Interview by Filep Motwary
Marni is about sharpness, sartorial manoeuvres, elongated silhouettes and graphic color combinations. Since 1994, Consuelo Castiglioni has been growing the company into a worldwide ambassador for Italian design, while also reshaping what we think of when we think of that world. Always distinctive and precise, the Marni aesthetic is based on both emotion and discipline, combining a purist’s approach to material, lines and silhouettes with an emphasis on crafted, luxurious finishing. The week before she presented her menswear collection for spring/ summer 2014, Sig.ra Castiglioni spoke to Filep Motwary about the Marni landscape.
-Marni was launched 19 years ago. How would you define the Marni style today? How has it evolved over the years?
There was, and is, certainly an evolution in style and detail. Inspirations change and conduct one towards new ways of working with material, structure, colour, print and finishing. But while there has to be a constant development in terms of creativity and experimentation for the growth of the brand, the soul of Marni remains. I would define Marni as eclectic, unexpected and timeless. Continuous concentration on research into material and design, and attention to detail and quality, allow us to maintain the brand identity.
-Could I ask you to describe your upbringing? How did you end up running a global family business?
From a very early age I was fascinated by fashion. I star ted my career as a fashion consultant and after I met my husband, Gianni, together we founded Marni. The initial idea was to create a fur collection with a “ fur-to-fabric” approach for my husband’s family business, Ciwi Furs. It developed quickly into a complete ready-to-wear and accessories collection.
-What creative resources do you draw on when you’re designing a collection?
I am a very curious and instinctive person. Everything that surrounds me can turn into an idea. Life itself is inspiring. I collect impressions, colours and materials and star t mixing and assembling them.
-How difficult it is to create collections that speak to both the individuality of the brand and to current trends?
I have never been influenced by fashion trends and always try to remain true to my design principles and style. The aim is to satisfy a woman’s and man’s natural desire for uniqueness and distinction. I wish for my clothes to be worn season after season, along with those of the latest collection, so that they can become timeless favourites—and to create pieces that reveal something new and unseen ever y time they are looked at.
-Your latest menswear collection [autumn/winter 2013] is modular, with boyish charm, and full of pieces that can be combined easily. How difficult it is to achieve such a functional result?
This is par t of my design approach. Every season my aim is to build up a collection of timeless yet modern pieces. This leads me to naturally create a variety of items that can be assembled in many solutions. I do not wish to impose one fixed image for the Marni man, but to create collections that can freely be interpreted by whoever is choosing them.
-At the end, which is more important for you, the product or the process?
I am a perfectionist and the process is very important to me, as every detail of the item has to fit accurately.
-Does the deadline of having to present collections multiple times a year help or hinder your creative process?
I consider my creative process a work in progress, in continuous evolution. In this process, the deadline does not hinder me. It actually helps me to define the pieces and collections I create.
-How do you separate the Marni man and woman? Who are they?
I think that both the Marni man and woman possess their own aesthetic vision. Their approach to fashion is experimentation—not necessarily too fashion-driven, but with a strong identity in terms of style. They both like the contrast between classic items and details with a twist, between formal and informal, subtle and eccentric.
-Design-wise, how do you cope with our era’s obsession with youth?
For me, style and elegance come from inside. It is a feeling, instinctive, that goes beyond age or trends.
-In your opinion, why is the style of Italian men quite bold?
Italy has a long tradition in menswear. Therefore Italian men are open to new proposals, but know how to distinguish elegance as well.
-And what it is that you admire in a man?
In general I admire elegance with a bit of eccentricity in a person.
-Do you think fashion has become too nostalgic?
I can only speak for myself. My approach is continuous evolution. I do not feel nostalgia.
-Do you find beauty in ugliness?
The definition of ugliness is personal. If something becomes ugly, it depends also on the context it is in. Distilled and mixed with other elements, details can change and become different and attractive. In this process, experimentation is very important.
-What about austerity—is it necessary in fashion, in life?
In fashion, for sure. My most recent collection was based on the contra-position of the strict and the romantic.
-What is your attitude toward the dominance of fashion by big corporate groups? How has working with Diesel helped you?
OTB [Only the Brave, Marni’s not-for-profit holding group led by Diesel founder Renzo Rosso] is an Italian company, which is very important to us. They understand our needs and fully respect Marni’s identity.
-Marni is known for its great collaborations with artists. Is there an extent to which art and fashion feed each other nowadays?
I personally like the contamination, the exchange of ideas and aesthetic visions.
-So opposite visions can unite?
Absolutely: sportswear details interpreted with a haute-couture finish; precise masculine lines thrown of f balance with the femininity of corsets; out fits that unite rebellion and conformity in an unexpected mix of elements.
-You have been working closely with art director Dean Langley and photographer Clare Shilland on a book focusing on your current menswear collection. In the book, Marni’s logo is manipulated in provocative ways. As a company, you are known for avoiding advertisement. How can profit be possible without it?
It is important for me to have a recognizable style that remains free to be interpreted. We talk to a
niche clientele that is very loyal to us.