Max Mara Conjures Marilyn Monroe at the Beach


There’s been a lot of soul-searching in recent years about what a fashion show even means in the internet era, and whether we even need them. This video from the ever reliable Elle España makes a compelling argument pro: there’s something intangible about a designer’s intent with her clothes that’s missing when you just flip through pics on the ‘gram. Mood, I guess, and Max Mara has it in glorious excess, spilling over like honey.

First, of course, there’s the atmosphere: ocean waves crashing behind the models, water rushing onto the runway to a soundtrack of slinky, ’60s-inspired jazz. The clothes are all in muted palettes, as ever—creative director Ian Griffiths’ lush oversized coats in signature camel but also sea foam, dainty pink, and a light greyish white the shade of a sand dollar. The models look cozy as fuck—arms crossed, wrapped up blanket style with a nude pantyho, like they picked a crisp October day to take a walk at sea after work. Factor in the damp, wavy hair, and it evokes George Barris’ iconic final photographs of Marilyn Monroe, shot at Santa Monica beach in 1962—every hue is a match, and there’s even a sweater on model Joan Smalls that’s nigh identical to one of Marilyn’s from that shoot.

These models walk strong, tall, even when slouching, and their looks are vulnerable but defiant, the multitude of qualities Monroe had, with lead Gigi Hadid as her perfect stand-in. The silhouettes were equally strong, unfussy, and totally sophisticated—hyper comfortable, chic, roomy shapes that you just want to luxuriate in. I’m on my fifth watch of this video and I keep restarting it, fantasizing about being able to afford Max Mara (LOL) and the self-assuredness you feel in clothes that are this nice and friendly to your body. There’s a bit of Peggy Olsen in here, too, a city girl and soon-to-be-proto-feminist on the come-up.

In Gloria Steinem’s 1986 book redeeming Marilyn’s character in pop culture, she wrote:

One simple reason for her life story’s endurance is the premature end of it. Personalities and narratives projected onto the screen of our imaginations are far more haunting – and far more likely to be the stuff of conspiracies and conjuncture – if they have not been allowed to play themselves out to their logical or illogical ends. James Dean’s brief life is the subject of a cult, but the completed lives of such “outsiders” as Gary Cooper or Henry Fonda are not. Each day in the brief Camelot of John Kennedy inspires as much speculation as each year in the long New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt. The few years of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s music inspire graffiti (“Bird Lives”), but the many musical years of Duke Ellington do not.
When the past dies there is mourning, but when the future dies, our imaginations are compelled to carry it on.

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