The play maker

Francesco Risso and his Marni mar­vels

Wallpaper - - March -

Francesco Risso, the newish cre­ative di­rec­tor at Marni, has brought a skit­tish, al­most feral eclec­ti­cism to the 24-year-old Ital­ian house, which suits his own boy­ish charm – all messy hair, clash­ing prints and a big smile. Once known for hard­work­ing, vaguely con­cep­tual sep­a­rates, ren­dered in off-beat prints and hues – and favoured by women who care as much about be­ing taken se­ri­ously as a pro­fes­sional as they do about look­ing fash­ion­able – Marni is now of­fer­ing a more youth­ful, bro­ken-down look. Think scraggy furs, baggy skate pants, frayed edges, di­shev­elled suit­ing. Show sets have fea­tured me­tres and me­tres of scaf­fold­ing, while in­vi­ta­tions have come with fab­ric and thread. The mes­sage? This is a work in progress.

Tellingly, Risso be­gan his de­sign jour­ney cus­tomis­ing clothes. ‘I never liked to wear things as they were, I had to some­how cut a piece out of it or change it. I still do that,’ he says over cof­fee in Milan, where he lives.

‘There is a new en­ergy in Milan. Peo­ple would rather come here than Paris or Lon­don’

‘My boyfriend some­times finds cut-up pieces at home, or hems on the floor, sleeves dis­carded. I can never feel com­fort­able un­less I have made some­thing my own. I was al­ways like that – there was a time where I also at­tacked my fam­ily’s wardrobes, tear­ing up my sis­ters’ clothes and my mother’s clothes.’

Some saw his ap­point­ment at Marni as a sim­i­lar act of de­struc­tion. There were dis­grun­tled whis­pers about the fate of founder Con­suelo Castiglioni, who left the house in late 2016, and the de­ci­sion of Renzo Rosso, pres­i­dent of the OTB Group, which owns Marni, to bring in an out­sider from Prada to dis­rupt one of fash­ion’s best-loved fam­ily busi­nesses. Re­views so far have been mixed. ‘I had some strange crit­i­cism at the begin­ning, but I think it is honourable,’ says Risso. ‘This fam­ily has kept this thing go­ing in a suc­cess­ful way for so many years, so it’s honourable for peo­ple to stand up for it.’

A cheer­ful soul, who is as ob­sessed with sto­ries as he is clothes, Risso has no de­sire to flip the house on its head with an aes­thetic U-turn. To most, Marni is syn­ony­mous with ‘in­tel­lec­tual’ fash­ion. Risso is keen that this shouldn’t change. ‘Con­suelo was try­ing to make pieces of cloth­ing that would stand out from com­mon stereo­types – this is as im­por­tant to me. My method starts from a nar­ra­tive, and with any nar­ra­tive there are mean­ings and lay­ers of mean­ing. It can be naïve but at the same time re­ally con­cep­tual. For ex­am­ple, for S/S18 menswear, the ti­tle of the col­lec­tion was Lost and Found, and it was talk­ing about this boy finding him­self through finding ob­jects in a metropoli­tan en­vi­ron­ment – in that sense, it’s in­tel­lec­tual.’ As the ‘Lost Boys’ story sug­gests, Risso favours whim­si­cal in­spi­ra­tions. That menswear show all be­gan with a photo he spot­ted on In­sta­gram of a 1930s young man, with scrawled writ­ing over it read­ing, ‘A rich boy fall­ing off the hill’. It got him think­ing about nar­colepsy and Gus Van Sant’s 1991 film

My Own Pri­vate Idaho – he thought of River Phoenix’s char­ac­ter suf­fer­ing episodes and wak­ing up on the street wear­ing a new piece of cloth­ing that some­one had put over him, hence the lay­ered, mis­matched mood.

The S/S womenswear col­lec­tion, his fourth runway col­lec­tion for the house, was sim­i­larly es­o­teric. ‘I wanted to re­ally con­nect with beauty and the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of how things are made. I was try­ing to tell a story about this woman who would find ob­jects in a house and would ap­pre­ci­ate things that came from dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions and then she would un­ravel them and put that on her­self.’

The fo­cus on beauty and craft was some­thing of a back­lash against the ca­sual mood of cur­rent fash­ion; the ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary or­di­nary’, as he calls it. He’s adamant that peo­ple, es­pe­cially younger gen­er­a­tions, want some­thing tan­gi­ble, and he’s keen for Marni to pro­vide that. ‘I see in kids the need for con­nec­tion – some­thing more than be­ing so­cial me­dia-con­nected. They want to have an ex­pe­ri­ence. They want some­thing real. Marni has this in­cred­i­ble story with the Marni mar­kets [trav­el­ling pop-ups with cross­gen­er­a­tional prod­ucts] and that has brought about in­cred­i­ble so­cial in­ter­ac­tions – with peo­ple and fam­i­lies and kids. I would love to find new projects that al­low each space we have to gen­er­ate that kind of in­ter­ac­tion.’

It’s a good mo­ment for Ital­ian fash­ion, given the buzz around new ap­point­ments and re­booted houses. ‘Five years ago, Milan was the most bor­ing place in the world,’ Risso says. ‘There is a great new en­ergy. The city has re­ally made a big change in terms of what art is of­fer­ing, what cre­ativ­ity is of­fer­ing. It seems that peo­ple would rather come here than Paris or Lon­don.’

It’s a turn­ing point in Milan as well as at Marni, I vol­un­teer. ‘Yes,’ he smiles. To Risso, fash­ion is all about the new and the fresh – ideas un­hin­dered by plan­ning or ques­tion­ing. ‘Al­most like a Dadaist, where ev­ery­thing was put to­gether through in­tu­ition,’ he says. ‘I like the play­ful­ness of Marni. And I like the idea of see­ing things through the eye of a younger per­son – some­times even the eye of a child – it makes the ob­jects sim­pler, and more naïve, and more alive.’

Marni cre­ative di­rec­tor Francesco risso Mixes and Matches at the brand’s Milan store

left and be­low, rails of Marni s/s18 looks are ev­i­dence of risso’s whim­si­cal and youth­ful ap­proach

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