At the Salone del Mobile fair last April, design enthusiasts filtered into Marni’s Milanese showroom, an industrial space whose concrete floors had been softened with swaths of white fabric draped from ceiling to wall and dabbed with faded citron- or blush-colored patches. In this makeshift tent, a sprawling table for 100 was set, the surrounding milky-white chairs seemingly covered in papier-mâché. Botanical sketches, made directly on the tablecloth, appeared to continue on the plates and saucers. The scene immediately sent up a flare for Marni loyalists. Though the Italian house has sporadically offered various items of furniture and homeware over the years through its line of offbeat woven accessories made by artisans in Colombia, it had yet to offer anything to serve entrées on or pour coffee into.
Launching this month, Marni’s Midnight Flowers collection comprises dinner and side plates, teacups and saucers, and bowls of various depths. With his bohemian philosophy, Marni creative director Francesco Risso opted against partnering with classic porcelain makers out of, say, Limoges, instead joining forces with Serax, the Belgium-based design brand founded in 1986 that is responsible for the tabletop lines of fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester and the delightful eclectic collaboration between Levantine chef Yotam Ottolenghi and Sicilian architect Ivo Bisignano. The Marni collaboration resulted in a 123-piece collection of tableware that is so in keeping with the designer’s spirit, it could very well have walked the runway, clutched by models in the brand’s power-clashing ensembles. “I’m fascinated by porcelain, and the way I collect pieces is quite emotional,” says Risso. “I like to merge different creations without specific rules as the result is always quite interesting—a nonhomogeneous ensemble that conveys my moods.”
The fashion house is known for its adroit use of off-kilter patterns, which, in the skilled hands of Risso, convey a cerebral, never-twee aesthetic that is no less reflected in this new line. The shapes and silhouettes of Midnight Flowers are unpretentious and slightly asymmetrical. Plates are simply circular; bowls are shaped like the bulbous end of an egg. Floral line drawings—developed by Risso and inspired by the Marni archives—wind their way across the collection, whimsical doodles that could pass as flower studies by a particularly precocious child. A level of perfection that erases the human hand defeats the purpose for Risso: “Since the beginning, we explored the notions of discipline and creative chaos, but also the meaning of tactility.”
Risso has long embraced this sort of frenzied creativity. Since taking the reins at Marni in 2016, he’s undone a few buttons on the veritable Marni blouse; the label has learned to take itself less seriously. (Case in point: Marni’s iconic mohairs have become increasingly more Muppet-like.) At home, Risso has personalized all of the curtains in his quirky, color-filled apartment. “There’s no piece of fabric here that hasn’t been painted,” he said earlier to Vogue. “It’s about lines and freehand.” Hovering above his kitchen table, meanwhile, are plants with fronds so long that they puddle on the surface. The scene is not unlike the energetic, verdant Salone installation strewn with flora. The message? No quiet luxury here. Risso wants your table to shout for joy.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.