Maria Giulia Maramotti really has her work cut out for her. As the heiress to her family’s 65- year-old fashion business, the 32-year-old U.S. Director of Retail for Max Mara—and Global Ambassador of the tony brand—faces the challenge of bringing an edgy new energy to the Italian house, known in the past for its classic take on luxury. Making the label appealing and accessible to a new generation requires not only strong business and marketing savvy but also the will to colour outside conventional lines. But most importantly, Maramotti, who moved to New York from Paris five years ago for her role with the company, is passionate about authenticity. So, with a family history of dedication to the arts—her grandfather Achille, who founded the company, was an avid collector of contemporary art—Max Mara proudly gets behind a number of international artistic communities and institutions and for the last several years, has sponsored a variety of art-focused awards and events. Last year for example, the company underwrote New York’s red hot ‘Whitney Art Party’ for the Whitney Museum of American Art. Now, Canada’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery will be benefitting from Max Mara’s generosity as the Italian brand sponsors the Toronto gallery’s upcoming annual ‘Power Ball’. I spoke with the jet-setting Maria Giulia Maramotti from San Francisco about family’s passion, her commitment to authenticity, and the lasting gift that her grandfather gave her.
Jeanne: It’s exciting to see how you’re bringing Max Mara into the new age and making it relevant in order to communicate a younger kind of energy. Was that your mission from the get go, once you decided to join the company?
Maria: It makes me extremely happy that you brought it up because that is exactly what’s been our mission. As a brand, we really never changed our core values of attention to quality of the product and the quality of the conception of the collection itself, but it was really important to me to attract a consumer that is a little bit more contemporary. Women are now exposed to every different opportunity of purchasing clothing everywhere, but I think that ultimately what they want—and what really is the new idea of luxury—is to have quality pieces that are comfortable and they’re able to adapt to their lifestyles. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter how old you are. It matters more what your style is and what you do. It was important to me to really bring this message to women of all ages because that wasn’t necessarily the case five years ago.
J: You’re integrating the brand very strongly with the arts. The arts have always been important to your family—your grandfather was a great collector. But why is that still important to you, to be sponsoring these parties at these artistic venues?
M: It was something that was very organic you for us as a brand. We’ve always partnered with artists. If you look at our history back in the 90’s for example, with (photographer) William Wegman’s “Dogs in Coats” series (which toured Max Mara boutiques across America), or sponsoring the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, which we have been doing for the past twelve years, our presence within the art community and supporting art has meant a lot. Art has always been something so important and integrated within the brand because it’s part of what we are and it’s part of our legacy and also it’s a true passion. So to be completely honest with you, as a brand, it’s really important to be supportive of institutions which are aligned with the brand. We love art so much that we really want to partner with institutions that have the same mission in supporting art. That’s the reason why we picked the Power Plant. It was a natural consequence of what our core values and DNA are.
J: For you to have joined your family’s company, as part of this new generation, must feel like a huge responsibility. As the company’s American retail director, is it a little unnerving to be taking this generations-old company into vibrant new marketing directions?
M: Everything has its pros and cons. Obviously the responsibility is there and it comes with the job. But Max Mara has been my greatest love since I was a little girl and I used to play in my grandfather’s office. So yeah, I’m not going to lie to you. I have a lot of sleepless nights!
But on the other hand, it’s really about the passion of going to work every morning and having the opportunity to do something for my company every day. If anything, I’m really honoured. Of course it’s a big responsibility but more than anything, the excitement that comes from having projects develop and bringing them out there, seeing how the public is responding to the message that the company is sending out, is really one of the most exciting things that I could have ever asked for.
J: You’ve always been known for a beautifully made, high quality, classic product, and now there’s a bit of an edge to it too. But competition is so intense and there’s just so much of the same that we’re seeing out there it’s almost as though marketing strategy has become increasingly important in this new era.
M: I’m a true believer that the more fierce the competition, the more you have to think about what your core points are and to be strong and work on that. As far as marketing goes, for me, working and collaborating with the art world has never been a marketing strategy because it’s purely comes from a real place. We sponsor the arts because they are truly a passion for us, and as a family, we are true believers that artists and performing artists are truly what elevates the spirit of the world. That’s the reason we really decided to do it. So I think that yes, obviously marketing becomes important but ultimately I think that if you have a real story to tell, you don’t really need a lot of marketing platforms because at the end of the day, the public comes and really sees what your identity is. That’s what I think our strategy has been. Yes, we are an Italian brand, and we are able to support the arts, but ultimately, we are the quintessential Italian brand that works in luxury fabrics, has consistency in the cut, with a little bit of an edge, but still we’re evolving. I always use the word evolution versus revolution.
J: Your grandfather’s wonderful art collection, “Collezione Maramotti”, is on permanent public display. Tell me about where the collection is based.
M: It’s actually in the old factories of Max Mara in Reggio Emilia. We wanted to create a space to celebrate art and to open it to the public for free because we really want it to be exposed to as many people as possible. My grandfather’s dream was to share the beauty and the elevation in spirit that something like contemporary art or art in general brings and to share it with other people. We also like the idea of sponsoring the Max Mara Prize for Women, which is only directed to female artists. The winner wins the a residency in Italy. But most importantly for us, being in the position of collectors, we really want to go and find new artists and put them out there and promote their work. Wherever there is a talent to be celebrated, if we can help, we’d love to do it.
J: There are so many increasing synergies between art and fashion. How do you feel about the artistic side of the way we dress and the way we present ourselves to the world?
M: That’s a very contemporary question. It’s all everybody has been talking about in the past few weeks! The way I’ve seen fashion since I was very young and by looking at the history of fashion, I think that fashion is ultimately the quintessential way of depicting our lifestyle. What fashion should be doing is interpreting lifestyles. We have to make sure that whatever is conceived as a garment is reflecting what women’s lifestyle is.
J: What was the most important thing that you learned from your grandfather?
M: The biggest gift that my grandfather gave to me was the sense of family, not only when it comes to my own family, but also the sense of family when it comes to the idea of managing a business. People really are the game changer. And to really put in effort and love—that’s the bottom line. Max Mara is sixty five years old this year, so it’s a big anniversary for us. But ultimately what really sets us apart is love—love for what we do. Because that is something that is not only about people that are in the family but also about people that have been working with us for fifty years and more. It’s an incredible feeling. And my grandfather was like that. Obviously you have to be business savvy but at the end of the day, the integrity that comes from having those values set in stone—well, they’re timeless. That was the biggest lesson I learned from him. And every time I go to work, it’s to make him proud. He did something phenomenal, and I really want for his legacy to be out there for years and years.