THE MAX FAC­TOR

WHEN ACHILLE MARAMOTTI FOUNDED HIS BUSI­NESS, IT WAS MAK­ING COATS FOR ‘THE DOC­TOR’S WIFE’. SIXTY-FIVE YEARS LATER THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, BUT MAX MARA’S QUAL­ITY AND ELE­GANCE HAVE NOT.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - STORY JOSEPHINE McKENNA PHO­TOG­RA­PHY ALESSAN­DRO DIGAETANO

Giuseppe Bacci’s hands glide across the silky soft cash­mere fab­ric as if he’s stroking a beloved cat. He has been pro­duc­ing lux­u­ri­ous coats for the Ital­ian brand Max Mara for nearly 40 years and this ex­am­ple of fine tai­lor­ing still man­ages to stir his emo­tions. “This is like a work of art that is one of a kind,” he says softly. Max Mara was founded in 1951 by Achille Maramotti in the north­ern re­gion of Emilia Ro­magna, fa­mous for its pro­sciutto and parme­san, as well as its rep­u­ta­tion for in­no­va­tion and hard work. Maramotti learned some­thing of his trade from his mother, Gi­u­lia, a dress­maker, who not only taught sewing but gave im­pov­er­ished women tips on how to re­cy­cle their fam­ily’s clothes af­ter World War II.

The en­tre­pre­neur started his busi­ness pro­duc­ing coats for a type of woman he de­scribed as “the doc­tor’s wife”. Since then the com­pany has evolved into a global em­pire with an­nual turnover more than 1.3 bil­lion ($1.9bn) and nine brands in­clud­ing Max Mara, Max & Co., Ma­rina Ri­naldi and Pen­ny­black.

These days the Max Mara flag­ship brand has 2350 stores in more than 100 coun­tries, and the com­pany is run by Maramotti’s sons, Luigi and Ig­na­cio, and daugh­ter, Maria Lu­dovica. Known for their dis­cre­tion, they pre­fer Bacci and other val­ued mem­bers of their close-knit team to tell the com­pany’s story for them.

Bacci be­gan his work­ing life with Max Mara as a young grad­u­ate with a de­gree as a sur­veyor. “We got mar­ried and we are still to­gether,” he jokes. He’s in charge of the com­pany’s San Mau­r­izio plant, a lu­mi­nous space filled with sky­lights, span­ning 10,000sqm on the edge of the quaint town of Reg­gio Emilia.

San Mau­r­izio is only one of the com­pany’s fac­to­ries but it’s a pow­er­house. There are more than 200 cut­ters, seam­stresses and other highly trained staff here and they pro­duce 100,000 coats and jack­ets a year for well-heeled women around the world. “The qual­ity of our work is not sim­ply about pro­duc­ing an ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing that is pleas­ing or beautiful be­cause of its colour or de­sign,” Bacci says. “It is be­cause ev­ery­one here is work­ing to make sure we achieve that re­sult.”

Rolls of the soft­est cash­mere, mo­hair, al­paca, sheep’s wool and camel hair line the shelves at San Mau­r­izio be­fore highly-mech­a­nised ma­chines slice them to fit the pat­tern maker’s pre­cise dimensions. Seam­stresses work silently on var­i­ous body parts – sleeves, col­lars, lapels and pock­ets – while oth­ers scan items for qual­ity and pre­ci­sion at six points on the pro­duc­tion line. Nearly 20 per cent of the work is done by hand.

“It is the details that pro­duce a dif­fer­ent level of qual­ity,” Bacci says. “We pay scrupu­lous at­ten­tion to re­spect­ing the de­sign – the stitch­ing, the form, the length, all the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the de­sign.”

As Bacci moves through the fac­tory, which he prefers to call a “stu­dio” or “work­shop”, the var­i­ous el­e­ments of each coat are pieced to­gether. On the fi­nal leg, dozens of cran­berry, camel, white, and black coats wrapped in plas­tic glide past on head­ing for con­sign­ment.

Af­ter years at the helm Bacci has lost none of his en­thu­si­asm. “I am head­ing to­wards the end of my ca­reer but I still get sat­is­fac­tion from a beautiful de­sign, cre­ated with a beautiful fab­ric or in a beautiful colour,” he says.

He pauses be­fore a man­nequin wear­ing the 101801, a clas­sic coat made of a cash­mere and wool blend that was first pro­duced by Max Mara in 1981. One of the com­pany’s top sell­ers, the 101801 is un­der­go­ing a re­vival thanks to an in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign fea­tur­ing model Gigi Ha­did, who boasts more than 20 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers. She is in­tro­duc­ing this clas­sic to a new gen­er­a­tion and giv­ing it a sense of cool.

“This is a unique model,” says Bacci. “The but­ton­holes are made by hand, there is a belt holder in­side and a la­bel with the his­tory of the model in English and Ital­ian.”

A few kilo­me­tres away at Max Mara’s sleek cor­po­rate head­quar­ters, Ian Grif­fiths is lis­ten­ing to Brazilian bossa nova in an airy of­fice filled with sam­ples of his lat­est win­ter col­lec­tion. The en­er­getic English­man is Max Mara’s cre­ative di­rec­tor. With a back­ground in ar­chi­tec­ture, fash­ion and art, he joined Max Mara as a young de­signer af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Royal Col­lege of Art in Lon­don and has been with them ever since.

“I’ve grown up with this com­pany. If I think about the woman who wears Max Mara I know her like a friend,” says Grif­fiths while reclining on a black leather sofa. “What I’m do­ing feels like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion.”

The walls of his spa­cious of­fice are lined with de­sign sketches and photos of fa­mous Ger­man artists from the Bauhaus era of the 1920s who in­spired his lat­est win­ter

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