12 Jun 2024 By May Ng

Max Mara 2025 Resort Collection paid tribute to famous Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo

Max Mara 2025 Resort Collection was showcased at the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s Palace, in Venice, Italy on June 11,2024. Notable attendees included South Korean actress Bae Doo-na, American celebrities Kate Hudson, Brie Larson, and Yara Shahidi, British fashion icon Alexa Chung, Japanese model Rola and Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach.

Venetia, A settlement built on a lagoon in northern Italy in Roman times became one of the world’s most magical cities also thanks to astute and enterprising medieval merchants. And it seems that every writer who ever was has attempted to describe its grace and magic. “There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden.” wrote Mary Shelley.

The most illustrious of those merchants was Marco Polo. On the 700th anniversary of his death, the world will witness a series of important exhibitions and events. Marco Polo was open-minded, inquisitive and tolerant; it has even been suggested that he was an early feminist. His thirteenth century travelogue ‘Il Milione’ describes without judgement how Tartar women and girls rode horses just like men did and marvels at an Island of Women in India where men might only visit for three months of the year.

Max Mara follows in Polo’s footsteps with an opulent and multi-cultural collection that aims for a little magic. Polo spent twenty years at the court of Kublai Khan in Mongolia, where, even today, camel and cashmere wools are produced and which were also traded on the so-called Silk Road, a conduit for all manners of luxurious commodities. Naturally the collection kicks off with camel, black, white and tan and introduces silks in nuanced shades like those Polo might have brought back from Cathay or Constantinople. From ‘robes de chambre’ to parkas via trenches and tabarri, Max Mara serves up the stateliest coats. There are gowns for special occasions but there are also sweeping spolverini, snappy tunics, sharply cut tailleurs and neat all-in-ones with everyday elegance ready for travel and adventure. Outsize tassels, chunky drawstrings, extravagant handkerchief cuffs and velvet pannier skirts are key features. The crowning glory will be series of turban inspired headpieces, realised in collaboration with legendary milliner Stephen Jones.

La Serenissima’s position as a trading post between east and west enabled the art and architecture of each to be mixed. Pointed arches, elegant ogees and lyrical fretwork produced a unique style that has a magical quality. John Ruskin declared the Palazzo Ducale and the fine tracery of its loggias “the central building of the world.” The extravagant, writhing foliations of Venetian Gothic are to be found in textiles too. Max Mara presents richly woven patterns featuring stylised floral sprays and motifs associated with Zoroastrian, Hinduism and the Chinese philosophical concept of Yin and Yang.

The likes of Marco Polo would leave women in charge while they went on trade missions lasting for years; one reason why women in Venice were more privileged and powerful than anywhere else. La Serenissima is frequently represented as a woman, embodying justice, harmony, power, progress, loyalty and grace. What better place to show the Resort 2025 collection than the city where the luxury business started; Venetia.

About Stephen Jones

Born in Cheshire, and schooled in Liverpool, Stephen Jones burst on to the London fashion scene during its explosion of street style in the late seventies. By day, he was a student at St Martins; after dark he was one of that era’s uncompromising style-blazers at the legendary Blitz nightclub – always crowned with a striking hat of his own idiosyncratic design.

By 1980, Jones had opened his first millinery salon in the heart of London’s Covent Garden. Those premises soon became a place of pilgrimage and patronage, as everyone from rock stars to royalty, from Boy George to Diana, Princess of Wales, identified Jones as the milliner who would help them make arresting headlines.

Jones made millinery seem modern and compelling. In materials that were often radical, and in designs that ranged from refined to whimsical, his exquisitely crafted, quixotic hats encapsulated the fashion mood of the moment.

Forty years later, Jones’s era-defining edge continues to attract a celebrity clientele which includes Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Mick Jagger, and Royalty. Rei Kawakubo is only one name in the rollcall of fashion designers with whom Jones has collaborated.

In 2009 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, he curated the hugely popular exhibition ‘Hats, an Anthology by Stephen Jones’, breaking attendance records around the world. In addition his hats are also collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris.

Now, as ever, at the forefront of fashion, his beguiling hats routinely grace the most celebrated magazine covers and enliven window displays of the world’s most stylish stores. From runways to race-courses, from pop-promos to royal garden parties, millinery by Stephen Jones adds the exclamation mark to every fashion statement.

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Brie Larson
Doona Bae
Yara Shahidi