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What we learnt at Max Mara’s Creative Director Ian Griffiths' lecture at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore

What we learnt at Max Mara’s Creative Director Ian Griffiths' lecture at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore

Get schooled

Text: Ho Guo Xiong

Editor: Crystal Lee


Image: Getty

How often do you get to glean knowledge from the creative head of a major fashion label? Ever the champion for the education, Buro. Singapore had front row seats to Max Mara's collaboration with the Lasalle College of the Arts, where Ian Griffiths, Creative Director of the Italian luxury label, imparted lessons from the brand's history in an inspiring lecture. Here's what we took away:

Find your muse

Max Mara's history paralleled the rise of women's stature in society and the consequent need for quality, confidence-boosting ready-to-wear.

The story began with the founding of Max Mara in 1951 by Achille Maramotti. Maramotti had, from the beginning, betted against the dominance of Parisian couturiers, who designed for royalty and dictated fashionable sensibilities. Raised by a working-class single mother, he wanted to make clothes that were pragmatic and useful to the everyday woman, whom he believed would gain prominence. "Real clothes for real people" thus became the guiding principle of the brand.

Collaborations can lead to wonderful destinations

By the 1960s, Maramotti's prophecy came true as women left the household and took up jobs. Needing well-made and stylish designs, he collaborated with Lison Bonfils, a former-model-turned-designer, to create a capsule collection in 1965. Titled "Pop", it drew on silhouettes and designs from menswear, military, and English-style inspirations, which paved the way for the Max Mara aesthetic we know and love today.

This flirtation with typically masculine shapes later gave rise to the icon synonymous with Max Mara: the camel coat. Early iterations of the coat date back to 1957, but the jacket only exploded in popularity in the late '70s and early '80s with the advent of power dressing. As the Max Mara woman rose through the ranks both at work and in society, these coats became armours that gave women the confidence to break the glass ceilings.

In 1981, Max Mara debuted the 101801 Icon coat. This design crystallised all the past iterations and remained untouched since its inception. 1981 was also the same year that Griffiths began his fateful journey into the Italian house.

Ignore your Imposter's Syndrome

In a bid to avoid conscription (Margaret Thatcher was considering conscripting unemployed youths to fight in the Falklands), Griffiths, architecture dropout with no job, returned to college and went to the Royal College of Art. There, he almost did not enter a design competition hosted by Max Mara because he ran out of black marker. But thanks to his flatmate Trish, he managed to submit his work, which he thought the lesser of, because "everyone else had designed shoulders that were twice as big as mine," he said.

But as history would have it, the punk rocker from Derbyshire was selected to meet Luigi Maramotti, Achille's son, and was offered to join the label. What is it about his designs, you wonder? "I've had 31 years to think about this, so I'm pretty sure it's true..." explains the affable Creative Director. "I believe that part of Achille's unique take on fashion was that 'classic doesn't have to be conservative', and that mantra has guided my time at the helm."

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