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  • Isidore Montag /

5 things to know about Max Mara’s resort 2023 collectionBY LAURA HAWKINS

The Max Mara cruise collection was presented in Lisbon in the heart of lush gardens, where feminism and local craftsmanship were in the spotlight.

Max Mara’s resort show voyage has taken the northern Italian label from the sparkling shores of Ischia on the Amalfi Coast to the impressive gallery spaces of the Neues Museum in Berlin and the brand’s own impressive private art collection in Reggio Emilia. The next stop on creative director Ian Griffiths’s Grand Tour? The tram-teeming hilltop streets of Lisbon.

Alongside Claire Danes, Lara Worthington and Ashley Park, British Vogue’sLaura Hawkins was on the ground in the vibrant Portuguese capital to take in the show, a celebration of one of the country’s most renowned feminist intellectuals and social activists, Natália Correia, who also had a soft spot for sexy dressing.

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The show was staged at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Lisbon has become an attractive capital city for creatives, who in recent years have sought alternative and vibrant living solutions in the wake of Brexit and Covid-19. Numerous burgeoning fashion designers have relocated to the city, attracted, in part, to its proximity to top quality clothing manufacturing. Lisbon’s most famous expat is of course Madonna, who lived in the Portuguese capital from 2017 to 2020. “When you say the word Lisbon people respond with ‘oooh!’” creative director Ian Griffiths’s smiled in a collection preview. “It speaks of history, a story, fado.” He chose the grounds of the city’s Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – a stark brutalist slab built in 1969, housed in lush tropical gardens – as the show’s outdoor runway venue. Inside, amongst 6000 artworks spanning ancient Mesopotamia and the Far East, it was a painting by Greco-Portuguese artist Nikias Skapinakis in the museum’s 20th-century section that formed the starting point of the brand’s Resort collection.

Photo: Isidore Montag /

Make Natália Correia your new feminist icon

A painting in flat, colourful planes of Azores-born Natália Correia – feminist icon, defender of Portuguese culture, poet, parliament member, intellectual, progenitor of cafe culture in Lisbon – by Nikias Skapinakis, inspired Griffiths. “She looks so imposing, serene, regal. Like a queen, with two other women sitting at her feet with a very deferential air,” he explained. Correia, amongst other impressive accolades, founded Bar Botequim in 1970, a favourite of Lisbon’s intellectual society, and writers including Graham Greene, Henry Miller and Eugène Ionesco. She also believed in the concept of liberal eroticism as a form of feminist freedom. “We’ve been looking at powerful women over the last couple of years,” Griffiths added. “I couldn’t have invented more of a Max Mara muse.”

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Max Mara’s signature coat gets a curvaceous makeover

“Correia really fought for women’s rights but she was sexy at the same time,” Griffiths explained of the collection, which was inspired by his muse’s sensual, body-positive wardrobe. It abounded with pencil skirts, cropped pussybow blouses and clingy dresses and featured the Italian label’s signature coats in amorphous shapes which belted at the waist and were “tapered towards the bottom and are more voluminous at the top.” In celebration of a normalised beauty standard, Griffiths also enlisted Portuguese fado and pop singer Carminho to walk in the show (she also serenaded guests in an intimate welcome dinner the night before), wearing a form-flaunting black V-neck dress. “I want to show a range of body shapes,” Griffiths said. “Casting her is a statement about real women.”

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Jewel tones dominated the colour palette

Max Mara is a brand synonymous with camels, caramels and cappuccinos, but amidst Resort’s nude colour palette, jewel tones twinkled. “The flat, jewel quality of the colours in Skapinakis’ painting of Correia directly inspired me,” Griffiths said of the amethysts, citrines and ambers that featured in the collection, richly swathing accordion pleated taffeta trench coats, gowns and full skirts, that audibly crinkled as models walked the concrete steps in the gardens of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Skapinakis’s affection for illustrative planes of flat colour also inspired the tropical foulard prints, which nodded to the museum’s lush gardens, appearing on slinky strapless silk dresses and pencil skirts.

Photo: Isidore Montag /

Hankies at the ready

Before the show, guests received their Max Mara Resort invitation as a delicate embroidered handkerchief, stitched with ribbons, doves, flowers and hearts. On the runway, these motifs also featured on a T-shirt, a romantic evocation of Lencos de namorados do Minho, or “handkerchiefs of love”, which in Portuguese tradition saw young women stitch tender messages for the object of their heart’s desire. Typical of Resort tradition, which sees fashion houses collaborate with craftspeople within a specific region, Max Mara teamed up with local artisans to create the embroidered t-shirts. “Poetry runs throughout every aspect of Portuguese life,” Griffiths said.

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