marni's joyous protest
Francesco Risso embraces the power of upcycling.
On the day that thousands of people around the world protested as part of the Global Climate Strike, Marni creative director Francesco Risso staged a “joyous protest“ against the profligate excess of the fashion industry. The environmental impact of fashion was on his mind, he said, after a trip to Brazil six months ago and the subsequent burning of its rainforests.
Francesco didn’t actually mention the strike, and for good reason. “It’s easy to promote that word without really being sustainable,” he said backstage, standing barefoot and with white stripes painted onto his face. As some luxury houses continue to stage increasingly grand shows — ensuring us that trees will be re-planted, earth re-soiled — Risso went a step further and worked with German visual artist Judith Hopf to recycle the set for his last menswear show (an eerie underwater scene below a net of plastic waste) to create an illustrative jungle. SS20’s set itself, he said, would go on to have another life as the mise-en-scene of Marni’s stores. The audience sat on repurposed cardboard benches, with Matisse-like upcycled-plastic leaves painted with eco-friendly paint.
The clothes, too, were largely recycled, made from deadstock leathers, recycled raw-edged taffetas and untreated cotton fabrics vibrantly hand-painted in Fauvist patterns. Voluminous silhouettes were made with lo-fi construction, apron dresses were tied around the waist and strings were used to fit and flare the peasant-style skirts. A couple of long, slinky crochet gowns offered a homespun take on eveningwear. Nostalgic nods to old-school couture shapes were offset by a playful naivety and bold colour combinations, such as parrot green and cobalt, fuchsia and tangerine. The painted patterns had a graphic optimism, nodding to the Brazilian Tropicalismo movement in the 60s, a reaction to far-right nationalism and military dictatorship — which couldn’t be more relevant for right now.
Risso said that he imagined the clay-haired women in his show taking reality-altering drugs and hugging trees. This collection seemed radical, like a post-industrial riposte to fashion’s over-production and the world’s over-consumption. The silhouettes were designed to liberate the body’s movement; models wore grounding flip-flops.
Risso spoke of the lure of nature as “the only possibility of how to connect with our times.” It is remarkable that, in less than three years at Marni, the former Prada designer has shifted the conversation about what constitutes luxury in an age of climate activism. For him, it’s seeking out solutions and taking active steps towards a better future — something that strongly resonates with current times and cuts through the noise. As he said: “There is a generation of young people who are ready for it.”
Photography Mitchell Sams
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.