Ian Griffiths claims that he spent most of the pandemic in Suffolk, reading existential novels. Francoise Sagan was called a luxury hotel existentialist by a critic in 1959. This wasn’t meant to be a compliment. For Ian Griffiths, British designer of Max Mara this phrase is a way to make sense of his return to the glamour and elegance of Milan’s catwalks after spending much time at home reading existentialist novels.

woman carrying bag in front of MaxMara building

Griffiths asked Griffiths backstage: “Did You Know That Camus Sales Doubled Last Year?” As photographers raced past to find the supermodels Gigi Haid and Irina Shayk who starred in it. “Everyone was at home, exploring their inner world. Although there is an intellectual framework to my work, I have more time to think. Like many others, I love being able go out into the world and rediscover my joy in life. But, there is also this inner space that feels important.”

Griffiths was inspired to create Sagan by her interest in how fashion reflects and idealizes the outside world. Sagan, then 17, was told not to go on vacation after she had failed her baccalaureate. She instead wrote Bonjour Tristesse, a novel in which she imagined the perfect summer of sun-dappled romance, intrigue, and romance she was missing.

“So I thought about how that’s what all of us have been doing. How would be the perfect time spent.” Griffiths explained that we have been trying to imagine an ideal version what we have been missing. He had images from 1957’s film of Sagan’s novel as mood boards – Jean Seberg in a blue cotton shirt over her swimsuit, Deborah Kerr wearing a turtleneck collar smock – and he used beatnik style principles of simplicity and workwear to create a modern summer wardrobe. Miniskirts were worn with baseball vests, short suits with chunky sandals. In between the black, deckchair stripes added a touch of summer escapism.

women's black and white striped coat

The show’s casting included supermodels as well as models who were neither rail-thin nor plus-size.

“Runway fashion is often seen as a fantasy. But Max Mara’s work isn’t just fantasy. This brand’s power lies in the way it reflects reality.” Griffiths stated that what we do is project street life back at us in the best form possible. “Diversity is an important part of this.”

Watch the full show below.

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