Marina Rinaldi was the great grandmother of Achille Maramotti, the founder and president of the Max Mara Group, one of Italy’s best-known, family-run, global fashion businesses. She was, by all accounts, an indomitable woman with an obsession for craftsmanship who ran a tailoring atelier in Reggio Emilia in the 1850s. Over two hundred years later, in 1980, the brand Marina Rinaldi was created in her name, to cater for women sized 12-28, with fashion-forward clothes for all occasions – a revolutionary idea at the time.
‘She must have been an incredible matriarch; I loved hearing all the stories and discovering all about her,’ ponders Roksanda Ilinčić, the latest designer to collaborate with the Marina Rinaldi brand on its capsule project, a 20-piece collection that arrives in stores this week. Roksanda, Serbian-born and raised in Belgrade, is one of British fashion’s great success stories.
She studied architecture and design at the University of Arts in Belgrade followed by an MA in womenswear at Central Saint Martins, graduating in 2001 – a golden era for fashion start-ups. Not all survived, but Roksanda, whose designs are super elegant, steeped in colour and always inspired by her latest art crush, has thrived; growing an international business, opening a David Adjaye-designed store on London’s Mount Street in 2014 and developing the kind of client wish-list usually associated with luxury megabrands. Everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge and Melania Trump to Michelle Obama and Cate Blanchett (‘I’m not allowed to have favourites, but…’) have worn her clothes on repeat.
‘I wanted to give the Marina customer all the elements that I’m known for, and to offer them the opportunity to try something maybe a bit more daring, experimental and fun,’ she says of the flattering, cleverly colour-blocked pieces, priced between £247 (a form-fitting jumper) and £641 (a day dress), and up to £3,550 for a sweeping cashmere coat. It doesn’t come cheap, but these investment pieces, cut from the highest quality fabrics, speak to those who aspire to long-lasting style rather than seasonal fashion whim.
Not only did Roksanda get her art fix on this project – she toured the Collezione Maramotti, said to be one of the finest family-owned art collections in the world, where she found inspiration in the works of artist Frank Stella – she also revelled in working with the plus-size specialist that goes up to a UK size 28.
In the designer fashion world, fit-models are a standard size 8. ‘So my eye has become accustomed to those proportions, but working with a size 16 model was exciting, an incredibly positive experience, adapting proportions to create this sophisticated celebration of curves. I already do this for private clients,’ she points out. ‘But it’s something I’d love to introduce more of in my own business.’
Marina Rinaldi’s managing director Lynne Webber says Roksanda’s collection addresses the greatest misconception about designing for bigger women – that they are interested in clothes, not fashion. ‘We’re here to show women that they’re free to wear whatever makes them feel good and gorgeous. No woman should be limited in their choice because of their size,’ she says.
Indeed one of the reasons why Roksanda has been so successful is how many high-profile body shapes can wear her. ‘Customers tell me when they put on my dress, it’s not that they’re trying to be a stronger version of themselves, they’re just trying to say something to the world in the right way, with the right voice – not too loud, not too quiet. We communicate so much with our clothing and no matter how different my customers are or what function they have to go to – not just women on the red carpet or giving an important speech – but regular clients too, they say the same thing, that they feel secure, protected.’
And thankfully, that feeling is now open to all women, no matter their shape or size. Were Marina Rinaldi alive today, she would surely approve.