Fashion’s Great Iconoclast Lands at Bal Harbour
Drawing inspiration from historical Art Deco architecture, Marni—one of fashion’s most colorful brands has opened its Bal Harbour boutique, and we couldn’t be more excited! Here, we go one-on-one with Marni’s Creative Director and designer genius Francesco Risso.
Who or what would you say serves as your inspiration for your connection to fashion and clothing?
Well, I'm inspired by many different things. I am a very curious person. I read a lot and I’m obsessed compulsively with films. Sometimes I obsess over the work of a single director and I spend my nights watching all the movies in their filmography. But I think everything started for me when I was about nine years old and I used to make pieces on my own, using my family's clothes, which was quite complicated because it made them very mad, but for me it was a way to express myself.
I now see the same urgency for creativity in my team and I guess that they became a source of endless stimulations. When we source for inspirations, it’s never the “looks” of something that inspires us, but it’s more the psychological aspects that we like to investigate. In that sense, each collection explores some sort of “state of mind” in intricate ways.
In what ways has Marni established itself as a “mindful design” brand? In other words, how is the brand adapting to the culture of sustainability?
Since I’ve joined Marni four years ago, I tried to look at things from a different angle. Sustainability is a bit of a tricky word, and it’s been somehow emptied as it became a battleground for self-promotion. At Marni, we’ve taken small, considered steps and slightly tweaked our decision making, taking the impact of our choices into serious account. Some changes have been easy to make – but others challenge the mechanics of our industry and are way more complicated to put in place. Something that was always crucial to me, though, was leading the company by example and bringing sustainability also at the core of the creative practice.
Today it’s impossible to tackle the problem only from one side – a so-called ethical approach must embrace all the aspects of the business. Creativity, too. For instance, since 2018 we’ve been working intensely on upcycling materials. For the latest seasons we have used fabrics from dead stocks and gave it a whole new meaning through our creative gestures.
We looked for beauty in the leftovers - and channeled our creativity to give form to something truly astonishing. The upcoming Women’s Fall/Winter 2020-21 collection, for example, is collaged from beginning to end, from micro to macro. It’s a celebration of DIY! We created dresses made out of fragments of fabrics, including brocades woven on looms that were originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
To me, mindfulness comes into place, when we create clothes to be treasured, clothes that are valuable. It's what I see in the young generation. They are very sensitive to values and they’re very critical of the mass market and the way it operates.
Fast forward four years and following in the footsteps of Consuelo Castiglioni, what is it about the brand that resonates most deeply with you?
Probably its resilience in adapting to times – but also, the capability to gather people around the brand. Marni has always been a welcoming label, in some way a “familiar” brand. It created an aesthetic that encouraged customers in expressing ideals. When I became the creative director of the brand, I didn’t want to impose my vision on the company. I observed it, before lending my footprint.
The company was very ahead of its time in its way to foster a dialogue with its community, it was just a matter to lead it towards a new future, preserving its free-spirit and adapting it to new audiences. I’m driven by a concept I call ‘retrovolution’: it’s about taking everything you’ve learned in the past and moving beyond it, and this is also what I am doing with Marni.
How do you translate this (what resonates most deeply with you) into your collections, the brand’s visual identity...it’s overall DNA?
The collections and the brand’s visual identity have turned into a contemporary, often disruptive interpretation of the Marni’s pillars. Collections always include Marni’s signatures, but they evolve season after season. We continued strengthening collaborations with artists - like Betsy Podlach, Frank Navin and Bruno Bozzetto - for the development of exclusive pieces and capsule collections, and enlarged our community – including personalities such as models Nina Granic and Jess Maybury (also activist), stylists Camilla Nickerson, Michele Rafferty, and a squad of talents, photographers, sound designers and movie directors that are part of our family.
When you look at different cultures, age groups, genders, body types wearing your pieces—is there a particular emotion/experience you strive to elicit?
I like to see Marni be interpreted by different body types and personalities, with no restrictions, nor inhibitions. To reply to this question I would say freedom, which is the power I always celebrate in my collections. Each garment is a story that interweaves with the customer’s personal narrative.
What are you most excited about the new boutique at Bal Harbour Shops?
It’s the first opening after the pandemic, so it marks an important step! The boutique is marvelous and draws inspiration from the Art Deco essence of Ocean Drive. The façade also preserves its historical imprint echoing tones and details of local Art Deco buildings. The interiors are a mix of pastel and assertive colors, fluid shapes and unpredictable textures. The store is a perfect canvas for the collections, as it allows customers to immerge into the brand.