Max Mara puts on a sultry show at a resort in Lisbon, Portugal

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The story of Max Mara’s sensual show in Lisbon

Inspired by author, intellectual and activist Natália Correia, Ian Griffiths tells Wallpaper* the story of his sultry Max Mara Resort 2023 collection, presented last night at the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection Gardens in Lisbon

It all started with a painting: a woman is seated on a chair, legs crossed, taken in profile. Two others sit at his feet, one looking outward, holding the viewer’s eye. “I stopped short when I stumbled upon it,” says Max Mara creative director Ian Griffiths of the artwork, by Portuguese mid-century artist Nikias Skapinakis.

Last night (June 28, 2022), Griffiths returned to the place of discovery: the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection in Lisbon, Portugal, welcoming his Resort 2023 collection amidst the gardens of the foundation’s modernist complex. Further research had revealed the subjects of the portrait: the pianist Maria João Pires, the novelist Fernanda Botelho and, more striking for the designer, Natália Correia, an author, intellectual and activist born in the Azores in 1923.

“You get an immediate sense of the stature of this woman,” Griffiths says of Correia’s portrayal. “She looks straight ahead as if looking into the future, and in fact the picture was painted in 1974, the year the Carnation Revolution brought down the military government that Correia constantly campaigned against. There is a sense of calm destiny and confidence that made me want to know more. And the more I discovered, the more I was inspired. I was looking for a strong central figure around which to build the narrative of the collection – it had to be Natália.’

Correia is the latest to be elevated to what Griffiths calls the “Max Mara pantheon of strong women,” spanning culture, politics and celebrity; last season (A/W 2022), it was Sophie Taeuber-Arp, a multidisciplinary artist closely associated with the Dada movement. Correia, Griffiths said, earned her spot for “her own brand of feminism that emphasizes erotic liberalism.” [which allowed] her to express her sensuality. I think we all seek to live our lives in a way that satisfies the different facets of our personalities – creative, intellectual and sensual. Here’s a woman who’s made it happen, and here’s a collection that celebrates that achievement.

An intellectual sensuality has long been ingrained in Griffiths’ home collections, playing here too in the choice of location: the gardens of the Calouste Gulbenkian collection, where lush vegetation and pools of water meet lines of concrete clean lines and stepping stones (built in the 1960s, they are based on a project by landscape architects António Viana Barreto and Gonçalo Ribeiro). “It’s the best setting I can imagine for this collection,” he says. “We will show just before sunset; I hope we capture the contented, sensual vibe you feel at the end of a sunny day.

Of the collection, Griffiths describes an “almost minimalist sense of rigor, a collection that is both sexy and serious”. Drawing particular inspiration from Correia’s passionate defense of sexual freedom – embodied best in Antologia da Poesia Portuguesa Erótica e Satíricaher anthology of erotic poetry which was seized by authorities for its content – Griffiths sought a “voluptuous, more curvaceous figure”, expressed in sheath dresses and pencil skirts, while cropped tops (revealing a slice of midriff below ) and “a new look at [off-the-shoulder] neckline’ also captured a similar mood.

Elsewhere, Griffiths turned to traditional Portuguese dress; in particular, the figure of Amália Rodrigues, the “queen of Fado” (a form of traditional music of the country originating in Lisbon) and a participant in evenings at Correia and at the bar, Bar Botequim. Looking at the photographs of the artist on stage, the designer noticed a “passion for pleating”, translated here by pleated waistbands or briefs that emerged from the hem of pencil skirts. A nod to the country’s artisan traditions has also spread, referenced in vivid folk-inspired prints and a series of handkerchiefs, hand-embroidered by Portuguese artisans and sewn onto T-shirts (called “handkerchiefs”). of love”, they are traditionally offered to future romantic partners). “It all adds up to a new kind of feminine modernity with a dash of folk culture,” says Griffiths.

“I didn’t know Portugal well before launching this project; it’s been a voyage of discovery for me, but naturally I’ve followed paths where there’s been personal resonance,” he says of the venue, which marks the final leg of a season of cruise shows that transported participants around the world, from San Diego to Monaco. “I always look for a destination where not everyone has been, but where everyone has ideas. When you say Lisbon, an image of the city comes to mind, a city of romance, charm and character, where the new and the old blend seamlessly’ – a spirit reflected in the collection itself. §

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