A cornucopia of colour, pattern and detail referenced the exuberant mood of newly-independent nations in 1960s Africa
Post-colonialism in Africa might seem an awkward subject for a fashion show to navigate. But Antonio Marras and his troupe of gingham-clad women, sitting under old-fashioned hairdryer hoods before going wild with partners on the dance floor — brought fun and energy to Milan fashion week.
Marras always has a tale to tell. A folded paper on each chair revealed the story of how the people of Mali came out to celebrate in their capital, Bamako, when the country gained independence in 1960. Using pictures of that joyous moment captured by documentary photographer Malick Sidibé (who died earlier this year), Marras brought his women's and men's Spring/Summer 2017 collections to a crescendo of happiness.
“I want to underline the strength and the possibility that fashion, music and dance can push to the borders — and go across,” said the designer backstage, as the dancers kept on moving to the rhythm created by Italian choreographer Matteo Bittante.
The collection really took off as the hair salon women in their bright, gingham-check dresses joined up with partners on the runway and danced the day away.
But from the beginning, the Italian designer with a penchant for history had created a vivid collage of colour and pattern.
These were not so different from the usual Marras style. There were flowers embedded in tailored coats, long, lean dresses, shades of black contrasting with a turquoise fabric with a rich sheen. But colour was often in the details, as with gilded embroidery or a sprinkling of tiny flowers.
What felt fresh after seasons of Marras digging for treasures in the past was that the fabric mix, as well as its textures and patterns, created a summer vibe. That applied especially to the gingham checks which were also used for bags and extended to a range of accessories inspired by the emerging youth culture of Africa in the 1960s.