When the fall of the Berlin Wall took place in late 1989, Ian Griffiths, creative director of Max Mara, was in Reggio Emilia, the Italian town of the label’s headquarters. That’s how long he has been at Max Mara.
In spite of the geographical distance, the designer could still recall David Bowie’s seminal performance of ‘Heroes’ — a song that tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers, one from East and the other from West Berlin — right by the wall. Bowie was, in fact, a former resident of the city, having shared an apartment there with Iggy Pop during what was arguably his most creative period. “German authorities later acknowledged that [Bowie’s performance] was one of the key moments in the wall coming down,” Griffiths shared in an interview with Vogue. “He is one of my heroes, someone who was always about change for the better.”
Held at Berlin’s Neues Museum last week, Griffiths presented Max Mara’s Resort ’20 in tribute to the city’s liberating milestone. At the core of its essence was, naturally, Bowie, but also, another indelible Berlin enigma: Marlene Dietrich. The feted German-American actress-singer co-starred with Bowie in David Hemings’ 1978 film ‘Just a Gigolo’. They never met — Dietrich was reportedly roped out of her retirement for the project, filming her part in two days — yet, their paths were somewhat unknowingly parallel to each other. Bowie and Dietrich were auteurs in image-making and shared similar tropes in dressing.
“They both loved a trench coat, a tuxedo, a white suit, manipulating their image. I’m not sure if I am thinking about,” Griffiths stifled a laugh, “David Dietrich or Marlene Bowie.”
Hence, Griffiths’s marrying of both. Suits came sharp shouldered; trench coats, tightly belted around the waist; trousers, wide-legged. These tailored pieces were mostly lent with raw-edged fringes — meant as a nod to the museum’s neo-primitive exhibits, and at the same time, to Berlin’s inextricably co-existing culture and subculture.
“[It’s] a taste of what has always been the city’s radical agenda,” the designer continued. “It is about the Bauhaus, about [Christopher] Isherwood, about [Marlene] Dietrich, and about David Bowie.” And this poignancy, reverberated in Griffiths’s offerings time and time again, boils down to the duality that is of Max Mara’s defining essence: the notion of being classic without being anywhere close to archaic.
Revisit the show’s highlights in the slideshow above.
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