When a women’s style remains compelling almost 100 years later, isn’t it giving short shrift to call her a muse? Ian Griffiths, creative director of Max Mara, posed that question backstage before parading a fine collection modeled after the timeless Riviera style of Renée Perle, the lover and frequent subject of French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue.
Images of her by Lartigue were pinned to Griffiths’ mood board, and he faithfully recreated her floppy sun hats, long and flaring skirts, sailor pants and halter-neck tops with all the finesse and refinement of which Max Mara is capable.
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While it didn’t make for a very exciting show — Simon Porte Jacquemus has a lock on gobsmacking South of France fashion spectacles — the clothes were approachable, expensive-looking and drenched in good taste.
Griffiths opened his display with meaty, natural-colored linen, carving it into roomy blazers, narrow skirts and sleeveless coats. Trenchcoats in papery leather were tossed over black bandeau tops, and a faded French worker jacket over a midi skirt.
Platform sandals, swimmer caps and big straw bags heightened this sleek, grown-up vision of Mediterranean chic.
Many designers have been referencing the ‘30s this year. Griffiths described that time as a “melting pot of culture and ideas every summer,” when the likes of Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald would rub shoulders.
He preferred to cast light on the creative contributions, and legendary style, of the women in that milieu: Dora Maar, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Bronislava Nijinska, to name a few. The press notes also pointed out that Perle painted hundreds of naif self portraits: “They were dismissed as daubs by the art historians, but arguably they point to a remarkable creative talent — her oeuvre was her image.
“She is a woman of style who found an expression for modernism in the way that she dressed, which strikes a chord nearly 100 years later, and is still absolutely modern,” Griffiths asserted.
No argument there.
Launch Gallery: Max Mara RTW Spring 2023