Fact: the same inspiration will lead different people to a wide range of results. Take three designers and tell them to take into consideration a painting of a landscape as a starting point for a collection, and you can bet that one will maybe look at the mood in general, another at the palette, and the third will focus on the content of the artwork.
Max Mara's S/S 17 collection moved from Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi, who left an extraordinary legacy in Brazil, obtaining very dubious results.
Bo Bardi was a complex figure since she worked as an architect, set and costume designer, writer, editor, illustrator, furniture designer and curator.
She could have been a terrific inspiration and you can bet that fashion and architecture fans reading about this connection on the show notes before the runway show took place were probably on the brink of crying tears of joy.
But, unfortunately, they were destined to be disappointed: yes, the runway was set among the Brazilian forest and featured a brutalist concrete wall, a location reminiscent of Bardi's Casa de Vidro - her Glass House - in the Jardim Morumbi, the rain forest surrounding São Paulo.
This main inspiration actually led to a refreshing jungle print, but then the latter was applied to light hooded jackets, jumpsuits, leggings and swimsuits.
At times a three-dimensional grassy texture was added to the jungle prints, but it ended up generating rather impractical and flamboyant looks for a Max Mara collection.
Red, blue, yellow and orange - colours you would easily find in Bo Bardi's notes and sketches - were applied for sporty jumpsuits that looked like uniforms, while the wide range of animals living around Bo Bardi's house (snakes, frogs, armadillos, sloths, and birds) inspired the exotic animal intarsia sweaters.
Rather than looking fresh and fun, the latter called to mind a mythical time lost between the early-to-mid '80s when Krizia's animals reigned supreme on sweaters. But the worst thing was that the fuzzy texture of the sweater surface that turned the intarsia motif into a confused mess.
One major mistake was also trying to replicate Bo Bardi's amoeba shaped windows like the ones carved in the concrete walls of the SESC Pompéia (perfectly echoed instead in Noir Kei Ninomiya's S/S 16 collection) into suede patchworked garments.
Bo Bardi's sketches, drawings, illustrations and studies show how she focused on integrating buildings and nature as proved by the Restaurante do Coaty with its circular walls surrounding a mango tree, but in this collection the design team seemed lost in rainforest greenery and unable to find a proper balance between two equations Lina Bo Bardi mentioned in her writing, one revolving around "climate, environment, soil, and life" and another focused on "technique aesthetic and function".
There was maybe a hint at other garments that may be arriving in the shops come next season, such as a couple of more formal yet functional linen tailored skirt suits, but, as a whole, the collection heavily revolved around athleisure as if a house known for impeccable coats had suddenly decided to go down the Alexander Wang way, bringing in its descent into the darkness of techno fabrics a brutalist architect. Puzzling.
Sure, you don't necessarily need to come up with a rigid grey coat to evoke the concrete structure of the SESC Pompéia, but the design team should have maybe researched their source a bit better, exploring Bo Bardi's furniture, but also her early paintings and drawings or channeling her love and passion for stones and gems and her connections with fashion.
A better research would have led to early illustrations such as the ones Bo Bardi did in the early '40s for Italian magazine Bellezza and, to be honest, they would have been more charming even if they had just been printed on plain T-shirts compared to all this redundant leggings extravaganza.