MILAN, Italy — It was business as usual today at Max Mara. The house built its success on a no-nonsense approach to dressing and that is what it endlessly delivers. Women looking for the perfect jacket, coat or dress head to Max Mara, and find it. There were plenty of said items this season too: mannish coats with fringes running along the sleeves; tons of animalier; pencil skirts rather incongruously worn over cigarette trousers. And, surprise, there were also a bevy of t-shirts that recalled merchandise from a punk gig, but were actually printed with Francois Berthoud illustrations and worn with heavy wool maxi skirts — Max Mara's take on eveningwear. All fine, so far.
The surprise came when reading the show notes and looking at the moodboard backstage, where Siouxsie Sioux and Sinead O'Connor were cited as punk icons, despite the fact that the latter was really not a punk. The design team worked around a convention/rebellion theme, subverting the notion of power dressing usually associated with Max Mara by appropriating subcultural codes. Which means, basically, leather suspenders left undone and spiky hairdos. The point is: having a strong theme makes a show stronger. What makes a theme strong, however, is when it is integral to the whole creative process. Otherwise, it's just a styling trick. For Max Mara, the straightforwardness of making beautiful wearable clothing is probably more effective.