Max Mara has always struck me as a very stylish brand for a very refined woman. I picture flawless women in crisp white pants and tailored jackets dropping off their children at school looking like Jackie Kennedy. Gorgeous starlets like Katie Holmes and Chloe Moretz sit front-row at their Milan fashion shows.
While I may aspire to be that kind of woman, I'm just not. Don't get me wrong, I'd sell one of my kids for one of their signature camel cashmere coats, but other than that, it has never been a brand that spoke to me (not to mention their out-of-my-reach price point).
I had a chance to chat with their brand ambassador, Nicola Maramotti, who herself is the mother of four children. The German-born Nicola is married to Ignazio Maramotti, the Chairman of MaxMara Fashion Group (and son of its founder), and she actually leads a life somewhat similar to mine. She juggles her duties at the Reggio Emilia-based company that is actually an umbrella: There are 19 lines within the conglomerate (Max Mara and Sportmax are the best-known). When I asked her how she manages it all, her answer sounded familiar: "I prioritize so that I can find that extra time with my children. Running home so I can be there for homework might mean an extra hour of work once the kids have gone to bed." Sounds like my life, minus the sick wardrobe.
I asked her what Max Mara would look like in ten years, and her answer was that the 60-year-old brand (they celebrated their anniversary in 2011) has to evolve to meet the needs of its ever-demanding clientele. But in a world where major designers like Jason Wu and Versace collaborate with mass retailers to get their product out to the masses, how will Max Mara compete?
Unbeknownst to me, the brand has already worked with major designers. Celebrated designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Dolce & Gabbana worked in the studio at Max Mara back in the '70s, and design duo Proenza Schouler designed for the house more recently, before they came to prominence. Achille Maramotti, the company's founder, can be credited with plucking these young designers out of obscurity. And only the most major of photographers have shot the advertising campaigns; this year's was shot by famed lensman Mario Sorrenti.
Max Mara has also partnered with Women In Film for the past 11 years, presenting the Women in Film MaxMara 'Face of the Future' award to a rising star each year -- this year's recipient was Chloe Moretz, and past honorees have included the likes of Ms.Holmes, Zoe Saldana, Emily Blunt and Elizabeth Banks.
They pretty much had me at Proenza Schouler and Chloe Moretz, but I was converted when they invited me up to the Madison Avenue store to create a few looks. Talk about a kid in a candy store: The staff welcomed me in and invited me to choose whatever I'd like for the ultimate game of dress-up.
Check out how I went from casual to crazy-chic thanks to Max Mara, as well as 31 celebrities in the brand, a few iconic images from the company's storied past (including Carla Bruni and Christy Turlington!), and some shoppable items ... just in case you're inspired.