Published 5 years ago
The temperatures across Europe dropped last week from Indian summer to shivering winter, just as Max Mara, coat-maker par excellence, celebrated its 60 years in style.
The iconic camel cover-ups from the Italian company went on show at the State Historical Museum in Moscow on the last leg of a five-year roving tour.
In Russia — where a warm coat is a lifesaver — students are lining up to understand the development of winter wear: its construction and its history. “Coats! 60 Years of Italian Fashion” includes everything from outerwear showing the prissy fur collars of postwar style to an image of Carla Bruni, a new mother and the wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. In her modeling years she was caught on camera in an energetic leap. The exhibition runs until Jan. 10.
But don’t ask Luigi Maramotti, the chairman of the $1.7 billion company, to talk only about changing fashions in coats. To the man who took over his father Achille’s 1951 legacy of producing coats industrially, the story of Max Mara is buttoned up with female empowerment.
“The history of the coat is about the development of the position of women in society,” Mr. Maramotti said. “It came in when women started to live differently. In the history of men’s fashion the coat is related to war, but for women it became a portable home and the ultimate protection.”
Ending the traveling exhibition in Moscow is “very symbolic,” he said, because Russia remained loyal to coats while the “girly” fashion phenomenon in the West required that stout outerwear be left in the closet. Whether it was the result of global warming or high tech substitutes like down parkas and fleeces, the millennium saw a fadeout of the classic winter coat.
Don’t ask Mr. Maramotti about “classics” either, as though his products were about an immovable heritage. In 2008, Max Mara created quilted down coats, stuffed with Siberian goose feathers, under the name “Here Is the Cube,” because the coats fold down into that shape. Those techno innovations have been acquired by the “Kultirforum” collection in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin and also for the permanent archives of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“The coat is an icon in fashion — a little bit more than a fashion element — more an object of design,” Mr. Maramotti said. “It’s real architecture, the way it is constructed, and that is our métier. It’s about moving from two dimensions to three dimensional.”
A key piece that sums up the story of this company with 2,279 stores around the world does not have a name, but a number: 101801. Since its creation in 1981, this streamlined camel coat has become the symbol of Max Mara, whose mission was always — even before the concept of factory-made “ready to wear” — to move forward from hand tailoring, to provide a coat for every woman.
“It is a question of DNA,” said Mr. Maramotti, adding that while other brands have an obsession with marketing, Max Mara is obsessed with product. He said style 101801 became iconic because it incorporated the company’s values in its ergonomic construction. He described it as “an interesting combination of kimono shape, a camel color in a cashmere blend, very long, with a belt and a masculine collar. It really defines our style. We try to be very real.”
For this autumn, the season’s collection included coats with signature elements: stylish, practical and in different materials and weaves, along with the identifying camel. They are, as the executive claimed, wearable and modern, allowing each woman to use a coat as a template for her personality.
“I believe that reality and creativity go very well together,” said Mr. Maramotti, who has another mission: to sing the praises of a fine factory-made product in an era when “handcraft” has become a catch phrase for luxury.