The King of Tales
Multifaceted stylist Antonio Marras is perhaps best known for his work at French fashion house Kenzo. Born in Alghero in 1961, the master of one of kind grew up surrounded by fabrics in his father Efisio’s textile shop. It was a playground for young Marras, everything came naturally to him and he developed an understanding of techniques and dedication that took to create beautiful garments at an early age with no formal training or schooling in fashion which perhaps gave him an opportunities to think outside the box in a pressuring fashion world. Coming from Sardinia, Antonio knows all about mixing cultures together in harmony and is able to find good in all. His inspiration comes from art, film, dance, literature, music, theatre, architecture, travel, conversations and all things creative in any shape or form. And this narrative, story telling and insightful nomadic works are the true essence of Antonio Marras’s style.
The World of Marras
Antonio Marras’s first combined womenswear and menswear Spring/Summer 2017 show in Milan saw the collection inspired by photographs of the nightlife in Bamako in the ’50s and ’60s shot by the late Malian photographer Malick Sidibé and moods of newly independent nations of Africa in 1960s portrayed in typical Antonio Marras style; The show is set in a hair salon, there are women sitting under old-school hairdryer hoods reading a magazine. Unmistakable voice of Fela Kuti from the track Viva Nigeria (1960) opens the show followed by celebration of collages in denim patchworks marching to the sounds of Yègellé Tezeta (My Own Memory), a track made by father of Ethiopian jazz, Mulatu Astatke in 1972. A parade of patterns and colours in harmony followed by triumph of gingham checks and bright embroideries, all in his fluid way of mixing fabrics together, inspired by the African youth culture of the time. He ends the show with the women at the hair salon dressed in gingham check dress dancing away with their partners in celebration. Antonio’s show never fails to tell a story, set in a theatre like manner with touch of cinema topped with his attention to the finest details; you are sucked into the world of Marras and instantly in his rhythm.
Women & Menswear Fashion Show SS 2017 Milan
“Today no one is just one thing”
Antonio Marras quoting the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare at the show.
Photography © Malick Sidibé 1963
Mali Nuit de Noël (Happy-Club)
His Autumn/Winter 2016 menswear saw the return of the Sardinian bandits in Spaghetti Western style and womenswear was inspired by the tragic life of Adèle Hugo’, the fifth daughter of French writer Victor Hugo, who suffered from schizophrenia. And for his Spring/Summer 2015 womenswear, he dedicated his entire collection to his dear friend and 1960’s Italian style icon Benedetta Barzini who worked with master photographers from Penn to Avedon and was a muse of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.
Menswear Fashion Show AW16 Milan
Stepping into the world of fashion happened by chance, when Antonio was running the textile shop after his father’s death. In 1987 he meets an entrepreneur from Rome who entrusts in Antonio’s unique vision and invites him to design a ready-to-wear line. At the age of 26, Antonio debuts his collection under Piano Piano Dolce Carlotta inspired by Robert Aldrich’s film, “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)”. The collection meets with great approval in Italy and neighbouring France, but after a few years of commercial success, the idea of being linked to financial returns for his artistic creation gives him great uncertainty in seeing his foreseeable future in fashion. It was then when Antonio meets 80 years old fellow Sardinian artist Maria Lai who changes his life, opening up a world where he knew how to belong. She shares his spirit and creative vision and they soon start to blossom their life long friendship and collaborations together. The encounter with Maria Lai sparks light in Antonio again and in 1996, Antonio’s first Haute Couture pieces are shown, a terrain where he can freely express his artistic creativity to the full. The collection generates enthusiasm and desire back in Antonio’s rhythm and the first ready-to-wear collection that bears his name is showcased in 1999 in Milan and three years later in 2002, Antonio presents his first menswear collection at Pitti Uomo in Florence. He wins the love of public with his narrative way of treating the garments, dedications and details to fabrics, a deep understanding of craftsmanship and most of all his artistic senses that hold everything together. All of his hard work eventually leads French group LVMH to appoint Antonio as the creative director of fashion house Kenzo in 2003 where he stays till 2011. Antonio embraces in Kenzo Takada’s philosophy that he shares himself, a mix of intellectual nomadism and sense of one’s heritage and a balance between history, tradition and blend of diverse cultures.
Artist at Heart.
Antonio’s creation doesn’t stop in fashion, being is a true artist, he dabs in and out of everything that stimulates him from short film, costume designs, set designs, food to installations. His world of art is vast and he loves collaborating with like-minded artists from diverse field. He has worked with mother of Sardinian contemporary art, Maria Lai (1919-2013) and Turin born eccentric and free spirited artist, Carol Rama (1918 – 2015), who he has dedicated his Spring/Summer 2015 womenswear collection to. Antonio was also involved in curating a tribute exhibition for his dear friend Maria Lai who passed away in 2013. Both Maria Lai and Carol Rama can be considered as an example of how women have been erased from the history of the art during the 20th century as a result of female supressing and male orientated society of their times. Antonio Marras understood their world of art and praised their achievements through artistic conversations.
A Touch of Maestro
Antonio is also known for his creative ways of expressing himself on sketchbooks filled with drawings and collages. It is a real joy to look at them and I specially love looking at how his brain unfold to tell the stories of his own.
“Notebooks are my companions. Without them I am lost. And with them, I am never lonely.”
Love for Sardinia
Open minded with a sense of heritage, his passion runs high for the craftsmanship of Sardinia. Among many artisan skills they boast, Sardinians also pride in strong weaving and embroidery culture where the family looms are still handed down and cared for. It was the earliest form of communication (story telling) and means of empowering women in rural Sardinia giving them economic power and a chance of making their voice heard. Antonio developed an excellent understanding of Sardinian textiles and still embraces the same craftsmanship in his works. The influences can be seen in every corner of his masterpieces and in his artisanal Laboratorio collection where everything is sewn and embroidered by hand in his house-laboratory team in Alghero with a modern twist.
He travels to his HQ in Milan and still insists living in Alghero where he was born and true inspiration always originated from with his beloved wife and muse of his life Patrizia who is a chief executive officer of the brand, two sons Efisio and Leonardo and extended family who also take active parts in his creative process.
Photo Tappeto di Antonio Marras by Laboratorio Mariantonia Urru
A Letter from Sardinia
Teaser from the documentary, “Cabras, Where Fables Are Born (Le favole Iniziano a Cabras)” by Raffaello Fusaro. A beautiful metaphor and inspiring tales from the famous artists to solo sailor of passionate Sardinia and discovering the island through their eyes.
Photo Maria Lai‘s Between Threads and Thoughts, 2004.
Home studio of stylist Antonio Marras in Alghero.
Visit Antonio’s Concept Store in Milan where art meets fashion and dive into Marras’s world.
Photography exhibition of the late Malian photographer Malick Sidibé (1936 – 2016) who was known as “The Eye of Bamako”. Portraits shot in black and white tells the exuberant life of the young, Bamako parties and youth culture of the sixties and seventies. And the inspiration of Antonio Marras’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
24 Sep 2016 – 20 Nov 2016
Photography © Marlik Sidibé.
Courtesy of André Magnin, Tristan Hoare, Jack Shainman Gallery.