Sunlight. Marni SS23

The appearance of Italian brands on the New York Fashion Week schedule brought major action to the city. First Fendi kicked off the fashion marathon. Then, Marni‘s Francesco Risso delivered one of his finest collections for the brand to date. Making Marni’s NYC debut on a Brooklyn street nestled under a bridge, the trains audibly rumbling overhead, was a natural step for Risso, who has appreciated the city’s creative spirit for years. Everyone from Paloma Elsesser to Tyler Mitchell to Lara Stone appeared on the runway; a cast of models and friends walked to a live soundtrack written by Dev Hynes and performed by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn. Gorgeous, hallucinogenic, searingly bright colors; distressed mohair; papery leathers; mystical cobwebs of beads; and psychedelic panne velvets, the pieces punctuated every now and then by enormous and the chicest-ever squashy courier bags, their no-nonsense utilitarian shape turned off-kilter by their puffy aeration. The collection was a signature Marni line-up, but also felt very new-gen New York. “I’ve been wanting to explore for a while,” Risso said. “It means understanding things from a different perspective, connecting with different people. It feels refreshing. There’s a lot of learning as well, and I’m up for that every fucking second. Ever since America opened its borders last December I’ve been here, I don’t know, maybe 20 times. Still,” he went on, “it’s not really news, because everyone is out in some other realm in some way or other.”

Risso’s arrival stateside feels like it comes from a place of curiosity, of challenge, of risk: how can we get out of the moribund, straight-back-to-business way of doing things? The answer: maybe destabilize and decentralize it all, stop putting the designer on a pedestal, start to rethink all the relationships between brand, creator, audience, and those actually buying the stuff. Come together, join forces. “It’s not the ’90s anymore,” he said, “when brands spoke in very defined ways. Now you have to talk universally.” In regard to that last assertion, with his spring 2023 collection, Risso put his clothes where his mouth is. With a color palette inspired by the changing light over the course of a day in the Italian countryside (something he observed while holidaying in his homeland), he offered up a strong lineup that felt more streamlined and minimalistic than those he has done lately, despite the intense colorations and textures going on. Filmy rib knits contoured close to the body, some with “sleeves” trailing from the waistband or extra neckholes, which created circular décolleté cutouts, regardless of the gender wearing them. “The body is completely the protagonist in this collection,” Risso said. “Everything is built in jerseys, knitwear, things that, actually, go with the body rather than against it. Even the leather is the softest leather that exists.” The collection had other conceits based on the circle, be it the swooping looped trains on the dresses or the groovy abstract sunrises rendered on satin tees and minidresses. As for Risso, he is already thinking about where on earth the sun might rise on his next Marni collection. He’s in no rush to go back to Milan, not until the brand’s 30th anniversary in 2024 at least. Travel does more than just broaden the mind, in his view. “I can’t wait to be on the other side of the planet,” he said, “but, also, to see how it can burst the bubbles that we like to create in fashion.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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