Artist Judith Hopf creates an upcycled tropical jungle at Marni S/S 2020

Artist Judith Hopf creates an upcycled tropical jungle at Marni S/S 2020

The Italian house’s sustainably-minded set design speaks of promise, of things discarded, reused and transformed

Today, millions of people around the world have marched from school and the workplace to protest against today’s climate change crisis. The environment is a pressing issue in fashion – claimed to be the world’s second most polluting industry – and for S/S 2020, designers have demonstrated their awareness for change. In London, Phoebe English’s presentation was shown against a corkboard backdrop, pinned with sustainable fabric swatches and details on eco manufacturers and processes. In Milan on Wednesday, Arthur Arbesser presented patchwork suits and dresses made with swatches from his own archive.

Across news coverage today, images of children hopefully carrying placards feature, emblazoned with naive and idealised images of nature, like felt tip plants and animals. They bear parallels to the set design of Marni’s S/S 2020 show today, which featured a jungle of childlike trees growing within a vast industrial space, with hand-painted bark and jutting comic-like leaves made from recycled plastic, designed in collaboration with the Berlin artist Judith Hopf.

‘This is our joyous protest. I’m striking in my own way’ – Francesco Risso

As brands become more sustainability-minded, we begin to question the role of the ornately constructed and overblown runway set. After such spectacles in recent seasons, press releases have worked to ensure journalists that set design soil has been donated, or trees have been replanted in an environmentally friendly fashion. It’s a concept Marni creative director Francesco Risso has had on his mind for S/S 2020. His men’s show venue resembled an eerie underwater scene, with guests looking up through the surface of the ocean into a waste-clogged world, awash with plastic water bottles and milk cartons. His tropical S/S 2020 women’s set reused already-upcycled elements from his men’s show venue, along with cardboard and environmentally-friendly paints.

‘This is our joyous protest. I’m striking in my own way,’ Risso explained backstage after Marni’s S/S 2020 show, barefoot with tribal paint streaks on his cheeks. ‘The collection marks a new beginning for us’. The set spoke of promise, of things discarded, reused and transformed. ‘It was so beautiful watching old bottles become beautiful leaves,’ Risso added. At first glance, it also had an oddly uneasy note, a hint of a future natural world with synthetic elements. ‘The set is about how we think about those things we have already around us,’ Hopf explains. ‘There is no utopia or dystopia behind this concept – it follows the conceptions of diversity and difference in imagination.’

In her inspirations, Hopf nods to Jean Dubuffet and David Hockney and the ‘Fauvist artistic patterns used by Risso and his team’. For spring, the creative director looked to freeing draped shapes, in cotton and taffeta, infused with 1950s couture shapes, like gently poufing skirts, asymmetric dresses with ribbon tied backs and sarong skirts. ‘The women became plant bulbs or pieces of coral,’ Risso explains, of the pieces which were made from upcycled archive materials and hand painted with exotic brushstroke florals. ‘They’re like tree huggers!’

‘We worked with Judith and in the studio with multiple hands, like elves and creatures,’ Risso added. The image of people working together to find creative solutions is particularly prescient today, when millions of people have put their hands in the air, in the hope of change. §

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