Optical art: we’ve got eyes on Max Mara and Shantell Martin’s new collaboration

Optical art: we’ve got eyes on Max Mara and Shantell Martin’s new collaboration

With its art and film prizes for women, Max Mara has long been a proponent of female recognition in the arts. In November 2015, the luxury Italian label extended this encouragement to the field of optical design, collaborating with the artist Maya Hayuk on a reinterpretation of its studded sunglasses designs in kaleidoscopic ‘stained-glass’ form. Now for S/S 2017, Max Mara has paired up with the British-born, New York-based visual artist Shantell Martin on a limited-edition sunglasses collection, the doodle-inspired artwork of each pair unique to the wearer.

‘The collection is super playful yet sophisticated,’ Martin explains of the curving cat-eye designs, created with the Italian optical company Safilo. They each feature digitally reproduced sections of an expansive black pen illustration she created on canvas for the collaboration. ‘The fact no two pairs are the same really explores the idea of self-identity,’ she explains of the project, which is titled ‘Prism in Motion’ and conceptualised around the idea of the multi-faceted Max Mara woman.

Martin’s designs reflects Max Mara’s penchant for a neutral colour palette. Photography: Roy Rochlin

Martin’s stream of consciousness style features scribbled words and abstract faces inspired by those she meets, in black marker on a white background. ’There is something magical about working with black and white,’ Martin explains. ‘People are often drawn to different areas of the work and rediscover new things on subsequent viewings.’

She used innovative techniques to create her Max Mara artwork. ‘I 3D printed this drawing tool which allows me to draw with multiple markers, or different thicknesses of markers at the same time,’ she explains.‘I used that to create the initial framework of the drawing. Then I filled these negative spaces with words, faces and characters that reflected the idea of movement and conversation.’

The use of black and white resonates with Max Mara’s own aesthetic; the brand is renowned for its refined and natural colour palette. Its most recent A/W 2017 collection features an exploration of browns, reds, greys and blacks. ‘Anyone can create a line, but a lot of time goes into making a simple black line recognisably yours,’ Martin says.

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