Efisio Marras: the new generation that will determine tomorrow’s fashion success

The firstborn of iconic Antonio Marras, Efisio initially did not want to be in fashion at all, even claiming he would never work in the field. Instead, he fell in love with visual arts at a very young age: at seventeen, he started experimenting with cameras and created his own personal darkroom at home. He graduated in Photography and Liberal Arts after studying at two of the world’s best schools: the Parsons School of Design in Paris and Central St. Martins in London. His career took off in New York, where he was assistant to super-famous Mario Sorrenti. Then, his father Antonio called him back to Italy to help set up and organize a Milan Triennale exhibition, and offered him the role of creative director for I’m Isola Marras, the family company’s contemporary line.
Since his debut collection – inspired by Mathilda in the movie “Leon” – Marras decided to bring his cosmopolitan and innovative soul to the catwalk. His fashion speaks to younger generations and to the future, with a fresh and contemporary style that is on trend in the expanding markets of China and the United Arab Emirates. A punk and urban-romantic aesthetic that can work in Shanghai, Paris or New York, worn by the young “citizens of the world” that make up the designer’s ideal audience.

We had the chance to chat with him and here is what he told us...

What are you working on at the moment?
I have many different project on my plate: in January, Isola is partnering with other companies – jewelry with Rosantica for the women’s collection; super special knits for the men’s collection with Riccardo Comi; and a small kids’ capsule collection with the Powerpuff Girls, which we’ll officially launch on January 18th. I’ve decided to take a temporary break from the European fashion weeks in January and February, to invest a little more energy abroad.

You’ve said your first collection for I’m Isola Marras was inspired by “Leon”’s Mathilda. What was so inspiring about this Luc Besson character?
She seemed perfect for my first collection, and she’d still be perfect for my second and the others. Mathilda is an absurd character, full of contrasts and mixed emotions: an elementary-school girl who seeks revenge by becoming a killer – Luc Besson is a genius! I can’t wait for people to start forgetting my first catwalk a little, so I can use her again!

What are your strengths as creative director, and what values do you plan on bringing to your label in the next few years?
I want to develop Isola with a strong market vision and love for foreign countries: unfortunately Italians don’t like themselves much anymore, and although I will never abandon Made in Italy, I believe Isola Marras is on a path that definitely leads to more heterogeneous and plastic destinations, willing to accept change and efforts. I want it to be a communication line with my friends from Tokyo to New York, and not just an Italian contemporary line. In fact, I hope to make the geographical coordinates of the brand impossible to trace.

Fashion was not your passion in the beginning. When did something “click” and why did you once claim you would “never work in this field”?
I didn’t study fashion, and tried to stay away from it as much as possible. I didn’t so much find my true calling or vocation, as much as I changed my mind once I realized the opportunity my father was granting me. In this contemporary age, we don’t need definitions and everyone can do and does everything. When dad announced I would be in charge of creative direction at Isola Marras, I thought to myself, “Why not?”. I have to say it’s been an absurd and fun journey, not only in fashion: it connects with a bit of everything, even math!

Many people would like to know more about Efisio Marras, not only as creative director but also as private individual. How would you describe yourself to someone new?
Wow, what a hard question! I don’t think I can describe myself, or at least do it well – especially these days, when I wake up every day feeling like a different person, ready to tackle different challenges. There is one constant, though: I have surrounded myself with people I always need in my professional and personal life. One thing I can say is I don’t like being alone, because you can’t accomplish anything alone.

How important was your education at prestigious schools like the Parsons School of Design in Paris or Central St. Martins in London? Do you think schools abroad and in Italy follow different approaches in teaching fashion?
I can’t make comparisons because I studied in Italy only until I turned eighteen, but my brother just enrolled in the Brera Academy and I can ask what he thinks once he’s settled in. The schools I went to definitely had a huge impact on me, both in academic and personal terms. I met wonderful people at Parsons, who were my teachers, friends and colleagues; I don’t know where I’d be now, had I not formed those relationships when I was at university.

Do you have any particular memory about the years you spent studying abroad?
I have a lot, but not many are appropriate for an interview… ;)

What “mark” do you want to leave in the I’m Isola Marras philosophy?
I would want it to be a fun mark, something natural, a fashion line that doesn’t feel heavy. I want to see people at parties wearing my sweaters and girls in clubs from Alghero to Tokyo with I’M sweatshirts. I want Isola pieces to be worn by people who want to treat themselves, without necessarily being at the center of attention.

What is your inspiration when you create your collections?
People, the things I see, my grandmother’s house in Santa Teresa di Gallura as much as my weekends at the Berghain in Berlin.

How do you see the people who buy and wear I’m Isola Marras?
I try to build my collections so that they might be anyone, from my sixteen-year-old cousin to my sixty-year-old aunt, but I understand not everyone can like everything... which of course is obvious, without me even saying it.

Has being your father's son ever created difficulties for you?
Yes, it has and still does at times, just like it has been an advantage other times. I miss living in New York, where nobody knows who I am or even who my father is. I have to say that growing up in Alghero, being “Efisio” and not just “Antonio’s son” was my main mission in life.

What is your creative process like, when you create a new collection?
I think about what I would like to see, the story I would like to tell, the places I would like to travel to and the people I’d like to meet. I think about real and imaginary characters from black-and-white or inexistent movies. I am inspired by everything I see: newspapers, dogs, streets, waves and loves.

What was the biggest lesson your father taught you over the years, and how is it useful in your role today?
He taught me to continue learning and never stop. The reason why I always stayed away from fashion is that it is a 24/7 job, with no card to punch and no way to free your mind from it. Everything is constantly changing and you can never take yourself out of the process, there are no breaks and you can’t be only halfway in.

You decided to photograph the first I’m Isola Marras collection yourself. Why? And how was your passion for photography born?
It started a lot earlier than my passion for fashion. I studied photography my whole life and continue to experiment and try to improve, like in everything I do. I think my mother gave me my first Minolta 35mm, and when I was seventeen she helped me turn the bathroom off my room into a darkroom.

What is your advice to young talents wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I am a young talent myself, trying to follow my journey, and I don’t feel like I can give any specific advice. All I can say is, “You can’t accomplish anything alone”. So find a team you like to work with, and keep it close!

How will the style of I’m Isola Marras evolve in the next few years?
It will become more and more diverse. This year’s F/W collection has already expanded, but the brand will continue and take it further: I want to extend the men’s capsules and give accessories more breathing room. I want Isola to become its own world, complete and complicated, where we can all find at least some of our contradictions.

Interview by Barbara Palladino

© I'm Isola Marras

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