“She has belonged to my pantheon of heroines since my days as a student at London’s Royal College of Arts,” said Griffiths during a showroom appointment. “Her life as a strong-willed, driven, independent woman resonates deeply with the values we embrace at Max Mara.”
Miller’s life was rather well documented, so the designer poured over thousands of her photographs; taken mostly in black-and-white or in shades of gray, they inspired the pre-fall collection’s chic color palette. Miller modeled in the ’20s for the likes of Edward Steichen and George Hoyningen-Huene, swathed in couture.
For her work as a reporter on the battlefields she obviously dressed in no-nonsense mannish military attire, while managing to keep her glam appeal intact. Riffing on this contrast, and drawing a parallel between the uniforms she wore on the war front and the urban uniforms Max Mara provides women for their daily lives today, Griffiths worked around a central theme he called combat tailoring. It seemed utterly appropriate for our present circumstances.
The theme was translated into a series of tailored pieces in grisaille or Prince of Wales, which combined the utilitarian with the efficiently elegant—slightly oversized yet sharp-cut blazers worn with capacious side-pocketed drawstring cargo pants or with matching short fluttering skirts; dusters in light double-faced wool and roomy trench coats in silver-gray techno taffeta with a metallic shine; slender all-in-ones with a classy tailored edge.
Miller’s more glamorous side was referenced in couture-inspired occasion dresses and blouses in polka-dotted silk gazar or in luminous fil coupé—different-scale spots apparently being one of her favorite motifs. Bows, big gathered sleeves, and flourishes added a dash of drama, hinting also at the more outgoing post-pandemic life we all crave, Griffiths included: “I believe that, when people’s lives will open up, we’ll want to dress stylishly but still comfortably,” he said.
To emphasize the concept, he pointed out a floaty all-in-one in silvery fil coupé. “You could wear it to a party as if it were a long evening dress, but since it has a more active edge, worn with a pair of sneakers it can have a second life at the office,” he said. “Because probably people are going to have fun thinking about what to wear to those board meetings!”
Who would’ve thought that the office would replace parties or dinners as a social occasion to get excited about dressing up for? “The days when we used to think, Oh, I’m going to the office so let’s put on that old suit again—those days are gone,” said the designer. “People will pay attention and will definitely enjoy dressing up for the office.”
Griffiths is probably to be believed—getting dressed to the nines to meet with colleagues at the coffee machine will be our new normal. Max Mara, with its clever mix of practicality and sophistication, has always provided women with plenty of smart options for the everyday; therefore, it seems to be in a rather good place for the times ahead.
“Clothes with a long life span beyond a particular season is our way to be sustainable,” he said. To bring home his point, pride of place on the collection’s moodboard was given to an image from a Max Mara advertising campaign shot by Steven Meisel in 1999, featuring Carolyn Murphy resplendent in a tied-at-the-side white pantsuit.
It looked very Lee Miller–esque indeed—and also quite modern. Near Meisel’s picture of Murphy, Griffith plastered a quote from the artist Jessie Mann, who was one of the commentators in the Miller doc: “We need examples of women like Miller. Women who are complicated and fully three-dimensional.” There seems to be no lack of similar examples out there today.