What’s That Hole?

Marni in New York is not quite the Marni we’re used to. And there is that strange gaping aperture

Marni has been, for quite a while, dancing in the realm of the weird. The brand isn’t, of course, known for being typical, but looking downright freaky (probably funky to some) is rather the domain of Francesco Risso. This season, he’s moved the RTW show to New York and shown it below the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn end, in the Dumbo neighbourhood. The under location aside, the clothes look positively under too—as in underclothes, not that that’s extraordinary. Perhaps it is not surprising that Mr Risso decides to show the spring/summer 2023 collection in New York, home of the Black Tape Project, in which designer Joel Alvarez uses not cloth to dress the body, but strips of adhesive. Sure, Mr Risso employs a more traditional way of dress making, but the scantiness is hard not to notice.

Or, the curious circular opening on the chests of knitted (mostly cropped) tops, repeated 19 times, out of the 58 looks that were shown. That’s one-third of the collection. Is that sufficient to constitute an emphasis? Or, a motif? This may sound crude (or, to eager censors, indecent), but they look vulval to us. It doesn’t help that most of the openings are framed by a ring of red, also hinting at something that could be labial. Mr Risso has not explained what he is suggesting, or what the wide, ringed aperture could mean that is not sexual. Could it be a mouth, sliced squid, the rim of a basketball hoop? Or, the fearful eye of Sauron?

There are other holes too. A squarish one appears on the front of a tank top. Others look like they are the result of unconventional tweaks in knitting machines. Filled holes are there too. Full moons (in some cultures, they are fertility symbols!) sit on the torso, with the upper portion stretched across the bust. When the models walk, the rounds look like pursed, moving lips. The sexiness is further augmented by the slinkiness of the clothes. Short and long shifts have no sides from the waist up, exposing more than side boobs. A long skirt, slit in the middle to up there, has a bifurcated hemline that becomes gloves/sleeves that reach the biceps. Even Mariacarla Boscono, in a red, leather, similarly slit dress, looks ravished, rather than ravishing.

The theme of the show, we would later learn, is “sunset” (under a bridge?). The dusty colours appear to suggest those that do not scintillate at sundown. They seem to mimick the hues of riverside festival seasons in Varanasi: earthy and primal. Mr Risso told the press that “a sunset is someone else’s sunrise… a physical phenomenon that sets fire to the sky”. It sounds like he was not describing riparian spiritual festivities, but some rave, when the goers eventually emerge into daylight after a night of expressive physical indulgence. A sunrise, conversely, could be someone else’s sunset. These garments are party clothes to better suit bodies that do not wish to be encumbered. Moreover, skimpy goes hand in hand with how Americans speak (or text) these days—for example, outfit, one syllable too many, is now reduced to “fit”. Is it a wonder that, over there, they are just wearing less and less. Francesco Risso certainly gets it.

Photos: gorunway.com

Close Look: Marni X Uniqlo

A collaboration of colours and prints that Uniqlo would not normally put out on their own

It is possibly Uniqlo’s most anticipated collab since the return of +J two years ago. Marni—known for their charmingly naïve prints, off-beat colours, and the unexpected pairing of either of the two—had applied their sense of the peculiar and the playful to Uniqlo’s staples, such as their packable parkas, utility jackets, and open-collar shirts. The result is a happy hippie-fication with 21st-century hands that few other fast fashion labels, if any, would produce, and with such commendable quality. While +J was minimalism that was almost severe (not at all a negative), Marni X Uniqlo is quite the opposite: they are a mirthful mash-up of the spontaneous, sportif, and spirited.

We had expected the turn out at today’s launch of the collab to be big, but when we arrived slightly past noon at the Orchard Central flagship, there was no line to be seen or empty spaces between stanchions and ropes (these, too, were missing). We could go in as we pleased. Some pieces for both men and women were displayed at the entrance. Those familiar with the launches of Uniqlo’s special partnerships, walked straight to level two, where at the space next to the escalator landing on the right, the output of hyped pairings is usually sited. A young couple was drawn to the T-shirts placed on the circular display unit at the entrance. The guy picked up a red/white striped T-shirt with bolder contrasting red/khaki lines at the back. His female companion slapped it back to the pile, telling the puzzled fellow, “it’s too gay.”

