For ardent followers of the Max Mara brand, Italian luxury and finesse are sure by products. Founded in 1951 by Achille Maramotti, the fashion mainstay has been a go-to port for wearable yet intricate ready-to-wear pieces for over 70 years, instantly recognisable from its iconic Max Mara coat and structured suiting to casual leather good offerings and classic accessories. Max Mara’s aim remains unwavering and that is to create visionary, luxurious garments that are also suitable for everyday life. This message was ever-present for the brand’s spring/summer 2023 offering, too. Unveiled in September last year, creative director Ian Griffiths took to the idea of historical muses. In the case of this collection, he honed in on Romanian-Jewish model Renée Perle, who was also known to be the muse of French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. Expressed through a newfound gaze, however, it is unveiled that she was so much more.
“I was thinking about the extraordinary explosion of creativity that happened on the French Riviera in the 1920s and 1930s, an explosion that spawned a sartorial style that is still modern today. The French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue is credited as a big factor in the formation of that style, but it strikes me that credit is due to the subject of his pictures, Renée Perle. After all, the look was all her own work, from the finger wave hair to the smudgy dark eye, to the enormous canvas palazzo pants and sun hat,” shares Griffiths when asked about the inspiration behind Max Mara’s spring/summer 2023 collection. The British designer strongly affirms that the term ‘muse’ is one that unknowingly restricts instead of celebrates. He describes this as a leap from “muse to maestro” and if his mood board for the season was anything to go by, filtered by the likes of Josephine Baker and Dora Maar, the Max Mara woman was even more so etched out for all to see; specifically in the glory of the style of the Riviera.
This manifested in a few ways on the runway. For one, the line-up honed in on the beauty of various types of hats. Some models sported oversized, glamorous versions, while others donned vintage-reminiscent skull caps. Then came the billowing silhouettes. Maxi dresses were aplenty in hues like tan and black, draping dramatically at the hem; supple and elegant shirts were paired with rippling skirts, glued together by the same hue, and chunky and thick knits were paired atop slim trousers.
“The explosion of creativity that happened on the French Riviera in the 1920’s and 1930’s spawned a style that is still modern today.”
“The allure of rustic fabrics such as linen make a very welcome comeback. Workwear with capacious pockets give a cool slouchy attitude especially when thrown over one of the bias-cut skirts. We reimagined our three most iconic coats in a bleached-out double face, just like a favourite beach gown to wear with a knitted bodysuit like a 1930s beauty. And the last word goes to the giant graphic floral prints. They have a hand-drawn feel similar to the style of Renée’s charming faux naïf self-portraits,”explains Griffiths. “The key word is elegance. A woman whose beauty stems from her natural grace and intelligence.”
Perle’s wardrobe, in particular, is spelt out. The clothes she donned make an appearance on the runway as well, in the form of backless tank tops, sailor pants, the above mentioned hats and slinky skirts, elegance personified. Upon closer inspection, one is privy to the various textures and materials that have seeped into this spring/summer 2023 assortment. Case in point: unprocessed, undyed linen that mimics burlap, raw hems and soft, fluffy cotton.
“The key word is elegance. A woman whose beauty stems from her natural grace and intelligence.”
And as imagined by the brand: “Did Renée Perle and Eileen Gray ever meet? Max Mara imagines that they did; two women with a shared vision of modernity stepping out onto the E1027 terrace. Blinking in the morning light, we see them raise their smiling faces to meet the glittering blue horizon.”
Order your copy of the April ‘Pop’ issue of Vogue Singapore online or pick it up on newsstands on 13 April 2023.