An immersive and absurd spectacle to remember

From the start it was clear that this Marni show was not going to be like the others. Each guest was asked to wear some sort of Marni uniform – a recycled garment from an old collection that designer Francesco Risso and his team had hand painted with wide washes of stripes – and stop first at Marni’s headquarters for a fitting. Whether they’re the kind of person who generally feels drawn to the magpie, the high school art aesthetic that Mr. Risso brought home – or not.

I was given a navy blue dress with a large portrait taffeta / nylon neckline that rustled when I moved, and speckled with chartreuse stripes. The paint and fabric made it a bit stiff, so it tended to move on its own. When I tried it in the studio, I felt relatively ambivalent: as a reviewer, I found it pretty and interesting; as a wearer I felt like I was pretending and therefore a bit resentful about putting it on in the first place.

But when I got to the show on Saturday night, staged like a round theater, and there were stripes, stripes, everywhere you turned – in oversized shirts and pants and jackets and skirts, each one. with a white canvas patch framed in red reading “Marniphernalia: Miscellaneous Handpainted Treasures” and numbered (mine was 300/800) – I started to feel something different.

Then a conductor walked to the center of the stage. A Marni-clad choir spread throughout the space and began humming a song composed for the show by Dev Hynes, the multi-hynes musical, titled “Guide You Home”. Models of all shapes, sizes and kinds and ideas of beauty descended from the top row of the arena, wearing ragged Aran knits and striped dresses taped around their bodies, as if cans of paint had been spilled. on their hair. Rapper Mykki Blanco emerged from the backstage, reciting a sort of spoken word that included the phrase “I am the primitive ejaculation of the mountains”.

A horde of fashion students who had been invited to attend emerged from the audience in recycled striped clothes and began to ooze and come out as if being pulled by invisible strings. Singer Zsela, wearing a sky blue bra and long tassel skirt, took the stage and sang. Other models appeared, in stripes and knits and daisy prints and daisy appliques. Mr Risso, the brand’s creative director, was among them, wearing a giant knit yellow and blue striped scarf draped over his shoulders and dragging to the floor, and yellow and white striped pants. He took his walk and then sat in the front row to watch the ebb and flow of the show. At the end, there were a lot of hugs.

Half the time, I felt like I was in a fashion substitute for the musical “Hair”. Half the time I thought I was on an events and performance art show with Wes Anderson. Most of the time, I didn’t know exactly what was going on and what role each one was supposed to play. Sometimes I just wanted to put my pen down, scratch my head and laugh.

It was ridiculous, rather charming, and totally devoid of irony. Also a subtly pointed retort to those who would say the clothes looked weird on the track, as much of the audience seemed comfortable in their gear. And quite impossible to escape the feeling that, like it or not, you had just been a part of something.

It could have gone wrong; fell into the category of exaggerated shows like the Moncler MondoGenius “world event”, stretching from Milan to Shanghai and hosted by Alicia Keys (in Milan) and Victoria Song (in Shanghai) chanting lines like “What only the truth?” while being accompanied by meaningful breaks and videos created by the brand’s 11 collaborators, including JW Anderson, DingYun Zhang and Gentle Monster, to showcase their artistic talent.

It would have been easy to play her calm and intimate, like Giorgio Armani with his Sunset-by-the-Med collection of liquid seaside costumes and nymph tulle dresses.

Or keep the old rules of the basic track like Salvatore Ferragamo (and, indeed, most designers so far this season) – although even the basic track is not without its risks, as it makes clunkers difficult. to hide. Like, for example, the totally mistaken idea that any adult woman might want to wear a diaper dress. Already. Ferragamo has been without a womenswear designer since Paul Andrew left in April, and it shows.

Instead, Mr. Risso de Marni did something else: he took the idea of ​​performance and in-person experience, which started in New York City with designers like Rachel Comey and Thom Browne, and took shattered the fourth wall between audience and performance – not just pretending to support the idea of ​​community or producing a fancy sartorial meditation on the idea of ​​the uniform, but to push “inclusiveness” to its natural conclusion and to remind everyone that dressing is a universal imperative.

This meant that whether or not you wanted to wear your outfit again (or like me, you had to return it according to the New York Times ethics policy), it made sense. Which is, and always should be, the goal.

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