At the dedicated space upstairs, the crowd made comfortable shopping a tad difficult. The enthusiasm was palpable as shoppers picked the items by the basketful or discarded the unwanted anywhere the clothes can be stuffed or dumped (and you thought Marni appreciators are better shoppers). Some items were sold out, we were told: the floral wide-fit pants visibly so (in both colours, and online too). Popular sizes of items such as the shorts were also gone. Uniqlo has, this time, made some of the pieces of the collab available in outlets other than the big stores (where the full collection is sold). It’s possible that what was no more at Orchard Central could be in abundance elsewhere (such as 51@AMK?). Unsurprisingly, the least popular item, we gathered, was the oversized ‘half coat’. Other than being a Blocktech item (read: heat trap), it was oddly available as a woman’s item, when it could easily be unisex, as the shirts and tees were.

While the collection was, at first glance, agreeable, closer inspection revealed some technical choices that Marni made that, to us, were not what might be considered commensurable to popular taste. The T-shirts came with oddly wide crew necks (and a little too skinny) that, when exposed to the tumble drying of the washing machine, may widen further. Shorts, although elasticised (and came with draw cords) at the waist had no belt loops (but the longs got them). The women’s open-collar and long-sleeved shirts came in a rather heavy 100% polyester while the men’s are in 100% cotton (which are, of course, available to women too, in sizes up to XS).

However, what to us were less-than-ideal choices may not be so for other shoppers. The opposite is true too: We thought the flattering balloon-shaped skirt with its clever patterning to keep the volume was really swell, but many women we saw who picked it up would return them to the rack just as quickly. One of them told her companion, “too heavy” and the other added, “too dressy.” Not far, a mother, accompanied by her teenaged daughter, picked up an oversized shirt with all-over flowers. “Cantik (beautiful)?” The older woman was seeking approval. “Too big, mom. You can hide two chickens in it.”

Marni X Uniqlo is now available at Uniqlo stores and online. There is a limit on purchases. According to Uniqlo, only “1 quantity per item per person” is allowed. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Embracing The Offbeat

Uniqlo takes a road less travelled with Marni

Uniqlo announced on Instagram a short while ago that the brand they’ll be collaborating with next is Marni. That came as quite a bit of a surprise. The Italian label is not exactly considered conventional, and does not communicate in the vernacular of minimalism, such as Jil Sander (brand and designer) does—with the +J line, the German is Uniqlo’s longest collaborator. It appears to us that Uniqlo’s pairing with Marni could be minor shifts in their merchandising direction: go beyond the basics, while retaining the basic shapes that the Japanese brand is known for. The Marni X Uniqlo—reported to be “unisex”—could be a fashion-bent level-up of the multi-season, somewhat repetitive Marimekko collab that has appealed tremendously to both young and old.

Marni is known for their prints (sometimes Prada-like in terms of ‘ugliness’) and how they are not always used singly. Uniqlo is tapping into this. One fashion stylist told us that “it takes a special type to pull off these looks”. And he may not be wrong, as it would require those with appreciation of the off-beat to be able to wear pattern-mixing well. Although after Consuelo Castiglioni left the 28-year-old label she founded in 2016, the Marni kookiness is less intense, less immediate, present designer Francesco Risso has not toned down the brand’s art-school vibe and the home-spun charm. Sure, these days, Marni is geared towards the social media habitue and streatwear afficionado too, but it has not parted with fun or the odball. Perhaps this is why Uniqlo came a-calling.

Marni X Uniqlo will first launch in the US on 26 May 2022. Watch this space for release dates here. Product photos: Uniqlo. Illustration: Just So

Finding The Marvelous In Marni


We once thought that Marni was the new Prada. That was in the mid ’90s, when Sex and the City apparently captured the zeitgeist. In that TV series, Prada was name-checked 14 times, just twice less than Manolo Blahnik (a respectable 16). So desirable was Prada at that time that we had hoped more labels with that familiar-yet-so-different-and-offbeat aesthetic would emerge and we found it in Marni, a brand forever associated with the art gallerist (as if only women ran art galleries, as if those who do mostly have a kooky sense of taste) and the art crowd.

