I recently returned from Italy. (I still have jet lag.) Ten days of my 2+ week visit was part of a History of Italian Fashion class, offered by Cañada College’s fashion department. (More about this class on their blog.)
Italy was splendiferous!
I posted some pics of my trip on Instagram and Facebook, but I haven’t posted the pics in this post.
One of the assignments for the class was to prepare (in the U.S.) and present (in Florence) a brief talk chosen from a list of suggested topics, including a number Italian designers. I chose designer Antonio Marras because a) I had never heard of him, b) he’s actively designing, and c) his aesthetic excited me. I very much enjoyed researching Marras, though much of the available information and interviews are in Italian, so it was also a bit of a challenge.
What follows are the slides from my presentation, with notes of my talking points. You’ll also see a garment that I sewed based on one of Marras’ designs. It was a failure, but at least it gave the class a giggle!
Slide 1: Antonio Marras
(Note: It took more than 10 minutes)
Slide 2: Who IS Antonio Marras?
Who IS Antonio Marras?
- Short answer: he is a fashion designer, but that is almost accidental.
- Mostly, he is a brilliant, creative artist who happens to design clothes for a living.
- His wife calls him “schizophrenic.”
- His sons would likely call him an amazing, hands on, father.
- “Boredom is my personal monster.” —Antonio Marras
Slides 3: Sardinian Son
- Antonio was born and raised on the island of Sardinia in 1961, the middle of 5 children.
- He continues to live and work in Alghero, Sardinia, away from the fashion world, which contributes to the notion that he’s a bit of a fashion outsider.
- He grew up in and around his father’s fabric store where he developed a “mania” (his word) for fabric, and where he learned to sew. (He had no formal training in design, sewing, or art.)
- He later converted his father’s fabric store in Alghero to a boutique featuring his clothing.
- He has created a workshop at his home in Alghero that he calls the Laboratorio (translation: Workshop) where he does most of his work, and all of his experimenting. Every collection includes some work from the Laboratorio. These hand-work-intensive garments, made with artisanal techniques, are designed, created, and produced locally. “My Laboratorio collection, all sewn and embroidered in Sardinia, is a project that only a madman would take on.” —Antonio Marras
Slide 4: In his Laboratorio (“Workshop”) at his home on Sardinia
Slide 5: The Antonio Marras boutique in Alghero, Sardinia
Slide 6: The Antonio Marras boutique in Alghero
(Very hands on, he’s on the ladder in the right pic.)
Slide 7: With his wife Patrizia. On the right, his eldest son, Efisio.
(Not pictured: his younger son, Leonardo)
- He’s extremely family oriented.
- His father passed away in the ‘70s.
- Like many Italian men (according to reports), he worships his mother.
- He married Patrizia Sardo, also from Sardinia, who became his muse, business partner, and the CEO of his company. They have 2 sons, ages 27 and 18 (as of this report in 2017): Efisio and Leonardo.
- His eldest, Efisio (named for Antonio’s father), studied fashion at the Parson’s School of Design in Paris, Central St Martin’s in London, and graduated in 2015 from Photography and Liberal Arts in Paris. Efisio is now designing for I’m Isola Marras—Antonio’s lower-priced, contemporary line launched in 2007.
- Antonio goes to bed early, rises early to jog, and spends his free time with his family.
Slide 8: Collage/sketch (left), and Antonio creating (right)
- Though untrained as an artist or designer, he creates art every day, particularly drawings, but he also paints, sculpts, collages, and enjoys photography.
- “Beauty can come from ugly things. This intrigues me, and gives me the most satisfaction.” —Antonio Marras
- He originally studied to be an accountant, as his father wanted, but he ended up managing the family’s fabric shop when his father died in the 1970s.
- If he hadn’t become a fashion designer, he wanted to either direct movies (film is an important source of design inspiration), or dance.
