At Max Mara’s spring show last September, when most of us were still knee-deep in sweats, my colleague Luke Leitch asked, “Will the brave new world really be built in our lockdown-worn track pants?” Apropos of that heavily tailored collection, he concluded no. But fast-forward a year, and the pandemic has definitely changed our dressing habits: We’ve grown more accustomed to ease at the same time that we expect our clothes to stand up to the challenges our new lives throw at us. The evidence of that was on today’s Max Mara runway in clothes that took their shape and attitude not from officewear but workwear, much of it in rigid, dark-rinse denim.
Creative director Ian Griffiths was backstage talking about Françoise Sagan’s masterpiece Bonjour Tristesse and the Otto Preminger movie based on it in which Jean Seberg sports chambray with her swimwear. Griffiths chose the story for the way its main character travels in her mind, which is something we all did during the lockdowns. He called Sagan a beatnik in a bourgeois’s body, which just about sums up the push-pull of the two sides of this lineup. Max Mara is known for its excellent Italian-made outerwear. That hasn’t changed, but the double-face cashmeres that opened the show were shorter and swingier than usual, and the double-face cashmere dresses that accompanied them were essentially aprons, with big patch pockets included, instead of the standard-issue sheaths.
On many of the looks, simple bandeaux in colors or materials that matched the jackets and skirts they were worn with stood in for more classic shirts. If underwear as outerwear seems more bohemian than feels authentic to Max Mara, the label is not alone in its embrace of the trend; bra tops are an obvious symbol of fashion’s turn for the casual. All in all, the collection had a sturdy sense of chic well judged for the present moment, the denim separates and pieces in the graphic lawn-chair stripes especially.