashing prints, vibrant colors, deconstructed silhouettes, generous volumes and asymmetric cuts. He often injects naif or grungy vibes into the looks, which have a young and rebellious attitude. Risso is also drawn to Surrealism and the world of Alice in Wonderland — even taking his bow at the women’s fall 2020 show disguised as the White Rabbit.

Commenting on 2019 OTB financial results earlier this year, the group’s chief executive officer Ubaldo Minelli told WWD that Marni continued to evolve, reaching out to younger, international customers as 50 percent of them are now below age 35. In 2019, sales increased by more than 8 percent, with accessories accounting for 58 percent of the total. Last year, Marni opened eight stores, including a flagship in Tokyo’s Omotesando, and the first unit in Maximilianstraße, Munich. There are 76 directly operated Marni stores and 24 franchised units. The brand is available at more than 450 wholesale doors.

OTB has been looking to expand its portfolio of brands, which includes Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf and a minority stake in Amiri, as well as production arms Staff International and Brave Kids. As reported earlier this month, sources say OTB is looking at acquiring Jil Sander, which is owned by Onward Holdings.

The group last fall renewed John Galliano’s employment pact for Maison Margiela. Galliano was appointed creative director of the brand in 2014.

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