Françoise Sagan, the French novelist, wrote her instant best-seller published in 1954 when she was just eighteen years old. Bonjour Tristesse, the title of the book, came from the opening line of a poem by Paul Éluard À peine défiguré – ‘Adieu tristesses/Bonjour Tristesse. The plot tells the story of a young woman Cécile who spent her summer in the Riviera at her playboy father’s house, living a life of privileges in a narrative of childhood manipulations, trickeries, deceptions, and fashions.
A few years later, in 1958, the movie director Otto Preminger turned the novel into a film using the latest technology – Technicolor CinemaScope – starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, and Jean Seberg. The film got a lukewarm reception despite great acting from Niven and Seberg, who played the principal role of Cécile.
In late September 2021, Ian Griffiths, the creative director of Max Mara, is turning both the novel and the film into an imaginative scheme that inspired the Spring 2022 collection. Shown in the principal modern building of the Università Bocconi, students line up in front of the mirror glass floor-length windows to peek at the show below.
Sagan’s novel and Preminger’s film provided the mood background: “romance, intrigue, moral conundrum, elegant ennui, smart villa, secluded beaches, fast cars, chic restaurants, fast boats, and casinos” – all the stuff compounding an existential intrigue per the brand as the models took their turn and the students watched from above.
Françoise Quoirez, the imaginative new heroin replacing the original Cécile, is this young seventeenth-year-old woman, existing somewhere, with a closet full of cropped mesh leathers, micro-skirts, strapless short pencil dresses, black strappy dress, a variation of single breast knee-length coats in leather or camel wool, feather skirts, and of course the bra in different colors worn in place of a blouse or t-shirt, the essential wardrobe elements for Spring 2022.
The sartorial persona of Françoise/Cécile – that easiness, demanding, and the carefree mixture of temperaments permeates throughout this entire Spring 2022 collection consisting of great garments that offer many possible moods. Sexy in a leather sport mesh midriff loose American football practice tank and half trench buttoning knee-length skirt, wild in a black strappy feather dress, restraint in one of the short coats, and short dress combo in black, light ivory, and in camel or orange leather.
Then there is that obligatory spring merch – the bra top. Now in black wool, charcoal tweed, black leather, grey denim, ivory linen, orange leather, the bra is the new blouse/t-shirt worn under coats, pantsuits, coat skirt suits, or even just by itself with all the selections of micro skirts, cigarette pants, or denim shorts. The ultimate of the high/low mix is the black denim inscribed with the Max Mara logo designed by MM Paris on a black fitted denim jacket paired with a long black skirt embroidered in all shiny black feathers.
But, pervasive throughout the show, there is a cohesive feel that this is the Max Mara brand, not the same and not entirely a new revolution. The various low-key coats are signatures by Max Mara and the big loose shirt-jacket in ecru and gray. As a brand that catered directly to the multiple ranges of women of the decades, Max Mara is careful not to alienate one customer in favor of another. Amidst the bare the skin clothes is a black wool tunic and matching skirt and a simple lean coat.
Sure fashion designers are never immune to social upheavals, and the impacts of the pandemic year have been nothing short of far-reaching. In America, at least, we learned in the past year about essential services, essential workers – those who have to keep toiling away to run the subway, the supermarkets, and the hospital wards. In contrast, many others fled to second homes to enjoy the comfort of, say, a Netflix series in cashmere sweats and the likes.
Now, as the pandemic offers some ways out, sort of, there may have been already too much talk about the kind of clothes people would want to wear at this very moment. Solely reflecting on this crisis should not be a primary impetus for fashion designers. It is good that designers know their fashions do not live in a vacuum, but they should not be the primary driver as fashion moves forward.
Post-pandemic fashion is the new fashion crisis, at least in the small fashion circle, as people ponder how far to carry out any excesses. But despite the desire to portray the collection as some rebellious act, albeit even in an intellectual manifestation, it doesn’t so much match the reality of these Max Mara clothes, which are finely made garments and at times playful combinations offering young women plenty of options for city and country life.
This Spring 2022 collection may be a sexier Max Mara collection with an intellectual base of teen angst.