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  • Martino Carrera

Kate Phelan Designs Latest Weekend Max Mara Collection

The British stylist teamed with the brand on its latest Signature Collection hinged on a tomboyish attitude inspired by 1982’s Bruce Weber imagery.

A look from the Weekend Max Mara Signature Collection with Kate Phelan. COURTESY OF WEEKEND MAX MARA

MILAN — Fashion’s a cycle and images by Bruce Weber in a 1982 British Vogue story resonate today as much as they did back then for their blurring of gender and the tomboyish attitude of models including Talisa Soto.

That is the view of Kate Phelan, the British stylist conscripted by Weekend Max Mara for the latest installment of its Signature Collection, which bows at Milan Fashion Week Wednesday.

She incorporated that attitude in the collection, called 24, as in 24 hours, which includes wardrobe-building gear meant to be worn throughout the day, mixed and matched according to the occasion, to telegraph different personalities.

“I’ve always stayed quite true to the aesthetic that I really loved when I first fell in love with fashion and I think that happened when I did open that issue of Vogue and looked at that story… and it sort of changed me, I had never seen women look like that in Vogue before,” Phelan said.

Countering the blow-dried hair, high heels, formfitting Little Black Dresses and old-school glamour typical of the era, the editorial struck a chord with Phelan, who up until then had been drawing style inspirations from music icons such as Debbie Harry.

“When we started putting the collection together I had this sort of fascination for these pictures, I thought that when I look at pictures, which I often do, they feel as relevant today as they did back then… The fashion, the clothes, the beauty and the way they look as a group of models, feels so contemporary to me… The blurring of genders, in terms of sharing wardrobes and clothes. You get this wonderful feeling that I think is very important today in fashion,” Phelan said.

Building on Weekend Max Mara’s hero product, the coat, she mastered the masculine-feminine dichotomy in Donegal-tweed Crombie coats and oversize belted options, flared pantsuits, tweed pencil skirts and slipdresses. She tossed in crisp cotton shirts, slightly oversize, and shrunken wool rib knits, as well as a puffer bearing a block of primary colors nodding to the bold graphics that appeared on the pages of the ’80s indie magazine Face.

“These pieces are very much part of what we see consistently in fashion and in style and I felt that they were very relevant to Weekend Max Mara because they create clothes that are for a lifestyle and not necessarily for a trend. This collection was about building on heritage pieces and folding them into your existing wardrobe; pieces that can be intertwined and mixed together,” Phelan said.

“It was really [about creating] something that had some longevity. It is about investments and not chasing a trend. There’s some kind of robustness to the collection, as in something that can last,” she added.

A dedicated campaign shot by Bibi Borthwick will bow in tandem with the fall 2023 drop of the collection. It’s fronted by Edie Campbell who, according to Phelan “really encapsulates that sort of Britishness, she references those British girls… [who] are very adventurous with their clothes and they are also using genders to blur the meaning of fashion.”

“It was really trying not to copy that [Vogue] story but make sure that the imagery had that resonance and influence today and I think Edie really captures that,” she said.

Weekend Max Mara has previously collaborated on its Signature Collections with Lily Aldridge; architect and designer Patricia Urquiola; New York-based stylist and editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson; top model Alek Wek; American illustrator and pop artist Donald Robertson; Lucinda Chambers, former fashion director of British Vogue; Oscar-winning costume designer Gabriella Pescucci; American interior designer Anthony Baratta, and American artist Richard Saja.


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