Max Mara Resort 2025: In Venice, Looking East

VENICE — There’s much more to Venice than the postcard, romantic idea tourists from all over the world bring back home with them, and Ian Griffiths is helping us remember that, while we dust off our history books.

For Max Mara’s resort 2025 collection, the brand’s creative director turned to Marco Polo, the Venetian merchant who traveled from Europe to Asia in the 13th century, living in China for 17  years, and his book, “Il Milione” or “The Travels of Marco Polo,” describing his experiences. This year marks the 700th anniversary of his death, and several exhibitions are set up around the world, including one at Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s Palace, where Max Mara unveiled its collection on Tuesday evening — a stunning Gothic location overlooking the lagoon.

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Griffiths was interested in the concept of luxury as a starting point and said during a preview interview that “nobody did more than Marco Polo to open up trade between East and West. And that was a very light kind of referencing point I wanted to make in the collection, how the cooperative trade between East and West produced beneficial results all over the world. Where better to talk about luxury than the place where luxury was practically invented by Marco Polo and people like him? He really set off this huge market in trade of luxury goods around the world.”

Thus the choice to stage the resort show in Venice, after Stockholm last year.  “This city is so magical, and sometimes you have to remind yourself that it was built on lucrative trade. Trade produced beauty then as it does now; I mean, if we look at the fashion industry, which is a trade, it’s producing and supporting the arts, as it did then,” Griffiths continued.

Having said that, the designer was quick to underscore that he was “not doing a BBC costume drama about Venice. And so I’m glad that I’m not a student at college who might be assessed on my faithfulness to my research material, because I’ve allowed myself some liberty.” In fact, the inspiration was not literal, only “vaguely influenced by the time of Marco Polo and the countries through which he traveled, but it’s designed as a wardrobe to be worn by a competent modern woman.”

And so it was — sophisticated, ready for any boardroom, but still feminine and even delicate, as seen in the feather-light shirtdresses or silk shirt-and-short combos.

Griffiths conceded the collection was somewhat more elaborate than usual and included more patterns than one is used to seeing at Max Mara, such as the knits with geometric, triangular motifs. But he never took the theme too far. Damask patterns with an Eastern mood were also rendered lightly, with sparkling golden threads or tone-on-tone, as “flashy” isn’t a word that exists in Griffiths’ dictionary. Richly woven patterns featured stylized floral motifs associated with Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and the Chinese concept of yin and yang.

This being Max Mara, it was hard to choose the best coat — cue Kate Hudson, who wore a long black belted model as a dress and looked sensational, seated next to Brie Larson and Yara Shahidi, talking about the next phase of her career as a successful singer. After all, Griffiths himself described the attitude of the collection as “slightly debonair, swaggering, even swashbuckling.”

Polo spent 20 years at the court of Kublai Khan in Mongolia, where camel and cashmere wools continue to be produced and which were also traded on the so-called Silk Road, and one had to stop oneself from reaching out and stroking the camel coats on the runway. There was also a simple sleeveless camel column gown that was a head-turner. A trench with a mosaic motif that sparkled with touches of gold was spectacular and Griffiths unveiled a new Teddy Coat embroidered with delicate gemstones in hues from cream to gold and brown running down the sleeves and the sides that was a great way to evolve one of the brand’s signature items. The gold mosaic motif was also reprised on ribbed sweaters.

Knits were shown with an intriguing embroidered pattern that seemed unfinished or with padded and quilted sleeves.

Griffiths paid a lot attention to collars and cuffs, sometimes rendered similar to elongated handkerchiefs, and puff sleeves, or with balloon shapes reminiscent of  medieval blouses. Other details included oversized silk tassels used for belts and chunky drawstrings.

Shapes were long and lean, as in a belted pantsuit with a sleeveless jacket or short, with leggy looks and several miniskirts.

This collection was especially personal for Griffiths as the four final looks were reprised from the designer’s graduation collection at Manchester Polytechnic. Back then, he was influenced by his Interrail trip around Europe, and Venice was part of the stops. He recalled being “really fascinated by the monumentality of Italian churches, and St. Mark’s in particular, the mosaics, which formed the basis of my final collection when I was leaving college” back in 1985.

Asked how he felt about working with these designs again, he said “they meant so much to me at the time, that I felt quite defensive about people touching them even, it was a result of months, months and months of  work. I worked with Ossie Clark on the patterns for those. So it really was an important project. I’m sure it meant absolutely nothing to anyone else because it wasn’t their college degree project. But it represents my beginning.”

“I thought it would be interesting to look at them again 40 years later, to see how I’d interpreted the theme of Venice.”

The flowing tunics were worn with giant turbans made by Stephen Jones and didn’t look a day older.

Launch Gallery: Max Mara Resort 2025 Ready-to-Wear Collection

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