Why Do I Make Clothes? Marni AW23

Marni‘s autumn-winter 2023 collection by Francesco Risso felt like a big shift. Not only because it was presented in Tokyo (Marni travels the world – last season, the brand opened New York Fashion Week), although that certainly became a new context for comprehending what this Italian label stands for today. The Yoyogi National Gymnasium, the fashion show’s spectacular venue, was built by the architect Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Summer Olympics. It’s a structure, as Risso pointed out, “both rigorous and intimate – it looks to the future while keeping a feel of enveloping protection, like if you were in a womb.” This way of balancing discipline and humanity, cutting-edge design and domesticity, connects with the soul-searching Risso has been doing on the meaning of making clothes. “Here in Japan I’ve found a profound sense of patience, of stillness, of respect, something that in the West I believe we’re losing.” He continued: “We’re surrounded by futility. After three years of pandemic, where we all have been vocal about the changes we wanted in the system, to slow down, etc., we’re back to square one. We are again devoured by the brutality of the algorithm.”Going back to the love he feels for his metier keeps him grounded. At the show, on each of the paper-covered seats, he left a handwritten letter whose opening line asked: “why do I make clothes?” For the Marni creative director, clothes are living creatures, they touch, breath, move; it’s a love dance, a sentimental relationship: “Because they’re our companions, and there’s more to them than just air kisses. I don’t know if I make clothes that people need, or if I make clothes that need people, or if I make clothes for the people that I urgently need to need the clothes that need them… What I do know is that today we need less and less clothes that are needless.”

White is a non-color that speaks of absence, but also of clarity. It is a carte blanche on which new words are ready to be written. Wrapping the arena in white paper spoke of a desire for simplicity, for reducing noise and distractions. But Risso is no minimalist, and even if he preached rigor and linearity, the collection had presence, density, and punch. He traded his usual slightly bonkers decorations for starker, elemental graphics, and reduced the palette to a few saturated primary colors: yellow and red playing against white and black. Every look was an all-over proposition, and for both men and women in the mostly local cast (plus Marni favorites like Paloma Elsesser and Angel Prost), silhouettes alternated between slender and form-fitting and bulky and bulbous. Tailoring was offered in oversized versions, and knitwear, a Marni forte, had fuzzy mohair surfaces, as in the jumbo round-cut piuminos that were among the collection’s standouts. The swirling, magical motifs of sirens and unicorns of previous outings were nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by kinetic grids and optical checks, and by slightly Yayoi-Kusama-esque bouncing dots of various sizes. Rectangular tunics and angular apron dresses contrasted with form-fitting, heart-shaped bustier dresses that were kept neat rather than sensual. Cocoons in padded leather or wool conveyed enveloping, comforting warmth. “It’s a collection with one foot in tradition and the other in a not-impossible future,” he said backstage. “It’s a sort of rhythmic alternation of proud normality and proud creativity.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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