In keeping with his increasingly radical practice, with its implicit critique of today’s fashion system, Francesco Risso is taking the concept of collaboration to the next level at Marni. He’s doing so not just by testing the perimeter between fashion and art, but also by questioning the boundaries of authorship.
Risk-taking is obviously included in such a journey, but Risso seems to enjoy meeting the challenges head-on. And what’s more fearless than luring into Marni’s inner sanctum not a fellow designer, as other brands are doing, but a true artist—and a painter, no less? This see-now, buy-now resort collection marked the inception of this new direction, with Flaminia Veronesi taking up a long term role at the label. (The Italian artist was also involved in the spring show presented in New York in September.)
At an appointment at Marni’s headquarters, Risso introduced Veronesi, a longtime friend whose imaginative allegorical drawings have true affinity with the sensibility he has introduced at Marni. “We are connected by a similar way of dealing creatively with reality through play,” she explained, “a play which happens through tactility, is activated by the touch of the hand, and which is expressive of a feminine, no-gender ingenuity bringing us back to our instinctual, creatural side.” Risso chimed in: “In the path towards the definition of Marni, the backbone for me has always been the concept of play, so it seemed natural that Flaminia’s vision opened doors onto landscapes where we share the same delight in exploring the simple, childlike playfulness I believe is crucial to shaping Marni’s aesthetic.”
Risso and Veronesi’s interaction feels as smooth as one of her swirling, fluid drawings of aquatic creatures, which have been transposed for resort onto bias-cut dresses, oversized cargos, low-slung trousers, and jumpers. But beyond the obvious visual appeal of their ‘creatures,’ what Risso wanted to highlight is how the new integrated practice serves to add integrity to the items they’re creating. “I did not invite Flaminia to just make a couple of drawings to print on a series of disposable hoodies,” he explained. “There’s too much fake creativity around, plastered surreptitiously onto zillions of products. What I want to achieve is an authentic, generative artistic partnership which makes us both grow, and which adds intrinsic value even to the less visually conspicuous items of a collection. All the hyper-branded, status-driven logoed products out there reveal such poverty of thought, it’s an appalling way of depleting our work as creatives of any meaning.” He went on: “I really think that there’s also a desire for quality—quality and integrity in the production of both ideas and of objects. Objects that nurture, where one can feel the touch of the hand, the dedication and discipline that has been put into their creation.”
The collaboration with Veronesi has triggered a counterintuitive stripping-down approach to the hybridized flamboyance of previous Marni collections. For resort, silhouettes had a clarity and purity that only enhanced by contrast the poetic intensity of the prints based on Veronesi’s drawings. Even the clashing-striped knitwear looks had a more streamlined energy to them. For now, Risso is keen on keeping shapes, volumes, and decorations from overwhelming the personality of the wearer. Maximizing self-expressive potential through reworked classics is what he’s after. That said, “I’m not a minimalist in the least,” he concluded. “Quite the contrary.” Despite any good intention, the leopard cannot shed its spots so easily.