- He was invited to mount a solo exhibit representing 20 years of his artwork at Milan’s Triennale Museum from Oct 2016 to Jan 2017. He is the only fashion designer ever invited to do so. (You can see a video of the exhibit here.)
- “Walking the length of the space, which covers 12,960 square feet in a room that has an expansive curved wall, is like taking a peek into the designer’s soul as the exhibit is a clear reflection of his passions and personality.” —A reviewer
Slide 9: More of his artwork. A sketch (left), and a painting (right)
Slide 10: From his Milan Triennale exhibit in 2016/2017
Slide 11: Also from his exhibit at the Milan Triennale Museum
Slide 12: Examples of his designs (Plus a great pic of he and Patrizia!)
- In the ‘80s, one of his fabric suppliers suggested that he try his hand at designing a fashion line. His wife agreed (and evidently applied some pressure), and his first line was launched in 1987. It was named “Piano Piano Dolce Carlotta”, or “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, after the 1964 Bette Davis film.
- A commercial success, he continued producing that line for 10 years.
- He was invited to show his work in Rome in 1996, so he finally launched his namesake fashion line, Antonio Marras.
- In 2003, he gained international recognition when chosen as the designer for Kenzo, a well known Japanese design house. He left Kenzo in 2011 to focus on his own lines.
- He launched his lower-priced, contemporary line “I’m Isola Marras” in 2007. His son, Efisio, designs this line since graduating college in 2015.
- He opened his high-concept store in Milan in 2012. His wife suggested the name, referencing his early resistance: Nonostante Marras, or “In spite of Marras.” The shop was created in an old factory/workshop, and sells not only clothing, but also ceramics, flowers, vintage furniture, vintage artworks, antiquarian and art books. The store contains a library, and (sometimes) a coffee bar and café that offers Sardinian delicacies. He often exhibits art in his shop, particularly during Milan’s Design Week, held in April.
- “The most important aspect of my work is the mixing and matching of different materials, different fabrics, different prints,” Marras says, summing up his ideal customer as the woman unafraid to do just that. “I prefer eccentricity over normalcy,” he adds. “Normalcy is very boring to me.”
Slide 13: More examples of his designs
(Note: The blue dress, second from the left, is one of my favorites)
Slide 14: His high-concept store in Milan
Slide 15: Another pic from NonostanteMarras
Note the similarity between these light fixtures and the pieces from the Milan Triennale exhibit (slide 10)
Slide 16: Examples of his fashion sketches. The middle sketch is from his tenure at Kenzo.
- Not surprisingly, he starts by identifying ideas that inspire him, that he wants to mix together.
- He collages, sketches, and paints ideas for his designs. These are later displayed backstage at his runway shows and are featured in his LookBook. He also works them into the invitation for the runway show, which are museum-quality pieces themselves.
- He collages not only images, but ideas.
- He likes his runway show to tell a story.
Slide 17: Pre Fall 2107
Pre Fall 2017
Here is an example of his “densely multilayered concepts” (to my mind, he collages disparate ideas when creating his collections—he is a natural-born collager) from Pre-Fall 2017:
- He took inspiration from Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the erotic novel by D.H. Lawrence published in ’28.
- He added a surreal twist of cinematic glamour, referencing David Lynch’s Twin Peaks – his son captured the arcane spooky atmosphere in the photos he took for the LookBook.
- Finally, he added reference images of Vita Sackville-West strolling in the lush Sissinghurst Castle garment, and of the late actress Sylvia Kristel languidly reclining in the ’70s soft-porn movie Emmanuelle.
Designers typically don’t hold a live runway show for pre-fall, but you can see the looks on Vogue.com.
Slide 18: Fall 2014
The common threads for his Fall 2014 collection were the wolf and the moon, and he included these specific references:
- The journey to India of swiss writter Annemarie Schwarzenbach, lesbian siren of the Weimar Republic, as captured in the movie ‘The Journey to Kafiristan‘, based on the novel written by Annmarie’s travel companion Ella Maillart.
