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Max Mara

Other European brands have scaled back their Pre-Fall efforts this year. Max Mara, on the other hand, ramped up, staging a show in Chelsea, 10 blocks north of the nearly finished Whitney Museum of American Art, the opening party of which the Italian company will sponsor in May. The fete is a plum prize in the sponsorship game and a natural one for Max Mara; founder Achille Maramotti’s contemporary art collection opened to the public last year. The label’s partnership with the museum includes a new “Whitney bag,” designed by Max Mara and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (Piano is the architect behind the new building). And it gave the design team something to latch on to for the ready-to-wear collection.

The show notes cited Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and other stalwarts of the 1980s downtown art scene. Combat boots with croc toe caps and long, belted coats conjured the era. But nothing is ever too literal at Max Mara, so there were no shoulders-out-to-there or other obvious retro flourishes. Like most Max Mara collections, this was a showcase for the brand’s smart tailoring and fine fabrics, both of which looked spectacular in scarlet red, with a few fun animal-print T-shirt dresses and sweaters thrown into the mix. The animal prints were an allusion to a 2008 Fritz Haeg show at the Whitney in which the artist asked us to consider the animals we share our urban habitats with. As usual, the outerwear was impressive. Lots of double-face cashmere, and a super-memorable Ultrasuede puffer coat with a giant fox collar.

—Nicole Phelps,

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