Architect, dancer, textile designer, painter and sculptor, Sophie Taeuber-Arp was that rare thing; a modernist who invested even the most everyday objects with a sense of magic and mystery. At Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Taeuber-Arp and fellow artists of the avant-garde including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst and Guillaume Apollinaire met nightly. Their performances, publications, recitals and readings played out an astonishing new aesthetic: Dada. Taeuber-Arp’s hastily improvised costumes and the marionettes she designed for her most famous work,”King Stag”radiate joyful energy, kinetic spirit and theatrical panache. They are fully formed fairytale characters with a charm that lies somewhere between the robotic and the animal. Max Mara’s strong and surprising silhouettes are articulated with equal aplomb. In all the hues of a Taeuber-Arp tapestry, the collection explores playful contrasts of mini and maxi, micro and macro, skinny and outsize.
Part boot, part legging, Max Mara’s crêpe-soled knitted cuissards feature anatomically placed quilting. Mohair sweaters feature similarly articulated sleeves. Paired with a quilted nylon micro-skirt, those boots express a new dynamic. If not thigh high, skirts are regal, bell shaped and full length ± perfect with a skinny turtleneck and a balaclava. The volume is turned up on trousers too; in winter white with the widest legs ever, they appear in tailored cavalry twill and jersey-backed techno-nylon.
Closer inspection of those marionettes reveals how Sophie Taeuber-Arp elevates prosaic hardware to poetic heights. Max Mara chooses a pale matte gold zipper as its talisman. Zippered pockets and side splits pop up in unexpected places, and when a tailored jacket or a mannish “cappottino”, get a double zip fastening, they assume a distinctly Dada dimension. Of course, Max Mara’s coats take centre stage, perfect in form, function and finish, fit for a fairytale queen or king. Long or short, they underline the collection’s new slouch and swagger. The stuff of dreams, Teddy Bear fabric gets a fresh look too.
We know it works very well in a coat, but who knew that it works in a tunic, a floor-sweeping skirt, even an audacious pair of shorts? It gets cold, very cold in Taeuber-Arp’s alpine homeland. Max Mara brings on oversized puffas – layer one over your Teddy Bear for maximum effect. And the wadding is upcycled; it derives from the otherwise waste material from the production of the Teddy Bear Coats. Max Mara spins a yard with a series of chunky knits featuring striking motifs blown up and abstracted. It all adds up to a collection that fully honours Max Mara’s promise of sleek modern dressing, with a dash of Cabaret Voltaire’s whirlwind creativity and a sprinkle of magic dust.