Ian Griffiths embarked on a journey to answer the question of the relevance of the 18th century to the present day through his latest runway for Max Mara Fall/Winter 2023 collection. To accomplish this, he followed his signature method of focusing on a historically marginalized but contemporarily important female creative from the era he was exploring.
In this case, the woman was Émilie du Châtelet, a brilliant French marquess and mathematician who translated Isaac Newton into French and was famously loved by Voltaire. Griffiths saw du Châtelet as a symbol of the Enlightenment period when female intelligence was increasingly recognized by the patriarchy, even though women’s fashion remained restrictive and controlled.
Inspired by du Châtelet’s potential self-expression if she had freedom, Griffiths imagined how she might have dressed and how that would translate into contemporary fashion. He also reflected on his own club kid days as a New Romantic, drawing from the Baroque to evolve from punk’s less humorous style.
The result was a collection that was newly romantic and showcased the blending of 18th-century menswear and women’s fashion. From the opening teddy banyan coat to the miniaturized pannier skirt in camel brocade, Griffiths brought a fresh take on 18th-century style. He also incorporated contemporary elements, such as the military-style inbuilt strap for slinging teddy coats over the shoulder, pannier pockets for added volume, and detachable Watteau backs for evening wear.
Max Mara’s collection also included modern takes on current fashion staples, such as the dreamy camel parka, full-length liner coat, and velvet bomber with frogging. Some models paired their lug-soled boots with shorts, making for a wardrobe that Émilie du Châtelet may not have recognized but would likely have appreciated.