Max Mara Creative Director Ian Griffiths on the Power of Sketches – WWD

REGGIO EMILIA, Italy The metaverse, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are all hot, and photography is accessible to anyone anytime via any mobile device. But for Ian Griffiths, Creative Director of Max Mara, sketches remain a key part of his design process and are not a thing of the past at all.

“Through the sketch I perceive the intention of the creator, their spirit, which sometimes you don’t see in the final outfit, so the sketches are fundamental to getting back to their original intention,” Griffiths said.

The pool of sketches archived by the Max Mara Group is a treasure trove, painstakingly detailed, with tissue samples attached and – in many cases – bearing the handwritten notes of founder Achille Maramotti. “These sketches are documents that summarize the silhouettes, fabrics and details,” Griffiths said.

As Max Mara’s 70th birthday draws to a close this year, the British designer has taken the time to give WWD a tour of the company’s library and archives at a former 1910 hosiery factory in Reggio Emilia and restored in 2015. They cover three floors over 43,200 squares. feet and include 300,000 pieces, sketches, photos, advertisements and furniture, rugs, desks and paintings from old offices and shops, 350 magazines and 600 boxes of fabrics. There is also a priceless vintage collection of 8,000 branded designs and accessories donated by private collectors, such as Carine Roitfeld, which document the evolution of fashion in the 20th century.

The daughter of one of Max Mara’s early retailers, Laura Lusuardi, who is the fashion director of the group’s labels including Sportmax, Marina Rinaldi and Pennyblack, to name a few, has joined the house in 1960s and helped build the archives. , also buying back creations during his travels around the world, acquiring looks from Chanel and Madame Grès to Courrèges and Yves Saint Laurent.

Over the years, Max Mara has worked with such renowned names as Karl Lagerfeld, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Narciso Rodriguez. But, in keeping with Max Mara’s understated style, the brand took center stage, and the names of the designers never appeared – until Ian Griffiths, who joined the company in 1987, fresh off the mark. Royal College of Art, and winner of a Max Mara background in 1985. In 2005, with the blessing of Max Mara’s owners, the Maramotti family, Griffiths began to emerge as the brand’s lead designer.

“I was so honored, and it makes the brand’s narrative a lot richer when there is this kind of conversation,” he said.

In fact, Achille Maramotti was a pioneer in understanding how important it was to build what is now called a database and communicate with the press and the brand’s customers. Flipping through copies of archived magazines, such as Arianna, which Anna Piaggi successfully helped develop, Griffiths recalled how each season readers were asked to judge 50 numbered looks of Max Mara, which allowed Maramotti to store information about these readers, who were asked to provide their addresses.

“Their responses were very revealing of the women he wanted to attract,” Griffiths said, pointing to an article on divorce, which surprisingly inferred that “it wasn’t always the woman’s fault. That revolutionary tone of voice was adopted by Achille Maramotti, who was interested in feminism – not the type to burn bras, but to dress a smart, modern middle-class woman. He wanted to create the perfect outfit not for one woman at a time, but in series, which no one had thought of before.

And he spoke with customers to explain the then innovative concept of ready-to-wear.

Inspired by the styles of legendary French couturiers, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior in particular, Maramotti refined their designs with precise cuts, clean silhouettes and slender proportions towards a more fashionable Italian sensibility that was the signature of Max Mara.

The camel coat, which has become a staple of the brand, “was a symbol of male authority and has been revisited for women,” Griffiths said.

Coat designer Anne-Marie Beretta was instrumental in the 1980s by creating avant-garde shapes and cementing the success of the camel coat.

Along with his sketches, Max Mara meticulously saved the illustrations by Norma Robinson, Lagerfeld, Emmanuelle Khanh, Castelbajac and other designers who contributed to the brand’s success.

“It’s interesting how the sketches translate into the actual outfit, when you compare them to the end result,” he said.

Griffiths also recalled how Maramotti pioneered the concept of capsule collections, asking the then girl and Dior model Lison Bonfils to design a capsule in the early ’60s – also in the archives.

The sketches also reflect changes and variations made over the years on Max Mara’s bestsellers, such as the Manuela dress-shaped coat launched in the 90s, or the 101801, as well as the Teddy Bear Coat, a most recent success of the creator. , and reinterpreted in new and fun ways.

“It’s a luxury business, but we want to make things that will last, investments for life, real clothes for real women, aligned with the founder’s goal,” Griffiths said.

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