JUNE 22, 2013
By Tim Blanks
In early June, Antonio Marras was recognized as an Honorary Member of the Accademico d’Italia by the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, following in the footsteps of such earlier honorees as Verdi, Wagner, and Rodin. It seems there’ll always be debate about whether fashion is an art form, but such recognition reaffirms that there’s little doubt Marras is an artist. Anyway, he’s proved it time and again with the way he presents his designs, the collaged lookbook he created specially for Style.com for his new Resort collection being a case in point.
But as well as being a designer and an artist, Marras is also a director, like Miuccia Prada, making movies with fashion. Each collection revolves around a film-worthy conceit. Here, it was the romance of Chilean poet-in-exile Pablo Neruda’s seven-month sojourn on Capri in 1952 with his lover, the singer Matilde Urrutia. The story has, in fact, already been told onscreen in 1994’s Il Postino, but Marras teased out his own thread of visual drama: Brittle sophisticate Matilde arrives on Capri with her little dog and her white fur coat, and slowly a more natural sensuality blossoms under the influence of the island.
It was an easy story to follow through the clothes that Marras had created, starting with outfits that were stylized and structured in the collaged, complex demi-couture style that is his signature (the trapeze coat, for instance), gradually shifting to simpler, summery silhouettes and fabrics, even some one-of-a-kind customized vintage denim pieces. Matilde used a gold-green-and-black stripe that is special to Capri for her wedding dress. Marras re-created it for a sweetheart-neckline sundress. The flowers that Neruda and Matilde’s housekeeper bought every day were freely splashed as embroideries and prints by Ratti, the legendary Italian silk-maker.
Marras’s inspiration was most graphic when he used the same shapes for Matilde’s before and after—on one side of the room, a cape in black duchesse satin; on the other, the same cape in a clear Mediterranean sky blue. The juxtaposition also clarified the collection’s strongest selling point. It was as if Capri had the same kind of liberating, relaxing effect on Marras’ design that it had on Matilde sixty years ago. It was invigorating to see him so at ease with simplicity.