Socially distanced birthday parties have become the norm for the last 12 months—but few have thrown a COVID-era celebration quite as chic as Max Mara’s 70th. The house celebrated a milestone anniversary today with the unveiling of the aptly titled ‘1951’ collection—debuting 42 looks that paid homage to both the brand’s Italian heritage and British sensibilities.
Founded in 1951 by Achille Maramotti, Max Mara was among the first Italian labels to capitalise on the mass production of luxury fashion. The brand now boasts a staggering $1.4 billion per year in annual turnover—a feat largely attributable to Ian Griffiths, the British designer who has run the show for close to 30 years. Griffiths—dubbed by The Guardian “the most influential designer you’ve never heard of”—studied fashion in London in the ’80s, where he found himself fully immersed in the punk and “club kid” scenes. It was a chance encounter with Max Mara during a trip to Italy in his early ’20s (he entered and won a student competition) that changed the trajectory of his life forever.
Griffiths—who splits his time between the Max Mara HQ in Milan and Derby, a picturesque town three hours north of London—has spent his tenure blending unapologetic Italian glamour with deft touches of Britishness. The end result is collections brimming with classic, expertly-crafted pieces made with the world’s best fabrics.
Griffiths’ brilliance lies in his consistency—and so Fall21 was full of many of his most recognisable silhouettes, though updated with fresh colourways, slight design tweaks, and clever styling. There were cropped bomber jackets, cashmere knits (embroidered with ‘1951’), and pleated trousers. Tartan wrap skirts and quilted khaki vests felt like a serious nod to Princess Diana’s style in the ‘Balmoral’ episode of the latest season of The Crown, while the appearance of oversized sunglasses and silk headscarves gave a nod to another timeless fashion icon—Jackie O. The colour palette was awash with chic camel and khakis, mixed with the occasional burst of Emerald green, mustard, and crimson.
The standout looks were, as always, the outerwear. There are few pieces a fashion-obsessed woman would be more willing to fork out on than a Max Mara coat, beloved by everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Nancy Pelosi—and this collection delivered them in droves. Floor-skimming angora, cacoon coats, teddy coats finished in shearling, woollen coats with oversized statement pockets… there was something for everyone.
“You couldn’t get emotionally attached to a pair of trousers but you form an emotional relationship with your coat like no other item in the wardrobe,” Griffiths said in a post-show interview. “You wear it more often and there’s something about the way it looks after you and protects you, it’s like a house for the streets. It’s architecture.” Architecture—or perhaps a work of art.