The personal Instagram account of Max Mara’s Ian Griffiths promises “all the latest from Camelandia.” His fall collection for the Italian brand synonymous with camel coats was cheekily titled “the Camelocracy.”
One of fashion’s longest-serving creative directors continues to find many new things to say with camel coats, this season shown rakishly hanging off one shoulder and held in place with a leather crossbody strap sheltered inside. (He also had versions in pale teal, raspberry and lavender.)
The press notes would have you imagining aristocratic French physicist Émilie du Châtelet disguising herself as a “gentleman en déshabillé with a soft swagger of an overcoat” in order to get into “the male-only coffee houses and engage with the top minds” during the Age of Reason.
Or you could see modern practicality.
“How many times do you find yourself in a gallery or at a shopping mall where you feel too hot?” Griffiths asked backstage, arguing that some 18th-century ideas can find agency today.
There’s not much of an argument for bringing back pannier skirts, Watteau backs and corsets, though the latter looked pretty cool quilted in nylon or velvet poking out of elephant-leg pants.
But all these elements, along with grosgrain ribbons tied onto ponytails, added a romantic quality to the familiar blanket coats in teddy-bear fluff, the mannish tailoring and utility parkas in camel nylon. “Something to dream about,” Griffiths offered.
Max Mara staged its cruise show last year in the gardens of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal, and the brand funded the restoration of its galleries dedicated to the French Enlightenment. That got Griffiths curious about the period and led him to du Châtelet, whose translation of and commentary on the work of Isaac Newton won over the French scientific establishment.
“Her great forte as a woman was that with Newton, and with Voltaire, she improved their work,” he marveled.
Griffith joins a growing clutch of designers who shed light on underappreciated badass women from science and the arts — and he’s proving that historical figures and Max Mara make fine bedfellows. Recall that for Max Mara’s winning spring 2023 collection, he paid tribute to the timeless Riviera style of Renée Perle, the lover and frequent subject of French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue.
Perhaps Griffiths should next research some inspiring women around the court associated with the legendary King Arthur — if only so he can call the collection Camelot.