It made perfect sense that Consuelo Castiglioni's Marni was the star guest designer at this season's Pitti Immagine. Pitti is a true festival of Italian pride, a chance for Florence's sartorial slickers and Europe's three-piece-suit fans to pose and posture in their latest Italian loafers and seersucker jackets. Last year Marni celebrated its 20 year anniversary and it's a great model for an Italian brand: luxurious - see all those furs - but still innovative and cool. While other Italian labels get too tied up in heritage and tradition, Marni, like Prada, is always leading the pack. So the Italians have a lot to be proud of. Aptly, Castiglioni was clearly feeling confident. Usually, on the Milan Fashion Week schedule, she shows her menswear at a low key presentation with the clothes on racks. It's appropriate given that Marni menswear is a big seller, a commercial hit, so why not present the clothes as they'll be seen in the stores? It's a good way to impress the buyers. At Pitti, however, she took her menswear to the runway for the first time and it lived up to the platform.
She'd chosen Florence's Marino Marini museum as her location, an appropriately cultural venue given Marni's popularity with the art pack. The space and its contents (180 works by sculptor Marini, who passed away in 1980) had inspired Castiglioni to think about a clash between old and new. She looked at the way the interiors of the historical space (the museum is housed in the ancient church of S. Pancrazio) had been modernised in the eighties during restoration work by Bruno Sacchi and Lorenzo Papi, and how this interplay between tradition and modernity was captured in Marini's work, and sought to offer her own version of past and present combined. She'd added retro touches - from great on-trend flares to cheery prints that resembled those found on 1970s china - to the Marni man's wardrobe for A/W 15. He appeared formal, but never reserved. Suits were broken up and mismatched with clashing checks to give to the collection a natural sense of easy and whimsy. Castiglioni has a skill for being deliberately wayward and that shone in this collection. Fur felt modern and relevant thanks to the light-handed way it had been used on gilets and backpacks in punchy modern hues, while knits looked well-loved and well-worn thanks to the boxy fit and wholesome, rich tones. The collection was littered with the odd, off-kilter elements that define Marni, perfectly encapsulated in those sweet, wonky hats atop each model's head.
All in all, this was a solid showcase and one that offered enough talking points to be interesting without sacrificing commercial potential. Throughout fashion week, though especially in Italy, one sees a lot of clothes that don't merit their place on a runway; that's not to say they have no purpose, more that they'd be better placed in a presentation or showroom, leaving catwalks free for new ideas and fresh points of view. Marni is quite the opposite: it deserves its place on a runway. Here's hoping Castiglioni's collections stay on the catwalk.