Francesco Risso has been Creative Director at Marni since 2016, mixing the explosive prints of the Milanese fashion house and chic but quirky silhouettes with his own daring and often playful aesthetic. On Saturday, 18 months after Marni’s last physical show, the former Miuccia Prada protege once again upped the stakes with an experimental live event. Here he explains why.
How was your Spring / Summer 2022 show so different?
This season, after so many months of variation, I wanted to cancel any division between the observer and the observed. In practice, this means that we decided to dress everyone attending our show on Saturday in a bespoke Marni ensemble. The fitting process started almost a week ago on Monday and has been magnificent. We played music. We had a large team that worked day and night. The guests who were trying on clothes with you again and telling you about how they were feeling, felt happy.
Isn’t organizing a normal fashion show a stressful enough experience, let alone adding hundreds of additional accessories?
We had about 500 people coming to the show so it was a big undertaking. But dressing people for moments in their lives – making clothes for them, their tastes and their personalities – is the foundation of what we do. So it gave us so many new moments of personal interaction, a chance to re-engage and bond and have discussions after so much time apart.
The experience reminded me of another older era in fashion, where masters really knew their clients, with designers putting on small shows with direct connections. I wanted to channel this.
Where did you find all these clothes?
It was difficult. I didn’t want there to be a division with the new collection presented, but it was also important for me to have the reorientation at the heart of the community involvement aspect. So the audience looks like they’re coming out of seasons past – recycled pieces where there might have been excess stock or production flaws, for example, and then we also used recycled nylon to knit shoes or create new patches or hems. Each has been hand painted, so no look is the same.
How much was this idea inspired by the lockdown?
I think in some ways the pandemic has propelled a closer feeling of a global Marni community. People have participated in a more active and creative way with our house. They wrote songs for Marni, composed poetry, painted their own prints on clothes, then shared that with us online. I loved it and wanted to engage this virtual mood, bottle it and make it happen. It’s almost like our own little ‘Marni-land’ and the show is a way for a bigger family to expand into this world we have built.
But I was also thinking about sport this season. It’s not a sports collection, but I’ve been thinking about the philosophy of how a team works – how interactive and healthy the relationship is between everyone who participates in a game. I wanted to integrate part of it. And the coach is not me. The coach is our heartbeat, bringing us together as one.
Is the pandemic forcing the fashion industry to change?
We all complained about the endless cycle before Covid. But for Marni at least, a hard stop made us slow down and think more about what we’re doing in a focused way. Specifically, how do we nurture relationships with our customers and those who have supported our brands when they suddenly feel so far away, through social media, through the cinema and now when we can potentially be reunited in person. The pivot to digital media has also sparked some very thoughtful creativity in terms of how the clothes are presented – it will be interesting to see where that goes.
Ultimately, however, when you do what we do, it’s hard to deny the importance of touch. And our practice is to do things with our hands. So getting together for a fashion show is once again a real joy and a privilege.
This conversation, first posted on Instagram Live, has been edited and condensed.