Pen-and-ink drawings, pieces of tape, tiny doodles, massive watercolors, and film photography populate the pages of Marni creative director Francesco Risso’s issue of A Magazine Curated by. Even though the magazine is printed by the thousands, each one has the tactile quality of being bound together just moments before delivery—it’s both human and urgent. Marni’s fall 2022 show, held in the hinterlands of Milan, was so hand-spun it felt as though one wrong step and a frayed top would completely unspool over a grassy runway. Over in his studio in Milan, Risso works to inject every aspect of his Marni with the tenderness and soulfulness—translating that potency to a mass-produced item seems complicated at best.
So how could Marni ever translate its perspective into a collection with Uniqlo, a global business with hundreds of stores and millions of products?
Risso advises to think of it as a matter of vision. “Once we started working together,” he starts over a video chat from Milan where he sits in front of a hackneyed bookshelf spilling over, “We really realized how such different practices were actually giving both of us very interesting new perspectives.”
A longtime Uniqlo customer himself, Risso found the brand’s minimal approach and eclectic take on essentials a clever counterpoint to his art-focused approach at Marni. “I was blown away, myself, to realize how much precision and how much almost mathematical recipes are behind the most simple piece,” he says. “It was interesting in the way we could apply our sense of naivete or the hand—our immediate feeling.” One strategy was to hand the Marni team handpaint each pattern; those appear on long dresses, rain-proof anoraks, and stripey trousers.
The Marni mentality comes through in the silhouettes, too—nothing too complicated or constricting. “All the objects somehow had a very strong need to be quite soft and not against the body,” says Risso. “That was an immediate gesture in order to make a quite easy language—and quite life-embracing.” For himself, Risso has selected a pair of printed pajamas, festive enough for a party, cozy enough for a plane ride across the Atlantic. Within the vogue office, favorites include long pleated-skirt dresses, check suiting, and simple button-up camp shirts for guys and girls.
The universality is important to both Marni and Uniqlo. “It was fun in the design process to see that every piece was interchangeable from gender to gender,” continues Risso. “The designs are quite neutral, welcome to all the creatures of the planets.”
For now, the collaboration is mostly restricted to citizens of this planet, arriving in the United States on May 26 in Uniqlo stores and online. (Other countries have staggered release dates.) The partnership between the brands is ongoing, too, meaning more Marni mania will arrive in the months and years to come. “It’s a beautiful way to intertwine,” says Risso, avoiding the common this x that parlance of most fashion collabs or marketing partnerships. “It’s not putting this logo above that logo,” he pushes, smiling. “Instead, it was very, very fascinating how swapping our talents created this very pragmatic, consistent, and considered wardrobe for every day on one hand, and on the other hand, an extremely happy, joyful collection that is spiritually very much about what we stand for at Marni.”