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Marni Makes Magic Under the Manhattan Bridge

The dank streetscape under the cavernous arches of the Manhattan Bridge, where Brooklyn falls away into the Hudson and the B, D, N and Q trains rumble ominously overhead, is not, really, where most people imagine a glitzy fashion show to take place.

But that’s where Day 2 of New York Fashion Week ended, with rows of stools of varying heights arrayed along a cobblestone runway, flanked on each side by a pair of risers — on which stood the members of the String Orchestra of Brooklyn in different shades of tangerine and kumquat — and at each end by crowds of somewhat bemused gawkers. The sun had already set, and a fog machine sent puffs of smoke into the air.

Madonna, fishing around in her handbag, was perched on a short stool; Doja Cat, on a taller one; and Terrell Lewis of the Los Angeles Rams sat even taller (probably not because of the stool). Kendall Jenner was sandwiched between her boyfriend, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, and Anna Wintour. Everyone was waiting for the Marni show to begin.

This was the second of the big European brands to jump the ocean for New York Fashion Week to take advantage of the city’s current power vacuum in fashion. (Fendi was the first the day before.) It was also the first Marni show to take place outside of Milan, and the third in which Francesco Risso, the creative director, sought to break down the fourth wall between the brand and those who might wear it.

Mr. Risso is one of the rare establishment designers who has used his experience during the pandemic to challenge the status quo and grapple with the point of the fashion show, rather than pay lip service to change and then immediately fall back into old ways. Thus far, he has forced his audience to be active participants in the experience by wearing his collection instead of simply watching it (which was interesting) and made them stand in the dark to create a sort of viewer maze through which models randomly wove (which was a disaster).

This time around, he immersed the models in the built environment, suspending them between worlds: the ground underfoot and the bridge overhead, one borough and another, the end of one day and the promise of the next. The New York of myth and New York as it is.

(Because Mr. Risso doesn’t believe in making his audience do what he would not, he also immersed himself in the show, joining the orchestra to play a cello, an instrument he has been studying for two years.)

Did it work?

It was magic, a much-needed redefinition of street style and a realistic proposition for what might come next. Beautiful, without being indulgent or oblivious.

Against the strains of an original composition by Dev Hynes and the cacophony of the subway came a sunrise of a collection in the glowing shades of the sky in flux. The shapes were simple, the textures deeply tactile and the colors and prints, based on work by the artist Flaminia Veronesi, alive.

Circles rose and fell on the base layer of stretch T-shirts and bike shorts, or were cut out of baby crochets and edged in ruffles. Giant flocked denim trousers with the texture of velvet were paired with crop tops, the belly button the erogenous zone but also the space that needs to be crossed between top and bottom. Greatcoats in leather, pony and wool swept over it all. Most of it was gender agnostic. All of it was a mood.

Truncated knits were patched together in different gauges and textures to resemble shards of landscapes past. The arms of silk satin column dresses with mercury in retrograde at the center extended down to meet the skirt, forming an endless loop.

Circularity, in all things. Especially these things: vestments for a tribe of urban pagans, made for the age of climate change and transition.

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