When Francesco Risso was a teenager, he came to Paris to visit a friend who lived in the same street as Karl Lagerfeld. The two would spend hours at the window, hoping for a glimpse of the world’s most famous fashion designer.
Six months ago, when Risso was looking for a venue to stage his latest traveling show for Marni, after previous stops in Tokyo and New York City, he was shown around the Hôtel Pozzo di Borgo, an 18th-century residence he compared to “a little Versailles.” The opulent mansion turned out to be Lagerfeld’s former home.
“I was almost fainting. I felt this beautiful energy and an emotion, mostly because this was a man who basically dedicated all his life to the search for beauty,” Risso said during a preview at parent company OTB’s French headquarters, which he and his team had customized with panels of hand-painted cardboard. “We Marni-fied it,” he said.
The same could be said of that oh-so-Parisian show venue. Rather than try to mold the collection’s identity to its temporary setting, Risso put his stamp on the surroundings with a coed lineup that doubled down on brand codes such as stripes, checks and flowers, all done with an unapologetically eccentric twist.
Guests including Usher, Joshua Hong of K-pop band Seventeen and Erykah Badu, sporting an even larger hat than usual, sat on a snaking inflatable tube as models brushed past in outfits ranging from barely there slipdresses to lampshade skirts covered in dense layers of printed blooms.
The diverse cast — some of whom looked like they had stumbled in from an all-night rave — wore a mix of battered leather jackets and stiff tailoring in checked intarsia knit or woven leather. Among the gender-fluid options were swinging babydoll dresses that barely grazed the thighs, skinny ribbed knits and floor-length pencil skirts.
If there was a unifying idea behind it all, it was hard to spot. Risso said he was inspired by French people’s love of beauty — and a good street protest.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about joy and what it means, and I have to say that joy doesn’t come like the rain. You know, it’s something that requires work, commitment, a lot of focus and it’s almost like an act of rebellion,” he said. “So you will find a lot of joy and a lot of rebellion in this collection.”
His teams clearly poured their hearts into the hero pieces, whether the pannier dresses that brought to mind Marie Antoinette — though Risso insisted she wasn’t the inspiration — or the 3D dresses assembled from dozens of tin cans that were painstakingly molded and painted to resemble metallic flowers.
But the designer has pushed Marni quite far from its roots as a byword for quirky but chic Milanese style. And he’s out to push buttons. “I would love for people to really be able to touch the pieces, or the pieces to touch people — to slap people, let’s say,” he said with a laugh. Consider us slapped.
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