MFW Day Two: Max Mara's Bonjour Tristesse in Bocconi
A smooth and subtle collection of post-lockdown clothes at Max Mara, inspired by the great feminist and existentialist novel 'Bonjour Tristesse.'
Francoise Sagan’s tale of a worldly young woman’s idyllic summer sojourn on the French Riviera – published when she was 18 - shocked the literary world due to the protagonist’s knowing character.
Somewhat ironically, for a novel based on vacation indolence, this collection was presented in a show inside Bocconi, the great business school of Milan, where thousands of ambitious and hard-working students swarmed about outside taking photos of the arriving fashion models and stars.
Whatever the inspiration, the result was easily digestible fashion with hints of Sagan’s own early beatnik style. Meaning posh workerist garb – from fisherman’s smocks but in the finest poplin or donkey jackets in double-face cashmere. As Max Mara’s designer Ian Griffiths played on Sagan’s rebel style with a brilliant deconstructed skirt made from a reduced trench-coat, one could just imagine Jean Seberg – the star of the English language version of 'Bonjour Tristesse' – wearing it.
Even when Griffiths used denim it looked pricey, polished and posh – from the oversized tunic dresses to the giant laborer’s coat on Gigi Hadid that finished the show. Everything finished with top-stitching, like extras in a Pagnol film set on the Med.
“Instead of studying, Sagan wrote a novel and idealized her perfect summer of romance and intrigue on the Cote d’Azur as the perfect existentialist moment. And I’d been thinking of how we have been imagining our lives and the idea we can go out again and rediscover the sheer joy of being out in the world,” explained the designer, whose moodboard was crammed with images from Otto Preminger’s classic movie version of 'Bonjour Tristesse,' a stylish vision of elegant ennui.
Griffiths even threw in some jackets and minis in canvas parasol stripes, the same colors used on the beach chairs where the socially distanced audience sat. And, it being Max Mara, sent out several luscious swing coats and cabans in deerskin – in crème caramel or Guantanamo Bay orange.
Most every look based on the shoe styles of the season so far in Milan, laced-up chunky platforms and woven centurion booties.
Ian also referenced '60s dresses of Deborah Kerr – the old flame of Seberg’s father in the film – adding a modern element of street minimalism.
This was not perhaps a stellar show from Max Mara, but as a collection for women emerging into daylight and social life from the prison of the pandemic it nonetheless felt right.
A more revealing Max Mara, with a lot more skin than one is accustomed in collections from this brand. A marque which was invented to dress the wealthy wives of the provincial haute bourgeoisie. Which come to think of it, is the milieu of many of the characters in 'Bonjour Tristesse.'
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