Maria McManus looked to the movies this season. Specifically Il Deserto Rosso, the 1964 Michelangelo Antonioni movie that was his first in color. “It is stunningly beautiful,” McManus recalls, but it also addresses themes that the designer deals with in her work every day. “It’s that time in the 1960s in Italy when it’s [being] industrialized, and everybody is wearing their beautiful suits, and trying to progress and earn money thinking it’s all wonderful. And Monica Vitti [who stars in the movie] is completely at a loss and despairing in this sort of disconnected, industrialized world—I feel like 60 years later we are doing the same thing.”
Despite the bleak outlook of the film, the resulting collection was self-assured and—dare we say—optimistic, characterized by a color palette of peony pink grounded by a rich chocolate brown. She had found a poster for the movie where a swatch of abstract pink dominates the foreground with Monica Vitti and another actor standing in the back. “Most of the imagery you find for the movie is red, [but from this poster] we took the rosa instead of the rosso.” (Rosso is Italian for red.) Springy semi-sheer ribbed knits were turned into airy dresses and skirts. On the model, they looked like they were worn with little slips underneath, but it was in fact part of the dress. “We made the fabric with a heavier gauge at the top, and then it gets lighter at the bottom, so you can get the sheer look without showing your undies to the world.” For the less modest, pieces made from crochet knits—a black oversized dropped shoulder shirt with a polo neck, worn with McManus’s go-to bike shorts, and a long white slip dress were fine alternatives.
Suiting is one of the places where McManus shines, and this season, a white jacket cut from Japanese FSC-certified viscose, was slouchy, with a bit of an exaggerated shoulder—she added a button underneath the lapel to allow it to be worn “closed,” which created an interesting asymmetric silhouette. Basic t-shirts are now made from 80% recycled materials. “Ideally the entire collection would be made from fabrics like this,” she said. McManus has always been proud to show off the way her garments are finished on the inside, and this season she photographed many of them worn inside out, or with exposed waistbands. “We try to spend as much time on the inside as the outside.”