This Italian fashion brand is the epitome of timeless, understated luxury – The Irish Times

Luxury fashion brands today are more accessories than clothes, selling aspirational dreams through lipsticks, handbags and sunglasses, rather than expensive clothes. For example, Gucci earned 60 percent of its total revenue in the five years to 2017 from leather goods and shoes, not apparel. And what is more desirable, visible and durable, a Chanel bag that goes with everything or a jacket in a certain size?

The exception is MaxMara, an Italian family-owned luxury brand founded in the 1950s, which focuses on clothes, with accessories playing a no less important, but secondary role in the main event. Unlike others, it doesn’t have a designer-failure history so characteristic of the modern fashion industry, but ex-Manchester punk, former RCA alum designer Ian Griffiths, firmly in charge as creative director for over 30 years, with annual sales of more than EUR 1 billion and solid profits of over EUR 200 million.

Well known for his classic yet cool understated style, his sustainability credentials are impeccable; the materials are natural and renewable. The camel hair used for their coat is harvested when the animal naturally sheds, and the surplus is used to insulate their padded jackets – so no down or feathers. As a longtime fan of the brand, every piece I own has stood the test of time and deserved to be maintained, whether it’s a gray winter coat or a navy striped summer suit, and I feel as good as I look.

The story of how Griffiths entered the MaxMara contest as a student at RCA and joined the company a year later – and never left – has been told often, and he says that he finds making real clothes for real people to be “the most rewarding and fulfilling creative experience.” He also argued that classic clothes don’t have to be conservative, and that the brand was fundamentally radical from the start, with its stated goal of dressing a working woman rather than a leisure woman.

Best sellers over the years have been the company’s aforementioned famous camel coats, once a symbol of male power, revisited by women, and the fiery red Glamis coat worn by Nancy Pelosi, which became a hit in 2012. The coat, says Griffiths, “is the structure that literally houses you when you’re on the street – it provides protection, comfort and, of course, prestige.”

For the current collection for summer 2023, entitled The Blue Horizon, he took inspiration from the Riviera style of the 1920s. Cap Martin as a reference. One of her biggest fans has always dreamed of a pair of her Transat chairs, classic modernist furniture.

Camel is also strong in this collection, with his Instagram posts @ian_griffiths1 highlighting what he calls his “Camelandia” style and show him sketching out designs – an oversize sheer camel coat, a bomber jacket with matching pants or a Watteau cocktail dress with back.

In this summer collection, neutral colors, flared pants with wide legs and buttons down the front, linen suits, back racer vests and wide, drooping hats are as relevant now as they were when, according to Cote d’Azur Mary Blume: “women and men dressed alike in wide soft trousers, striped fisherman’s shirts, linen jackets and espadrilles.” Despite the historical references, these clothes are decidedly modern and sophisticated.

Griffiths has always emphasized that MaxMara is never about one season. “We want to make things that will last, investments for life, real clothes for real women. I like clothes that age gracefully. Every collection… if you take it apart, it’s made up of pieces that have a life after the current season,” WWD recently told WWD.

This is a view espoused by one of MaxMar’s most loyal and enthusiastic Irish customers, who has been a fan for over 20 years. Dubliner Anne Hearn, who inherited her love of fashion from her confident and self-confident mother, bought her first outfit for a wedding when she was pregnant – an off-the-shoulder linen blouse with buttons down the front that she wore over a skirt and a flat sole ballet shoes.

After the birth of her son, she bought a little jacket and pants, “and I became addicted. Bit by bit over the years I’ve been buying less and less from other brands and popped in on a weekend as it suited my lifestyle and I’ve been buying ever since. I find it refreshing, it never disappoints and the quality is consistent from year to year. It’s so feminine, it suits all ages and it’s never boring.”

Her favorite MaxMary item is a fitted black wool shift dress subtly embellished with fine black silk and chiffon flowers. “You feel like a movie star in it,” he says. “And it’s the right shade of black for my complexion.” When sewing clothes herself, she notices the details and how inventive and sophisticated the refreshing of a classic can be. This is illustrated by her latest acquisitions – a double-breasted jacket in vanilla jersey (“not ecru, not cream, but with a hint of pink and perfect for a silk dress”), a houndstooth silk shirt with a pleated skirt on one side, a new take on a familiar style. “You’ll always find gems,” he sighs.

All MaxMar’s clothing at Brown Thomas Dublin

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