story by Charles Beckwith
photos by Boris Marberg
My grandmother always had an interesting taste in clothing. She was a woman who wore color, who wore excitement. The last few years she was on oxygen for emphysema, always a little “out of it” since that started, and recently chemotherapy for stage 4 lung cancer. So, she slowed down, and wasn’t really the whole person I remember from my childhood. It has been a while since I felt like when I was talking with her, I was really talking with her.
So, a few months ago, when I saw a video clip of the last resort collection from Blumarine, it was a deeply personal jolt I felt. I saw a collection I knew my grandmother would have wanted to wear. Every piece that was coming down that runway was something she would have been crazy for. So, when I was in Milan in December, I made it a point to visit their showroom. There is an energy to these collections that you rarely see, where style and life meet and dance.
I’ve had this interview for a few weeks now and had not posted it because my grandmother was near the end, and the ideas in my head about her spirit and the Blumarine label are linked. She passed away two weeks ago, and I finally feel a release, because I know she is free to be herself again.
Here finally, is my interview with the famed Italian designer, Mrs. Anna Molinari, and select images from her most recent collection.
MCJ: What brought you to clothing design in the beginning? How did you become a popular designer?
AM: In fact it came quite naturally. As a child I used to spend my time in my parents’ company where they manufactured clothing for some well-known brands. The fashion world and its colors, details and embroideries were part of my everyday life and it’s a long time since I enjoyed playing with them.
MCJ: You have several brand names. What do they all mean to you when you sit down to work? How do you separate them in your mind as an artist?
AM: Blumarine’s identity of feminine, romantic and seductive beauty is the trait d’union of every collection, created for a modern woman who mixes up sophistication and elegance. Blugirl is romantic and feminine too, but the universally recognised and main identifying feature of this brand is its humour.
MCJ: As your style developed, who or what were your major influences? What has changed the most, and who or what are your transcendent influences today?
AM: My main inspiration comes from the surrounding and constantly changing environment. A continuous research, travels abroad, ancient collections and designers studies, all of them experienced through my own sensibility, may give life to a new idea or trend to follow and develop further on.
MCJ: I noticed in your collections a lot of fur being used still. What is your position on sustainable design and responsibility for the repercussions of trends? It was noted recently that several designers use farm furs, but the people making knockoffs do not. If you make fur to be “it” in fashion, do you think there is a responsibility involved in how followers behave when using less expensive and far less sustainable methods?
AM: I believe in designers’ opportunity to freely suggest a trend with its details. In the same way customers are free to choose to wear real furs or fake ones, or not to buy furs at all. The variety of proposals is so wide to satisfy any taste.
MCJ: Can you provide a synopsis of your routines for working on your new collections in a single day and over an entire season? How is it the same as other designers and what do you think sets you apart?
AM: I would love to have a 25hours-day! I’m an early riser and I often work even 10 hours with only a quick break for lunch. This is a very hard job if you put your soul into it: I carefully study every detail and I follow each step of production. It takes a lot of time. Anyway, the need to create makes me feel never tired and gives me the same willingness to improve.
MCJ: Which other current designers’ lines do you favor? What were your favorite collections other than your own last season?
AM: I love the style of all collections by Yves Saint Laurent.
MCJ: Which designers that have passed since you have been working do you miss the most? What made them special?
AM: I miss all the valuable collaborators I have been working with in the past. I miss their unique personality, their contributions and clever tips at each step of creating.
MCJ: Your name is Italian, you live in Paris, and you show in Italy. What are the connections? Why dance between cities?
AM: I often go to Paris, but actually I do not live there. I live in Italy and I settled my factory in Carpi, near Modena, where I have always lived. I show my collections in Italy during the Milan Fashion Week twice a year. I know the importance of supporting Italian fashion and the made in Italy.
MCJ: Where is your brand going in the near future?
AM: My brand is always evolving, therefore I try to fit my collections on the constantly changing everyday life. In the near future all my collections will try to satisfy the need of every woman to feel proud of her beauty, customizing items with up-to-date tastes and culture.
MCJ: Where is the global fashion industry going in the distant future? What will go away and what will always be present?
AM: Considering the general economic situation I guess the fashion industry will avoid concentrating on unconvincing, frivolous or not usable outfits, and will choose more easy-wearable looks, without sacrificing the quality of materials or embroideries nor the desire to blend novelty, originality and beauty.
MCJ: What is your favorite piece in your Fall 2009 collection?
AM: This look greatly represents the freshness and modernity of new Blumarine collection. It combines the multicolored leopard print leggings, the airbrushed T-shirt with maxi logo and the tuxedo jacket. Sparkling accessories light up the final result. The Blumarine-addicted woman shows her beauty through a new ironical seduction.
MCJ: When I walked around Milan I saw the word “blu” applied to many things. It was in the name of travel agencies, clothing shops other than your own, and it seemed to represent something more than just a color, as if it were a feeling. In the US, feeling blue is feeling sad. What is the meaning for Milanese? What does it mean to you?
AM: Blue represents my love for the sea and my predilection for this color. It reminds me of freedom, of huge hopes, of vastness and wide horizons. This color is still very popular in fashion at the moment and it has a totally positive connotation.