For two weeks I don’t have to get on a plane,” says Ian Griffiths, Max Mara’s Creative Director, who, calling from London, is palpably delighted by his rare opportunity to sit still. Who could blame him for momentarily opting out of the modern capability to be in multiple places at once via social media, or to jet set between them in a flash? After all, Griffiths, for his part, does plenty to celebrate globalization, most recently for the Italian fashion house’s Pre-Fall 2017 collection this past December, which commemorated a thriving international audience by erecting its first runway in Shanghai.
With the young, booming Chinese city as a backdrop, (an emblem of an accelerating world in a country angling its path toward becoming next great superpower), Griffiths collaborated with celebrated Chinese artist Liu Wei to riff on their shared currency: life in a metropolis. “An idea emerged to create an imaginary ultimate city which Liu Wei would build and Max Mara would dress the inhabitants,” explains Griffiths. The resulting Monopolis! presentation, installed in Shanghai’s Exhibition Center, featured Minimalist spheres, mirrored columns and crisp lacquered shapes telegraphing the architectural landmarks of a kind of everycity—past, future and present. Models navigated the passageways between them in slicked back hair, oxblood lips and near armor of camel hair coats, exaggeratedly shouldered blouses, and to-the-knee lace up leather boots all in the label’s classic palette of white, tan and black.
“I started to think about the genre of film noir depicting the city as a dark place where the women who inhabits it is supremely confident and glamorous,” says Griffiths, distilling the aesthetic into one part Blade Runner and one part Joan Crawford. Because, however ominous the forward march of progress for progress’s sake (a reoccurring theme in Wei’s work), the Max Mara woman carries on gracefully with the help of an iconic 101801 coat. “I wanted this sense of supreme glamour to emerge in the show even in the way the way girls walked on the runway. I was telling each one ‘You’re the queen of Shanghai. You are the most powerful women in Shanghai.’”
If the silhouettes were familiar, the color palette time-honored and the tailoring reliably impeccable, Wei’s influence on the clothes took the form of intentionally roughed up edges mirroring the industrial entropy he so often depicts and an 11-piece capsule collection of patchwork patterns embroidered onto wool, suede, fur and jacquard. Motifs were borrowed from maps representing “memories of the past” and architectural plans symbolizing “hopes and plans for the future.” As for the here and now, the capsule collection has been available to buy from the moment it departed the runway—found inside of 45 of Max Mara’s global flagships and online.