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Max Mara’s Ian Griffiths on the Brand’s Multicultural Resort 2025 Collection in Venice

At Venice’s picturesque Palazzo Ducale, Max Mara unveiled its Resort 2025 collection as an ode to the renowned merchant and traveler Marco Polo, marking the 700th anniversary of his death.

Photo: MaxMara

The collection encapsulated his life and the time he spent in Kublai Khan in Mongolia as an honorary advisor and diplomat, along with an homage to his travels to Constantinople, featuring wools in black, white, camel, along with woven patterns. The details not only served as a visual element, but also signified several religious emblems associated with Zoroastrian, Hinduism, and Yin and Yang. Furthermore, the collection included parkas, trenches, velvet skirts, and turbans by renowned British milliner Stephen Jones, offering up looks for special occasions and journeys around the globe with an added touch of romanticism to connote a contemporary Marco Polo woman, or “Marcia Polo,” as creative director Ian Griffiths states.

The eclectic collection was showcased at the masterpiece of gothic art, the Palazzo Ducale, further setting the scene and presenting an all-enamoring night at the palace. Palazzo Ducale was met with stars from around the globe including Kate Hudson, Yara Shahidi, Brie Larson, and Nicky Hilton, along with much-loved faces from the region including Balqees, Dima Sheikhly, and Ola Farahat among many others.

Balqees. Photo: Max Mara

Nicky Hilton. Photo: Max Mara

Kate Hudson. Photo: Max Mara

Brie Larson. Photo: Max Mara

Maria Giulia Prezioso Maramotti. Photo: Max Mara

Dima Sheikhly. Photo: Max Mara

Ola Farahat. Photo: Max Mara

Pia Wurtzbach. Photo: Max Mara

Speaking to Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut ahead of the show, creative director Ian Griffiths shared that the collection’s final four pieces hold a special place for him. “I pulled out these pieces from my final collection when I was a student at Manchester Polytechnic—my final degree show was inspired by Venice,” Griffiths says. Read their full conversation below.

Why did you choose Venice as the location? And this Marco Polo theme?

Because we’re talking about luxury. Let’s look at luxury and remind ourselves historically where it comes from. I think you can safely argue—and I think maybe certain voices in Paris might disagree with me—but you have a debate about it, that the luxury business started here in Venice, the trade between East and West that was pioneered by Marco Polo, who died 700 years ago. So, we’re talking about the best part of 1000 years of trade. I mean, think of Venice as being like Dubai of the Middle Ages. This is the city that was built from the proceeds of luxury trade, or quite simply, all the beauty and majesty of Venice, which over the centuries has become associated with the notion that it was built for some other reason. It was built because so much money was made, and it was invested in creating beautiful things. So, there’s a whole lot of messages that we can learn about luxury in that history.

Also, Marco Polo was credited for being a feminist…

He is credited with having had some kind of feminist instincts. And, he certainly, like Venician men did, allowed women a lot of freedom. It became powerful in Venice because the men were always away trading for years on end. So, this is one city where women could become powerful. So, Marco Polo is an essential figure we’re building the collection around. Kind of imagining, as being in the lightest possible way, contemporary Marco Polo.

He went to the court of Kublai Khan in Mongolia and spent a decade as Kublai Khan’s most trusted advisor and diplomat. I’m kind of imagining that today’s women or the women on the runway tonight as a kind of contemporary Marco Polo woman. You know, Marcia Polo, who is asked to go and visit the CEO of a multinational brand in New York.

To conquer the world in a contemporary way?

Yes, and this is what she will wear. There’s a slight touch of romance to the collection, and as well as decorative qualities—there are a lot more jacquards and prints.

Before the show, we had a preview of three special coats, that looked richer than your usual aesthetics. One in particular, celebrated mosaic. Did you come out of your comfort zone for this collection?

Yes, we’ve been described as minimal. I don’t think that we are minimal but I can see why the expression’s often used. I think we’re more clean design. But I think that there is room for us, every few every so often, to venture into an area that’s a bit more decorative. We don’t have an ideological commitment to minimalism, in the sense that, a minimalist will never allow any pattern or print into their home or into their wardrobe—we don’t have that.

We can if we want to work on a pattern, with the look being a little bit more romantic, a little bit more accessorized with quite big belts in silk cords which have big tassels, and brass or horn details on them. There are embroidered colors and balloon-shaped cuffs. The collection has a bit more swagger about it than other collections that we’ve done recently. It’s experimenting with something slightly different. A slightly more historical look, historical reference, and funnily enough, I’ve been teaching in schools recently in the past few weeks. I’ve seen a few university, and UK university college shows, and the biggest trend amongst the students seems to be again this kind of historical influence. So, it must be something in the air.

Ian Griffiths. Photo: Max Mara

That’s interesting because we think that people are not so connected to the past, especially the younger generation.

I think, what we’re experiencing is a desire for romance and escapism slightly from their point of view. It’s a more attractive world than the real world and from our point of view, as well. I think that fashion tells us a lot about the spirit of the age.

How did you decide to include turbans by hat-maker Stephen Jones?

Well, I’ve known him for a long, long time, socially, but never worked with him. We used to go clubbing. I mean, he was more London, and I was more Manchester, but clubbing is where I learned more about fashion, and on the dance floor than I did in fashion school. You know, I learned on the dance floor what makes something fashionable and how it spreads through communities. I learned it on the dance floor. Yeah, he was in that same sort of scene.

We hung out together, we were friends for quite a number of years. Not that close friends, but you know we were in each other’s orbit. And, this season just felt like the right time to ask him to collaborate because I pulled out these pieces from my final collection when I was a student at Manchester Polytechnic. My final degree show was inspired by Venice, so I thought I’d have a look at that collection. And the pieces that remained in my home in London, just struck me straight away as being great to reproduce for this show.

So, there are some pieces that are inspired by your previous designs?

The final four looks of the collection are exact reproductions of pieces that I designed for my final college degree show which I sewed in June 1985, and now we’re in June 2024, so that’s practically 40 years and they are exactly the same pieces. And, I had designed them originally with a turban in mind. He was taught to make hats by the same woman who taught me how to make hats at Manchester Polytechnic, Shirley Hex. So, we had her in common, I would have loved to have worked with him at the time because I’d had the idea of these turbans at the time. I decided to ask Stephen if he’d be interested in making the headgear that I would have made 40 years previously if I had the opportunity, and he said yes.

It is kind of like closing the circle, but having said that it’s a bit disconcerting because when I told a number of people that story, they said does that mean that you’re retiring? It sounds like the kind of thing you do when retiring. I was like not yet, I do not intend to retire. Whether people think that I’m going to make an announcement after this show: It’s going to be the last one I ever do. I don’t know but I’ll assure you that I’m not.

Check out some of the key looks from the Max Mara Resort 2025 show below.

Photo: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

Photo: Max Mara

Photo: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

Photo: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

Photo: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

Photo: Max Mara

1/4 looks from Griffiths’ university collection. Photo: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

2/4 looks from Griffiths’ university collection. Photo: Max MaraPhoto: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

3/4 looks from Griffiths’ university collection. Photo: Max MaraPhoto: Max Mara

MaxMara Resort 2025

4/4 looks from Griffiths’ university collection. Photo: Max MaraPhoto: Max Mara

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