Taking cues from architecture, Max Mara creative director Ian Griffiths unveils the label’s latest masterpiece.
Ian Griffiths spends a lot of time thinking about the Chicago woman’s style. “She’s corporate-oriented and wants to be perfect for every occasion,” the creative director of Max Mara explains. “She’s looking for those clothes that make her look perfect in every aspect of her life. Max Mara helps her to live it fully and gives her the confidence she needs to be on [display] all the time.”
Griffiths is the mastermind behind those fashions, bringing to the storied fashion house a bold creative vision paired with remarkable technical acumen. His most recent feat is creating the newest addition to Max Mara’s handbag slate: the Whitney bag, inspired by Renzo Piano’s design of the newly reopened Whitney Museum of American Art, and produced in collaboration with Piano himself.
“I think rather like an architect. I believe in a certain kind of rigor in a way that you approach design.” —Ian Griffiths
Working with the master architect came naturally to Griffiths, who studied the discipline before transitioning to fashion. That architecture background still resonates in his career, which utilizes many of the same fundamentals and skills. “I think rather like an architect… and I believe in a certain kind of rigor in a way that you approach design,” he explains. Griffiths draws parallels between the structure of Max Mara’s signature coats and that of buildings, emphasizing the ease of the partnership with Piano.
The ultimate goal of the Whitney bag project was to create something that reflected the form of the Whitney’s striking, asymmetrical, sculptural shape. “Renzo Piano Workshop from the outset wanted to produce something with the idea of the skin that envelops the building,” Griffiths says, accounting for the bag’s sleek ridges, which mimic the exterior of the Whitney. The bag’s hardware, too, reflects the Whitney’s form—the pieces were crafted based on the Piano team’s sketches for the stanchions that secure the museum’s tension cables. Made from calfskin, the bag is available in black, bordeaux, and tan, plus a special-edition version in the identical slate color of the Whitney.
Griffiths is also excited about Max Mara’s new Pre-Fall collection, which includes a cashmere and silk sweater in a bobcat-print motif. “We really did take the design from the markings of a bobcat, so it is faithful to its inspiration, and for me that represents something quite cool and new and, at the same time, very chic,” he says. “On the other side, in the minimal theme, is the total red look—the red suit with the red coat over—which a lot of people pinpointed as a highlight of the show and the collection.”
A native of Derbyshire, England, Griffiths has worked with Max Mara since graduating from the Royal College of Art in London and has a very clear idea of who his client is and exactly what she needs and desires in her wardrobe. Men have it easy, he’s realized, being able to rely on simple jacket, jeans, and tie combinations and avoiding the myriad of choices that females are bombarded with. “For a woman, it is so difficult because for any occasion there are any number of possibilities: Do you wear a dress, a suit, a bustier dress, go strapless? Do you cover up? Do you expose? What do you expose?” he wonders. “I think our responsibility at Max Mara is to give our customers ways of dressing that are going to give them complete confidence to get on with their lives.” 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-475-9500