If there was a person in the room who wasn’t filled with a surge of joy, or at the very least a smile, by the end of Antonio Marras’ fabulous spring show, then there’s probably no hope for her or him. The set started as a charmingly rough-hewn retro beauty parlor, where black women sat under dryers flipping through magazines, and ended as a jubilant dance party when the salon patrons cast off their robes, each grabbing a male partner and breaking into the twist and other old-school moves.
Marras’ message was one of positivity, freedom and the beauty of cross-cultural integration. He didn’t preach; he celebrated. Always intensely story-driven, this time the collection was inspired by Malick Sidibé’s photographs of life after Mali gained independence in 1960, opening the kids’ eyes to rock ‘n’ roll, Western fashion and technology, as the older generation upheld traditions. The resulting mix of ideas, styles and attitudes — old world and new — was reflected exquisitely in the clothes.
Marras created harmony out of dissonance, fusing things like raw, patchworked denim or military parkas with delicate floral embroideries and lace; Fifites/Sixties style party dresses with sarongs; varsity jackets with sophisticated tailoring.
Collage, patchworking and hybridism were everywhere — on a gingham shirtdress with colorful floral embroideries and lace; a loose tunic with knotted sleeves done in a print with figures that looked like Kara Walker’s work was spliced with lace and brocade pants and worn over a jumbo black and white checked skirt. There was so much to take in, so much going on — too much to list here — but Marras brought everything together with a lovely sense of liberation and grace. For all the different elements — gingham, batik, chintz rosebuds, fringe, animal prints — nothing looked sloppy. In his show notes Marras stressed the idea of rhythm, relating life to dance. The clothes had an addictive beat.