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Antonio Marras RTW Spring/Summer 2017 Milan

“This is endless,” observed my seatmate. And that was before the 40-look finale—featuring some excellent disassembled American sportswear and much, much more of the multi-layered Marras-mixed orgy of montage and mélange we had just witnessed—walked around a galvanizing group of couples jiving and twisting.

by LUKE LEITCH

“This is endless,” observed my seatmate. And that was before the 40-look finale—featuring some excellent disassembled American sportswear and much, much more of the multi-layered Marras-mixed orgy of montage and mélange we had just witnessed—walked around a galvanizing group of couples jiving and twisting.

So let’s start at the beginning. The collection was inspired by Malick Sidibé’s photos of nightlife in Bamako, Mali, in the ’50s and ’60s. They are captivating snapshots of a generation whose looks were shaped both by local tradition and the rock ‘n’ roll fever then sweeping the globe. The set was a stylized shanty of corrugated iron within which were seated some young black women reading vintage magazines under hooded beauty parlor hair dryers.

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“Is this very politically incorrect?” justifiably wondered my seatmate. Marras had a pre-prepared answer of sorts via a Yinka Shonibare quote in his notes: “Today, no one is just one thing. No one can deny the unflagging continuity of long traditions, national languages, and cultural geographies. There are no reasons for insisting on their separation and diversity other than fear and prejudice.” The casting, largely made up of white models, did, however, include many black and Asian faces—far more than Milan usually offers. My unqualified verdict—because it was not my culture Marras was appropriating—is this show did not transgress the border between creative inspiration and cynical exploitation. And achieving diversity on the runway can only be aided when designers of whatever color, even white, are free to respectfully examine the full diversity of human cultural code when assembling their work.

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