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At Marni, Saying Something Beyond Clothes

Submitted by blueandred on Thu, 02/25/2016 - 22:08

Fashion has a growing penchant for theatrics, and it’s not another public spat or hissy fit. When front-row coups and the traditional runway format fall flat, what should a label do to reach that elusive consumer? Make an effort on a wider stage, and steal that scene right back.

“Fashion is now the fourth dimension within culture,” said Francesco Bonami, an art critic and former director of the Venice Biennale.

Case in point: An ambitious new theater piece from Marni, which will have a media preview on Sunday in Milan and then be open to the public from 10:30 p.m. to midnight. It’s just a one-night performance in the Padiglione Visconti, a hall used by La Scala for rehearsals housed in what once were the Ansaldo steel factories. The event is to be publicized by word-of-mouth and social media, intended to generate buzz and to encourage curious spectators to attend. Tickets will not be sold.

“Looking for Marni” is the latest of a string of consumer-focused events by the low-wattage designer Consuelo Castiglioni and her daughter Carolina, the label’s director of special projects, both of whom have long been exponents of public happenings.

Although it was choreographed by the Italian dancer Susanna Beltrami — founder of DanceHaus, a performing arts center in Milan — and may look like a full-fledged, crowd-pleasing theater piece, sharp-sighted observers might be surprised to note that all of the performers are wearing eyeglasses.

It turns out the production is also the introduction of Marni’s latest optic collection: the first collection manufactured by Marchon under a license agreement signed in September.

So the event is a product introduction, just by another name.“We’re more than just fashion, we’re not locked in its bubble,” said Consuelo Castiglioni during a preview on Monday. “We’re open to the world and want people to experience this.”Mr. Bonami’s impressions echoed the thought: “Designers increasingly want to say something just beyond the clothing.

Luxury houses frequently ask for artist recommendations with which to collaborate on a show.” He cited consumer boredom as a reason for the industry's dive into art and performance.Anyone who still maintains experimental theater is inaccessible and synonymous with impenetrable scenes may be happily surprised by the playful spirit of the Marni production. The 90-minute show, involving 17 dancers, has the performers assuming elegant pose after pose on unusual props, including an oversized seesaw, swing, gigantic table and theater within the theater, while audience members move freely around the space.

Carolina Castiglioni said they started work on the production last November.Costumes (by Marni, of course) inspired by Oskar Schlemmer’s work including “Das Triadische Ballett,” or “The Triadic Ballet,” highlight geometric forms — cones, tubes, circles and spheres — and exaggerated and precise positions. Some performers wear collars and bracelets that, at first glance, resemble exaggerated versions of colored licorice candy but also have the silhouettes of the eyewear.

One character has a wild red pompadour and exaggerated patent leather skirt. Elsewhere, young performers from Ms. Beltrami’s dance troupe resemble marionettes: dressed in a wild Elizabethan assemblage and shiny cone hat, or suspended from the ceiling in a red Neoprene suit, like a futuristic skier.

Naysayers may scoff at the artistic validity of fashion’s crossover projects, but authenticity is a key factor in any such partnership, said the Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli, who has often worked with Prada (and always attends its shows). Collaborations should come from existing relationships and mutual interests, he said, rather than any marketing initiative.

Bringing together such art and fashion giants isn’t always an easy fit, Mr. Bonami noted.

“Definitely there’s some resistance,” he said. “Artists are maybe the most retrograde individuals in the social structure. Most of them are old-fashioned navel-gazers. It will change, but right now the mainstream artists, the big players, are very suspicious about it.”

Marni is not alone in its efforts.

On Friday, just a few days before the Marni event, Tod’s will stage its seasonal presentation in Milan with a performance curated by the Italian multimedia artist Vanessa Beecroft, known for her performance-sculptures with live models and work with Kanye West (most recently on his Yeezy Season 3 extravaganza in New York). A private dinner for the artist will be hosted by Diego Della Valle, chairman of the Tod’s Group.

Despite fashion engaging in the lives of artists and the increased emphasis on performance within the industry, Ms. Beecroft doesn’t believe fashion is simply entertainment.

“I think fashion has the same value it had before,” she said in an email. “To accompany society through historical changes in a gentle, beautiful way.”

Asked whether she considers fashion and artistic performance projects true artistic endeavors or merely website fillers, she said they should be considered on merit: “Some events are true artistic endeavors and some not. If fashion really does become popular and extends to the masses then the phenomenon itself will be a true cultural endeavor. Maybe the need for performances is a need to recontextualize fashion into spheres other than that of pure consumption.”Read more at:short prom dress uk | celebrity inspired dresses