The word most often associated with the design signature of Marni is quirky, and, putting modern pejorative connotations aside, it is clear to see why.
Founded in 1994 by Swiss-born Consuelo Castiglioni as a side project to her husband's fur business, house signatures include prints – both geometric and African-inspired, and a crisply cut, demure silhouette. Clashing colours, off-kilter fits, statement necklaces and reassuringly clompy shoes are all signifiers that this is a label for fashion's cognoscenti.
Men are catered for here too, with consistently strong outerwear pieces, bold patterns and eclectic spins on classic garment shapes, while the children's range launched last season is far from the slightly creepy adult-emulating designer ranges that some are guilty of.
"I love juxtaposing prints and colours, mixing modern tribal with Bauhaus graphic, adding sporty utilitarian elements," Castiglioni told press when the collection was revealed. And later this week the essence of Marni will be made available to a whole new market as the latest high-profile collaboration with H&M goes on sale globally.
Even those who claim no interest in such matters will have been hard-pressed to ignore the furore that occurs on launch day of every H&M collaboration. Eager fashion fans queue outside the stores at the crack of dawn, and online servers crash under the weight of demand for a slice of a designer lifestyle at a high-street price.
Come Thursday morning there will be plenty to reward the patience of those bleary-eyed shoppers. For this one-time-only collaboration, Castiglioni has created a vast range of pieces, each of which channels the Marni signature style – from go-faster striped knee socks and silky scarves to head-to-toe printed looks for men and women.
The overriding themes of the collection are sophisticated eclecticism and sporty allure, with, unsurprisingly, a big sell on printed pieces. Instead of the hyper-real digital prints that have been emerging on the catwalks of late, though, Castiglioni sticks to familiar motifs. "I wanted to create a true Marni wardrobe by revisiting all our favourite pieces in signature fabrics and prints," she added.
Designed to be interchangeable, the collections consist of loose dresses, shirts and tops in bold prints and bright colours. Alongside sit printed jacket and skirt ensembles which can be worn in a matching pair or clashed with a silk-fronted cardigan with a knitted back or a patent leather top. Unusual layers are key to the quirky aesthetic – striped leggings can be worn under a printed dress.
Richness comes through the flashes of rust, orange and gold – which make the predominantly navy blue, black, olive green and khaki pieces pop. Crisp cottons are a given, as is leather in matte and patent finishes, while lilac gold brocade is treated as a sporty fabric.
For men the collection retains the signature geometric patterns, but these are interspersed with more classically pragmatic pieces. Block colours and neutrals form a large part of the menswear, with striped cashmere sweaters and cropped chinos in sand and navy adding up to more than a hint of a modern workwear wardrobe.
Neat parkas stick to their utilitarian roots, while formal suit jackets can be paired with trousers or Bermuda shorts. Shirts and knitwear are enlivened by prints and intarsia patterns while colourful flashes on a lining or sleeve add a dash of the unexpected.
Footwear has something of the geography teacher about it – for both women and men – but this is no bad thing. This season, shoes teeters on the fine line between ugly/beautiful and these wide leather sandals epitomise this – whether flat of sole or chunkily platformed. While metallic leather is used on block heels for women and as flash side panels on plimsolls for men. Jewellery is solely for women and is largely resin and rhinestone. Deco-inspired bracelets are designed to be piled on to arms – and can be matched with earrings – while sequined shirt collars are intended as necklaces.
Bags for both sexes show more forethought than just a cotton tote emblazoned with the collaboration name – patent leather or one of the signature prints are the choices for women, while men have the options of a utilitarian oversized tote or a slouchy backpack. Straw flower pot hats for women and peaked caps for men are the final touches to top the collection off.
And if you want to prove you've been there, and done that – and survived the queues and the competition from fellow shoppers – why not get the T-shirt? Naïve childish appliqué and prints make them anything but lousy.