Max Mara 2020 cruise bows in Berlin
It felt like the marriage of David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich in Berlin on Monday night as Max Mara presented its 2020 cruise collection to a gilded audience of locals and foreign guests.
Staged inside the Neues Museum (New Museum) on the capital’s famous Museum Island, the show also celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the giant barrier that split Germany physically and ideologically in two from 1961 to 1989.
Angela Bassett sat front row, alongside of posse of influencers and bloggers from Caroline Daur to Helena Bordon, while legendary German cabaret signer Ute Lemper walked in the show.
“It’s Marlene Dietrich meets David Bowie in Berlin Max Mara. They were kind of the same person, even if they never met. Plus, I was influenced by the museum itself to give it this raw edged, neo-primitive theme,” explained Max Mara creative director, Ian Griffiths.
Marlene and David’s penchant for sharply tailored jackets and wide-legged pants were seen throughout, as the cast marched down the massive granite staircases to the runway, before an audience of just 200. While the iconic belted trench coats favored by both stars appeared, many looks finished with raw trims and edges, harking back to crinkly trims of textiles in the museum’s collection.
The building is a remarkable structure, which tells much of Berlin’s history in this past century, and European civilization the past four millennia, including the Bronze Age and Stone Age elements. The show was the first-ever in the museum, whose exterior fluted columns are still pockmarked with bullet and tank shell holes, dating to the Russian siege of the city in 1945.
A fitting venue, given Max Mara’s tradition of creating a certain architectural style. Ideal also for the other standouts, that included a new Max Mara 'Berlin Coat', cut in smooth white wool, shoulders finished with embroidered flowers; an homage to the famed porcelain of Meissen, a great example of German craftsmanship.
Despite its name, the Neues Museum is devoted to pre-historic artefact, like the gold leaf ceremonial helmet, known as the Berlin Gold Hat, which helped inspire a series of dramatic bracelets, necklaces and earrings designed in collaboration with jewelry designer Reema Pachachi. Even the museum’s collection of remarkable pre-Christian jewelry from the La Tène celtic or Scythian culture seemed to waft through the beautiful jewelry.
Griffiths also injected a light military theme, rationally given Berlin’s history as the center point of the Cold War. The result was some great combination of Eisenhower jackets and military epaulettes fused into chalk stripe trenches; or several pure cashmere elongated capes worthy of a Prussian emperor, like Frederick the Great who commissioned the original museum building, and whose giant bronze equestrian statue stands guard over the whole island.
The night before, Max Mara threw a cabaret show by Ute Lemper, devoted to Marlene Dietrich inside Spiegelsaal, a battered club right out of the demimonde of Cabaret. The only person missing was Sally Bowles. The concert, named 'Rendezvous with Marlene', included some marvelously evocative interpretations of classics like Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Lili Marlene and Just a Gigolo.
Dietrich and Bowie starred in the 1978 movie, Just a Gigolo. It was Bowie’s second acting role, and Dietrich’s final performance. Though Marlene never did meet Bowie – since she was house bound in Paris, and he acted in Berlin. However, the film’s tale of a war hero returning to Berlin post-World War forced to become a gigolo due the lack of opportunities did capture the shabbily gilded decadence of Weimar Republic Berlin.
Lemper wore a divine all-white suit in the show, igniting a ripple of applause from the audience. On the soundtrack, New York DJ Johnny Dynell artfully remixed Bowie classics like TVC 15, with dramatic drum rolls and spacey finish.
Dinner post-show was in the central atrium of the Neues Museum, which was closed for four decades after being bombed during the war, and only later brilliantly reconfigured by architect David Chipperfield.
The result was a space with exposed red brick walls; remarkable ancient Greek friezes; a high-tech glass roof; massive Roman statuary and remnants of an Egyptian temple. The building received the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2011. Where Griffiths’ vision of Max Mara, as the destination for thinking professional woman, recognizable for their choice of the house’s cultured minimalist style, seemed, well, right at home.
Back in 2006, Max Mara staged the first of its Coats exhibition here in Berlin, a series that has gone on to include stops in Shanghai, London and Seoul. This was the house’s first show in Germany, probably an ideal moment when Europe wrestles with itself on its future.
“I want people to come away from this show with the idea that there is a political agenda to what we are doing. Even if it’s politics with a small p. It’s always been there in Max Mara, but undeclared. But we have entered an era when you must declare your political beliefs. But this can be done with elegance,” Griffiths, dressed in a white Timothy Everest suit, told FashionNetwork.com.
David and Marlene, who both knew a thing or two about intolerance, would surely have agreed.
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