Really, who didn’t play bed-sheets-couture dress-up, even once during the year of endless lockdowns? Those fabulous, voluminous duvet garments Francesco Risso offered in his Marni autumn-winter 2021 surely had this sort of stay-at-home-laziness origin. But this collection isn’t another mumbling about “fancy” home-wear. When fashion weeks went digital and wardrobes turned domestic, designers faced new pressures from the marketing machine. “People came to me saying, ‘It has to be digital savvy; it has to be digital friendly; it has to go through the screen,’” Francesco Risso recalled. “Fuck that.”Posed with designing his second Marni collection in Italian lockdown, he asked himself: how do we respond to times of continued separation? Do we surrender to a digital overthrow, or do we fight back with all the things cyberspace could never give us: the human hand, tactility, and the chemistry of nature? “To me, it’s been revelatory,” Risso told Vogue. Developed almost entirely by hand, the collection became a quest for understanding what triggers a romantic state of mind. He found his answer: “Life! Life is romantic. A life that allows for laughs, for positive thinking, and definitely not for abandoning the feeling of the hand that makes things.”His search materialized in the tongue-in-cheek transformation of the sportswear and loungewear codes of lockdown into real dressmaking, expressed in silhouettes informed by the classic silhouettes of haute couture. Inevitably, it generated a ladylike romanticism conveyed through Risso’s countercultural lens: a chic wrap was abstracted into a puffer cape, but retained its neat little plume trim; a mermaid skirt morphed with sweatpants; and tennis trainers sharpened into evening shoes. Paradoxically, Risso had started his search for romanticism by dyeing everything black. Wanting to witness the power of nature, he placed his all-black garments in the Marni courtyard, embellished them with real flowers, and watched the sun do its magic. “The corrosion made our prints,” he explained. Then, he took his tricks to the factories, girding himself with the patience needed to watch age-old dyeing techniques do their thing through the soak-dry-wait, soak-dry-wait ceremonies necessary. “It’s cathartic,” Risso said. “This patience has been romantic…not forcing it because it ‘has to be digital.’” Screened on Zoom, the presentation portrayed a familiar lockdown situation shot in Risso’s Milanese apartment. It turned into a salon show and culminated in the kind of lunch we are all looking forward to – with a performance by Mykki Blanco. “I hope we’re not going to forget all we’ve learned,” Risso said about the still abstract-sounding ‘reemergence’ that will sooner or later come. “It’s about narrowing things down and not wasting time and not making bullshit clothes. It’s about being more focused.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.