#SuzyMFW: Lively History Lessons
Marras: Imagination with immigration
The sheer joy of dancers prancing across the stone floor of the Antonio Maras show was exhilarating. Especially as these figures had, just minutes before, been lurching around as if on the deck of a boat deck in a swelling sea.
Then they were half dressed, dipping and diving, clutching at air as the imaginary boat swayed. But at the end, these people had reached their destination, where they danced to the exuberant music of the Jewish celebration song Hava Nagila.
For Antonio Marras, Italy’s fashion’s poet, the story was personal. In a little booklet, his wife Patrizia, created the story of a genuine sailor who might have been a distant relative. His name was John Marras, who sailed to America and to Constantinople, where he became painter to the sultan.
On stage, this story was about immigrants by any other name; and in three separate ‘acts’ the designer showed the sadness of parting, the nervousness of sailing and the joy of arrival. The travellers – dressed at the outset in scarlet and black, then adopting quieter colours – in the three passages reflected life on the ocean wave below the deck, in cabin class and, finally, on the upper deck.
“The catwalk is the deck of the show and there are three breaks with performers interpreting working class, middle class and upper class,” Maras explained. “By the time they are Americans in New York, they are dancing like in a musical. They start as working class but when they get to America they are first class – so it’s a positive message.”
The outfits were therefore staged to begin, endure and celebrate their journey to the new land. Sometimes the clean-cut clothes were decorated with poppies or roses placed on sheer tulle. Or the same flower pattern was sewn into a roll-neck sweater or a checkered jacket. The overall effect was cleaner cut and more sporty than in a typical Marras show. Although a men’s bomber jacket was smothered in jet embroidery and red satin roses, a segment of tailored outfits for both sexes were streamlined and simple.
There is always something quaint and charming about Antonio Marras’s work, but this time there was a deeper meaning to the exuberant creation of nearly 100 outfits.
“I hope that people can see in this story a positive message,” said Marras. “These were the first immigrants to America. And even fashion people cannot forget what is happening around us.”
Etro: Making craft post-modern
Veronica Etro always has a story to tell, but she gave the big news first: “No paisley!” Or, at least, the signature pattern was no longer the superstar of the collection. The designer was referring to her family company’s heartland. But, while keeping a familiar mix of vivid colour and print, as seen on the backstage mood board, she was taking a different direction – especially in technique.
“I treated print to replace embroidery – each like a scientist placing the patterns,” she explained. “They were moulded by hand, working on these little boards. I brought them here because it gives an idea of the workmanship.”
“Prints and knitwear show how we make arts and crafts modern,” she continued. “It takes place from the Wild West landscape of endless horizons in South America, Patagonia, Peru – it could be anywhere. What I really wanted in the prints was to create something new, taking inspiration from Art Deco. But I still wanted the prints to be more manual, not so rigid. So, I gave them a lot of space and colour – and I tried to place them in the ethnic/Futurism mix.”
Phew! I was already overwhelmed by Veronica’s idea of handmade earthiness. Yet on the runway, her words – and her clothes – seemed less overwhelming: cosy shawls with fringes and warm, dusty colours balanced with geometric stripes of the post-modern era.
Although the designer was trying to put the arts and crafts element of the brand to one side, she actually created a fine synthesis of sophistication and a down-home folk element. That appeared at the beginning of the show as bold shawls with fringed headline facing off a midi dress with geometric patterns. From the runway – itself a marvel of stretched geometric patterning – it was impossible to tell if the motifs on a sweater were rustic knitting or sophisticated intarsia. And so it was with many of the pieces, such as an apparently chiffon dress which had a spider’s web of fringing.
Rather than untangling the complex creations, it seemed better to sit back and let the eyes focus on a fringed shawl with bright stripes worn over a dress covered with a garden scenario and finished off by rigid checks. Mix and match is Veronica’s stock in trade. Although maybe she could have included something as simple as she wore herself: a patterned and fringed cardigan over a vertically striped shirt and a pair of blue jeans.