Fashion’s greatest private archive
“Paletot is MaxMara,” Achille Maramotti, founder of MaxMara used to say. And he was right. Maxmara is synonymous with outerwear and has iconised the classically chic outer jacket for seven decades. But more than that MaxMara is Italianità. Since its visionary beginning in 1951 to today, the luxury giant is testimony to everything we love: authenticity, consistency, beauty and Italianness. The company’s very first step and every step after come from the heart of Reggio Emilia, a small city about two hours southeast of Milan in the Emilia Romagna region, and to be more precise, a gorgeous Liberty-era industrial building that today is considered the single greatest private fashion archive.
BAI MaxMara, the epicentre
BAI MaxMara (Biblioteca e Archivio di Impresa) houses more than just an archive – it is a sprawling home of inspiration and the very epicentre of the MaxMara world, chronicling the company’s seven decades from its founding to today, all the while documenting MaxMara savoir-faire, as well as the history of fashion itself. And it’s a portal to the future. Every season, MaxMara’s creative team immerses itself in the archive, and by looking at its history and the future, MaxMara reinvents itself.
Laura Lusuardi. Courtesey of MaxMara BAI
Laura Lusuardi, Fashion Coordinator, is the host of this magical place, and a firsthand witness to the company’s incredible story. “When I started in 1964 I was a young girl; we were just few [people] and I assisted Dottore Achille and the very first designers he brought from France to Emilia, learning everything “.
From tailor to tailleur
MaxMara history starts with Maramotti, himself, a young man gifted in the art and tradition of sartoria (tailoring), thanks to his mother, director of tailoring and pattern-making school, his grandmother, head of a dressmaking shop, and with a preternatural foresight for investing in fashion. From Day One, Maramotti loved to dress women with an unwavering design ethos that combined functionality and quality. Just as quickly as MaxMara would grow from Reggio Emilia to a worldwide company with 2500 outposts, Maramotti sensed the importance of preserving savoir-faire and memory while always seeking innovation with new creative talents.
Exploring BAI is to take a journey through Maramotti’s dual-driven philosophy of heritage and inspiration. A three-story sartorial Hall of Prophecy, there are kilometres (or so if feels) of corridors of coats and clothing of all kinds, 20,000 original sketches, patterns and designs (digitalised as well), volumes of the company’s first graphics, logos and advertisements, rolls and pieces of half-century-old fabrics. You’ll find the first paletot from the 50s, the original POP collection (designed by Lison Bonfils), the 1969 inception of Sportmax (and arrival of extraordinary consultants such as Karl Lagerfeld, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac), and the return of Maxmara with the Maestra of the Manteau, Anne-Marie Beretta, designer of the iconic 101801 coat in 1981 whose call to arms “By woman, For Women” still leads the company today.
Courtesey of MaxMara BAI
And then there is the research library, an encyclopaedic space with 40,000 historical fashion magazines, 6000 books and 8000 vintage clothing items and accessories from the 20th century forward sourced by Lusuardi and her team and organised by kind and date.
Time travel decades in the hanging room with precious and original Balenciaga dresses, a Chanel suit personally owned by Coco, Audrey Hepburn’s 1976 Yves Saint Lauren velvet coat, to name a few. Singular to the archive is the phalanx of uniforms representing international and ethnic military costumes. Perhaps the most moving part of the collection are the donations, beautiful bespoke pieces that tell stories from women like Enrica Massei, Franca Sozzani, Marit Allen, Carine Roitfield, and Laura Lusuardi herself. Each piece is a time capsule, telling a story, making BAI more than a history but also an education available to today’s and future creatives.
Courtesey of MaxMara BAI
Laura opens boxes on boxes and while her hands search, caress, and fold with passion and energy that have fuelled her for 56 years to safeguard every single element that makes up Maxmara history. She built this world when MaxMara relocated from its original location (a splendid example of Rationalist architecture which now houses Collezione Maramotti, the family’s art collection) to its new building in the MaxMara campus in 2003. While leaving, she tells us, she looked around at what was left abandoned and collected up everything she could – objects and memories like sports cups, old calculators, polaroids, saving them all for those who would come, effectively creating what would become an intrepid sartorial adventure into the past, present and future.