It’s quite shocking how good Max Mara is latey. Ian Griffiths is becoming the patron saint of overlooked and underestimated historical “muses.” Following his resort reassessment of fabulous-’50s Lisbon radical Natália Correia, for sping-summer 2023 Griffiths turned his restorative eye two decades earlier. It focused on Renée Perle, a lover and much-snapped subject of early alpha-photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue. “But she also painted all these self-portraits that were absolutely panned by the critics,” said Griffiths. Then there was Eileen Gray, who designed her own feminocratic ideal of the modernist house, the Villa E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, in 1929. This was much coveted by Le Corbusier, who painted murals in its interior while staying there and was sometimes even wrongly credited with its wonderful design. As Griffiths suggested, both women were cast as muses – objects of masculine inspiration – rather than artists who were themselves inspired. The irony in the benevolently meant result of Griffiths’s rehabilitation mission was that while seeking to recast Perle’s and Gray’s place in history he was also to a degree reinforcing it. For there they were behind him as he spoke, fabulously frozen in time but pinned to his mood board like butterflies. Griffiths’s excavation of these histories allowed him to pitch this collection as a redemption song, but it also provided the designer, whose college tutor in the 1970s was Ossie Clark, to engage with gusto in the fashion conversations that echo between the 1930s and that decade. Yet it would have been remiss for a collection predicated on elevating unacknowledged female cultural protagonists to reject the full-blown “feminine,” and this was delivered in swooping backless dresses worn with doorframe-wide sun hats and a trio of swimwear-inspired citrus looks topped with Esther Williams–worthy swimming-cap hats. A closing bunch of hand-drawn floral gowns and separates, sometimes hitched to trailing bow-tied strips of organza, drew the veil on another dreamy Max Mara meander.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
This season, some really delightful looks appeared on the Max Mara runway. Backstage, Ian Griffiths presided over a moodboard pinned with images of the work of Sophie Taeuber-Arp, who was closely affiliated with the Dada movement. Taeuber-Arp is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York showcasing a prodigious career that spanned genres: textiles, marionettes, interior and architectural designs, furniture, paintings, relief sculptures, and photographs. Griffiths said he was attracted by the way she invested even everyday objects with magic and mystery. “After the last two years, we’re craving magic,” he said. Active between the two World Wars, the Dadaists rejected nationalism and violence, which made her an all too apt muse on a day when Russia attacked Ukraine. Griffiths used the shapes of marionettes Taeuber-Arp made for a restaging of the 18th century play “The King Stag” as templates for his designs; they informed the bulbous silhouettes of short skirts and the articulated arms of sweaters. Whimsy was the desired effect of the teddy bear material, which he cut not just into oversized enveloping coats, but also full skirts both short and long, and even sweatpants. These pieces were juxtaposed by others with a more utilitarian bent. Parachute pants with zips up the calves had a smart adaptability; add a second-skin turtleneck and a tailored jacket and a woman would be ready for anything. All this marched out on gum-soled over-the-knee sock boots, which got the playful/practical balance that Griffiths was after exactly right.
When a show isn’t worth a post that much, but one specific look needs the spotlight. A small, commute-fit dispatch from Milan. Leave the big posts for the evening!
Agnona / I nearly forgot about the existence of this brand, when I suddenly spotted this one specific look. Its brilliance measures from the top to the bottom, from the knit’s fur back to the denim skirt-pants hybrid tacked in the boots.
Emilio Pucci / This is what you call a fringe. A fringed hat. And it’s green. Massimo Gioretti is mad this season at Pucci, but I quite like his vision of an aristocratic dame.
Max Mara / Red is hot and Max Mara gets the point this season.
Bottega Veneta / Eva Herzigova opened the show in this shoulder-pad top and luxe sweatpants as if she was the embodiment of power. Oh wait, she is.
Stella Jean / Known for her great love for everything ethnic, there was no wonder that Stella would sooner or later go for Slavic culture. From peasant shirts and hand-embroidered folklore skirts to fur vests and remastered ‘hammer and sickle’ t-shirt, that was a Mother Russia moment in Milan.