How wonderful to end Milan on a high note, one that spoke directly to fashion’s ability to make us happy — not in the forever-after sense, but in that intimate moment of dressing to see and be seen, to experience life. That’s what Antonio Marras’ collection was about, and the message felt important.
There’s a (fashion) proletarian grit to Marras’ aesthetic that transports luxury — and his clothes certainly are that — to a place most brands don’t take in earnest, one earthy and raw. This season’s inspiration was a young crush of the artist Modigliani, who as an adolescent visitor to Sardinia, where his well-to-do father owned a mine, fell in love with a girl named Medea, and painted her, one of his early works. He learned at some point later that she had died of tuberculosis, from which he also suffered.
Marras focused not on the tragedy of young death, but on the life of the local miners and their Sunday habit of dressing up for revelry and preening. He imagined their of lack of means forced them to get creative, using scraps of anything they could find — tweeds, laces, embroideries — to gussy up their sober, workaday clothes. The gambit perfectly suited the decorative pastiches the designer loves, his inventive combinations of humble and high-minded materials creating a powerful argument for the veracity of high-low élan.
Make that high-low and wearable. Marras’ work oozes artfulness. To wit, this time, his large studio was set up and an artist’s salon-cum-atelier, filled with the trappings of a visual eccentric — mismatched, aged seating; easels and frames, on floor and walls, some bearing art, others awaiting that next great work. Yet there’s an underlying reality to the clothes, even an off-beat practicality that Marras recently determined to telegraph from his runway. It’s working; Neiman Marcus bought the spring collection for Hudson Yards and Los Angeles, which will give the brand renewed major-store presence in the U.S. after a four-year absence.
For fall, Marras started with vintage parkas — 50 of them, for women and men — and had his way with them, affixing fabric collages to their surfaces and splicing them with tweeds and Aran knits. These anchored many of his pilings — jackets over skirts over dresses over shirts in wantonly unlike fabrics — diaphanous laces, luminous jacquards, men’s wear standards, chunky knits, crisp cottons. The pilings reflected Marras’s non-literal thought process, as silhouettes derived a bit from diverse references — Poiret, flappers, the Depression — but mostly from the designer’s ebullient imagination in his pairings of embellished, gutsy sweaters over diaphanous skirts; exquisite dresses, some multilayered yet airy as a breeze, others tiered, structured froth. But then he’d pull back with a simple white tent shirt over black cropped pants or a narrow pinstriped suit with embellished jacket. Ditto the men’s’ wear, variously dandified and utilitarian, sometimes in the same look.
The show ended with a boisterous fete, the denizens of Marras’ Sardinia swilling Champagne, dancing and celebrating the upside of life — fashion included. Salute to that!