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Three Little Pigs
- Joseph Beuys, a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist from the 1960s as well as a sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue.
- Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf
- ‘Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia‘ by Giacomo Leopardi
The models were done up like Rachael, the replicant in Blade Runner. “There are no wolves in Sardinia,” Mr. Marras acknowledged. “But you can dream.”
Slide 20: My Inspiration
- I loved the drape on this dress from his Fall 2017 collection.
- I thought it would be great made as a summer dress for Florence.
- Note that he often uses one or two older models in his runway show. The woman on the left is a particular favorite of his.
- He regularly styles his models with short socks and heels.
Slide 20: My Failure
- Oy vey.
- My apologies to Mr Marras! This was a failure in fabric choice, as well as a few other things.
- If I make this again, I’ll tweak the neckline and use a fabric for the collar/sleeve drape that looks good from both sides. Possibly lengthen and slightly flare the dress.
- Also, accessorize differently.
- Finally, use a fabric that is less heinous!
At least the class was amused. 😉
(Note: I was embarrassed to wear this outside to take pictures. Even though it was 7am on a Sunday—Mother’s Day, in fact—I had to screw up my courage!)
When I left for Florence, my slide show ended here. I then spent 3 days in Milan and had a chance to visit Nonostante Marras. TWICE. Afterwards, I added the following slides:
Slide 21: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
Looking out onto the lush courtyard
My Visit to Nonostante Marras
It was such a delight to visit this shop! Located in a mostly residential part of Milan (not far from the Armani Museum), Nonostante Marras is hidden behind a gated entrance. Upon entering, you see a lush courtyard. This shop is a high concept shop, meaning that it’s more than just a store that sells items. A high concept shop allows a designer to express his or her vision in a unique way. In this case, Nonostante Marras is a living room, a library, an art gallery and, yes, a clothing boutique. Once a year in April, the store is entirely changed for Milan’s Design Week when they also bring in chefs to create food for a popup cafe. In fact, the New York Times listed Nonostante Marras under item #1 for things you should do if you have only 36 Hours in Milan. Slide 22: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
The livingroom and library areas.
Martina and I sat here and enjoyed an espresso
Slide 23: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
The walls feature art. The large designs, created by Antonio, are actually wallpaper that you can purchase of his designs. The framed images showcase a guest artist.
Slide 24: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
On the left, wallpaper featuring Marras’ art provides a background for guest art.
On the right, Francesca and Martina (store manager) staff the store. Both women grew up in Sardinia where Marras lives.
Slide 25: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
Yes, that is me with a shopping bag! I don’t yet have pics of my purchases, so that will have to wait for another post.
Thanks to Vera for these photos, taken as I gave my talk!
Here are a few bonus pics that I didn’t put in the slide show.
Francesca and Martina. Their tee shirts feature his artwork
Even the bathroom is interesting!
Another livingroom shot (you can see my shopping bag in the lower left)
The lovely courtyard
Another courtyard shot
Selfie in the mirror.
Look at that cool sculptural piece below the mirror. This shop is full of interesting things to look at
Antonio Marras has three Instagram feeds and I follow them all!
- antoniomarras_personal—His personal IG feed. When I posted pics from his shop in Milan on Instagram, he personally liked them. 🙂 I double checked with Martina that it was really him. Martina told me that after my first visit, she had talked to him about me, so he knows he has a fan in San Francisco.
- antoniomarrasofficial—The official IG account for his collections.
- antoniomarras_alghero—The IG account for his shop in Alghero, Sardinia.
That’s it for now. I will take pics (later) of the two garments I purchased at Nonostante Marras. On Sunday morning, I dressed up in one of them to go to the grocery store at 7:30am. We’re in a heat wave here, so I can’t wear either garment until it cools off a bit.
I’ll soon be off for a short work trip to Seattle and, in a couple of weeks, to NYC. After that I should be settled for awhile.
I might even sew!