'Be1ngs. With a 1 in place of the I. Many of them. 1 as I. As I am 1. 1 as singular, with concessions. A be1ng caught in the act of creating her own reality. I am 1, a be1ng, who brings things into being. I am multiple, thereafter. Proudly so.' Pardon? The show notes for Francesco Risso’s debut womenswear collection may not have made much sense, but his collection was certainly on point. Actually maybe 'show notes' is not the right term for these, they read more like some strange hippy self-help mantra for living a good and fashionable life.
For those just catching up, Marni’s founder Consuelo Castiglioni left the house, which is now owned by the Only The Brave group, in October 2016. Risso joined from Prada, where he worked on womenswear catwalk collections and special projects. He’s already shown one collection for Marni, at the menswear shows in January, and it was strong and well-received - critics called it dynamic, excitable, modern. As his kooky show notes suggest, eccentricity seems to run in the blood of this bright young spark. This collection looked like Marni had been through the wash. Furs were scraggly and fuzzy rather than sumptuous. Prints were off-beat. Shoes awkwardly sculptural. Dresses oddly asexual (and cut for a woman with absolutely no bust). Risso has certainly inherited that special Prada signature for playing with ugliness and twisting things to sit on the knife edge between covetable and uncomfortable. The enthusiasm of this collection was infectious. The liberal attitude towards materials, which were paired unexpectedly or used in unpredictable contexts, was refreshing. The diverse palette of colours was treated well - enough range for excitement, sufficiently delicately handled to avoid the collection feeling united.
The final looks were some of the most magical. Evening pieces covered in cartoonish sequins were delightful. 'I seal myself in second skins or shield myself in balloons,' read the notes. The word 'shield' suggests armour - clothes that help furnish the wearer with protection to get through the day. Marni has always offered that - beautiful guises for intelligent women. Risso’s version is perhaps a touch more whimsical, a little less perfect. Indeed, the usual formality and elegance of the show space set had been replaced with scaffolding. Under construction. A work in progress. All appropriate motifs for a designer who is still finding his feet, albeit while certainly having the foundations in place. In some ways this was a hard show to watch. I found myself stuck somewhere between truly exciting to see a young mind thriving under pressure and sad to see Castiglioni’s house occupied and mid-way through being remodelled.