In a nutshell, what's the Spring/Summer 2020 collection about?
Well, I read an awful lot. Natasha Walters is a feminist writer, and that was a source of inspiration. There's been a resurgence of spy fiction, and it's a genre that people are returning to because it's dark and dangerous, exciting, thrilling, and glam – like the glam world of James Bond. And then (British spy thriller television series) Killing Eve came along and all the protagonists in there are women. There's also the Bond film that's written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. So I wanted to explore for the collection the idea of women in film, and I imagined this story where a woman goes for a briefing in London's Whitehall in the greys from the collection, and goes to the restaurants in Mayfair – where I like to go – wearing the black and white prints. The military pieces in pastels are tongue-in-cheek, as Phoebe Waller-Bridge would do. And then in the evening, our heroine would hop on a helicopter with her dress fluttering in the wind. Thank goodness for Max Mara!
The use of pastels and grey really comes through in the collection. Is there ever any pressure to use Max Mara's signature camel in all the collections?
I don't necessarily need to use camel, but beige is just a part of the Max Mara world. Tan colours, off-white and neutrals are just naturally part of the Max Mara lexicon. Every season, we experiment with colours – it's pastels this season, Fall/Winter 2019 had brights and Cruise 2020 featured red. I never feel limited to colours – camel is a universe, and we can make a new shape or give it a twist. Camel has an iconic power and it assumes authority.
The fashion world got a really powerful moment when Kaia Gerber, Bella and Gigi Hadid, and Joan Smalls came down the Max Mara runway...
I wanted to show powerful women enjoying themselves, smiling and celebrating sisterhood – a sense of feeling good and being in control. It was also a statement about the brand showing respect to different people and areas.
The brand has an archive that spans almost 70 years. Which pieces in particular did you look at for the Spring/Summer 2020 collection?
The military pieces and trench coats were the ones that I picked. In the '80s, Anne Marie Baretta, who designed the 101801 coat, was the queen of the raincoat – she loved military styling. When I visit the archives, it could be twice a day, once a week or once a month, I take my sketchbook and feel all the history that's around.
The pieces that you're most proud of in the collection are...
The long dresses. People don't necessarily associate long dresses with Max Mara. We have bias-cut dresses and also skirts that we paired with jackets. I wanted to do something more feminine – that wasn't necessarily romantic. The looks are still quite sharp with the military caps. There's a grit and edge because Max Mara isn't romantic. I do love designing coats, obviously – and it's also nice to explore new territory. In the Spring/Summer 2020 collection, we also did the 101801 with a bias-cut and diagonal seams. There's a kind of freedom, and doing Spring collections sometimies feels like I'm having a bit of a holiday!
At Max Mara, despite the very recognisable codes, each collection still looks very distinct. How do you play that balancing act?
I think we have to resist collections looking the same, and resist repeating ideas. We present the icons in each collection, but in different ways. For me, each collection needs to look like different chapters in different stories. And I divide the collections in a physical way – I work in one room for a collection that's presented in Milan, and in a different room for a Cruise shoe. The physical space helps to stop the collections from blurring into one.
How much of social media do you keep in mind while designing?
We don't design for social media – that comes later. Actually, Max Mara isn't designed for the runway either. It's about real clothes. When we work with influencers, we want to present a real situation that the final consumer can identify with. Rather than looking like fantasy, we want reality. We are creative, but for real women.
What do you make of this season's focus on sustainability?
We are very serious about what we say and won't make false claims. Max Mara will formulate serious policies on sustainability. I believe it's about thinking creatively and looking at different ways of doing things. For example, what we are already doing is that when we cut out coats, we upcycle spare parts – what we put in our jackets isn't feather or down, but the upcycled parts of our coat material. And Max Mara coats aren't fast fashion – they're built to last. I think the fashion industry will rise to the challenge.
What can we expect from Max Mara in 2020?
The narrative will continue! While I said that Max Mara is never romantic, I will say that there is some romanticism creeping in with certain motifs and details. While I don't want to give too much away, this will be a continuing design theme for the year.
First seen in the February 2020 issue of L'Officiel Singapore