Finding your allocated seat at Marni’s A/W 18 show was tricky. Making your way in the low light, gravel crunching under your feet - only to discover a random object to sit on. There were no rows, no benches, but clusters of boxes and suitcases, and strange finds like a radiator, a wooden rocking horse or a plastic car from an amusement park. It was surprising, confusing - and actually fun.
For the designer Francesco Risso, who was appointed as Marni creative director in 2016, fun and its creative potential were at the core of the collection. 'I really wanted to let myself go and have fun and to invite people to have fun. In Italian, the word divertire means to have fun, but also to change direction, change one’s approach to things', Risso explained backstage. 'Creating this collection was almost like making a journal, connecting infinite dots in the Solar system. The principle is not to have any principles, to live through the experience, and make people do the same.'
Risso’s third menswear show for Marni opened with large beautifully tailored coats, followed by voluminous suits covered with drawings of monkeys, chairs and musical instruments by Frank Navin. From structured garments it graduated to softer textures: cosy duffel coats (Risso pointed out the floor-length black and white check one as one of his favourite garments this season), striped blankets and robes. The story here, however, was by no means about staying indoors — more about venturing into the unknown. The softness was balanced out by the rougher shine of protective practical garments, like half-zipped overalls, and chunky rubber boots.
Risso’s vision for Marni certainly reflects the changes in contemporary menswear in the last couple of years. Gone are those days when you could only do it one way: today the boundaries are shifting, and there is a place for a great plurality of shapes and fits, for proportions and disproportions, for the serious and the playful. Patchwork is the fitting approach for the 21st century: patterns, textures and sizes all go into one pot. The free-thinking approach is not only about the design, but the attitude: an ochre suit on the runway looked crumpled like straight out of a suitcase — and it looked great. And today, offering a new attitude or a new way to wear a garment is almost as valuable as a new garment itself.
'With this collection I wanted to go on a journey to different worlds and different states of mind,' the designer added. 'Experiencing the Everest, experiencing the lost campfire, or a dangerous tunnel in the city, or even your bed. It’s journey that we have to take together.' The invite for the show could perhaps serve as a guidance: shaped like a turquoise school copybook with translucent plastic pages filled with disjoined words and phrases. Some jumped out as an uncannily fitting commentary on the state of today’s world shaped by media:
'No pope ever visits a city where newspapers are on strike.'
'Injustice, strong and sane, will break out radiantly in their eyes.'
'Maybe everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other.'
Disjoined letters littered the pages, like constant noise surrounding us, like our Tweets and Facebook updates, like all the fire and the fury.
Menswear has always been a good place to look for reflection of the current affairs. Today we exist in a permanent state of anxiety. We’re on this journey together, and it often reminds one of that dangerous tunnel in the city. Having the right gear for the journey is important. Risso’s Marni radiates rare fearlessness and optimism. No wonder, when asked if he makes menswear for today or for tomorrow, he doesn’t skip a beat and immediately answers 'for tomorrow.'