Now, about twenty years later, we think Prada has possessed Marni. Francesco Risso, the guy who succeeded the brand Consuelo Castiglioni founded with her husband in 1994 has re-imagined Marni with the ghost of Prada, where he spent close to ten years, after time with Anna Molinari and Alessandro Dell’Acqua. Or maybe it was just us. Apparitions are difficult to make certain. Sometimes, you just sense it: a coat here, a skirt there, a touch of scarf, bits of fur.


It was like Prada on a lull season. Not that that is a bad thing. One can never immediately and completely shake off one’s just-past near-decade. So for Mr Risso to bring along the not-quite-ordinary from his last employment to a house known for its alternative take on what constitutes modern elegance is possibly a good start for continuing the Marni brand of creative defiance. This first collection is interesting (even when we are generally reluctant to use that vague term) and will not alienate Marni fans, but we did feel that there was too conscious an effort in respecting the house codes.

Take some of the jackets, for example, specifically the one from the first look, in the colour of butter. Yes, the Marni shape was there, but the sort-of-cocoon back, while appealing, was a wee bit too deliberate. The back design was repeated, and slowly, the Marni boxiness emerged and stayed. We love the typical boxy cut of the Marni jacket, so naturally we were delighted that Mr Risso has opted to retain it. Of course, Prada is known for their sometimes boxy shapes as well. In that respect, it was perhaps synergy at work. Or was it just the apparition?


By the time the prints and the mix of prints emerged, we found ourselves tugging at being convinced. Or could it be that, by now, odd pairings of patterns no longer fascinate? We can’t say for sure, but there’s something not quite art-crowd about Mr Risso’s prints and there is no surprise in the mix, not even when you run a length of decorative lace meandering down the skirt. Or the textures: what looked like terry with semi-shine leather (or PU, we can’t tell) just did not spell luxe. When look 45 (49 looks in total) appeared, the crazy cocktail of a floral funnel-neck blouse worn under a floral bra and matching outer and paired with a dotted skirt with drawstrings to create ruching, we had to commit the Marni we remember to the deeper recesses of nostalgia.

It’s not really been out in the open why Consuelo Castiglioni chose to step down. Rumours in fashion are always rife, and this one involves the brand’s owner Only The Brave (OTB), an Italian group that also controls Viktor & Rolf and Margiela. Could she have regretted selling it to OTB’s Renzo Rosso, who, according to W Magazine, is “a flamboyant paterfamilias, who prefers provocation to political correctness”? We hope that Francesco Risso would be able to stand himself in good stead so that Consuelo Castiglioni would not need to make a comeback a la Jil Sander. And then disappear again.

Photos: Imaxtree

Dress Watch: Multiple Rounds


The first thing that strikes you when confronted with this Marni tunic top is the fabric. Does it come this way, or are the coin-sized dots individually tacked to form the whole? Examining every stitch (and we bothered), the consistency suggests two possibilities: superb sewing machine or unparalleled textile weaving facility. The sales women in the shop were, unfortunately, of no help. Whichever way, the effect is an unusual fabric with a piece-together flexibility that allows designer Consuelo Castiglioni to create some rather arresting clothes.

We are truly fascinated by the way the circles are held together. Placed flat, it seems that the cotton/viscose felt dots are fastened to some kind of webbing when in fact they hold to each other at six equidistant points along the edges via a sort of twisted chain stitch that themselves form an octagonal frame in which a circle is suspended. There’s clearly some symmetry to it that craft folks will appreciate and calculation involving geometry that geeks will be charmed with. To us, the repetition of a single shape brings to mind a Suffolk-puff quilt, something that gave grannies of a previous age immense joy when they made them.

To be sure, there is nothing grandmotherly about this top, certainly not the colour-blocking and, through the manipulation of the placements of the dots, the asymmetric silhouette. If this were to be made of metallic plastic discs, rather than the very matte felt pieces, and if it were shaped closer to the body, would this not have been rather Paco Rabanne, circa 1966? Consuelo Castiglioni is, however, too busy with pushing her art-and-craft aesthetic to the present to look back at Sixties futurism for ideas, dotted or not.

Marni sleeveless ‘Dot Macramé’ tunic, SGD2,990, is available at Marni, Hilton Shopping Gallery and The Paragon. Cotton inner (in picture) is not part of the top. Photo: lyst.com