Max Mara’s Legacy for the Love of Art and Women
NEW YORK—An unconventional beauty, with a down-to-earth demeanor, and sharp business sense, Maria Giulia Prezioso Maramotti effortlessly emanated a Marilyn-Monroe vibe during a photo shoot for this article. Wearing outfits of the early-’60s-inspired fall collection, she conveyed how the Max Mara Group is all about celebrating women.
“What I respect about my brand is that we have content, we have a story to tell,” she said in Max Mara’s New York flagship store on Madison Avenue.
Prezioso Maramotti has been a part of the international fashion house as far back as she can remember. As the granddaughter of the founder, Achille Maramotti, she literally carries the DNA of the brand in her body and in her work.
When she was a child she would draw designers like French Marquis Jean-Charles Castelbajac who might be at the Max Mara office on business in Reggio Emilia, Italy. In the beginning it was a fun place to play, but later she remembers her grandparents, uncles and aunts, and her parents, “talking so passionately about the business” that she always knew she would also be passionate about it too.
After graduating from business school, getting her Masters of Science in Finance in Milan, and working for a year at Credit Suisse in London and discovering it really wasn’t her cup of espresso, she decided to work in the family business.
She started from the ground up as a retail assistant at a Max Mara shop in Verona, Italy, in 2007, and soon moved up the ranks to become the store manager, and assistant retail manager of the Italian South region. Then she moved to Paris and managed the French market for a couple of years.
“It was pretty much a natural process for me to come on board,” she said. And starting in retail was the best gift she said for strategically understanding all aspects of the company.
Four years ago, she moved to New York City to work as the director of retail in North America and as the global brand ambassador of the privately held company.
Her move to New York was a big change for her, but not a sacrifice. She was ready. She loves the city and the pace.
“New York City is a place where you really have to fully know yourself, that is the starting point,” she said. “It’s full of smart, intelligent, talented people. … If you work hard and you are passionate, there are a lot of things that you can do, and you can develop projects that you believe in. Not every place in the world has that possibility,” she said.
Now she ensures that Max Mara maintains its strongly recognizable personality, as the company continues to innovate and adapt to the current lifestyle needs of women.
“We strongly believe in celebrating the role of women in every aspect,” she said and emphasized that Max Mara is not only about making women feel beautiful in beautiful clothes, but it’s also about supporting women in various roles. The brand has also been expanding its global identity in the arts.
In the spring Max Mara sponsored the opening party of the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District in New York City, and partnered with the architect Renzo Piano and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to create the iconic Whitney bag—a collaboration that Prezioso Maramotti directed.
Max Mara has also been partnering with Women in Film, a nonprofit that supports women’s creative projects. It founded the annual Women in Film Max Mara Face of the Future Award to recognize actresses who are on the cusp of a next breakthrough in their careers in the film and television industries. Max Mara also initiated the Art Prize for Women celebrating its 5th edition with its current winner, Corin Sworn.
Still, at the core, the Max Mara brand stems from creating high-quality products and it will always be known for that, Prezioso Maramotti said. First and foremost, and throughout the years Max Mara has focused on creating clothes that fit the needs of women of different ages and body shapes, instead of expecting women to have to adapt themselves to fit the clothes.
When Prezioso Maramotti described the Max Mara customer as woman of substance and integrity, who is knowledgeable, but also very curious, it reflected the impression she gave of herself—naturally, emanating the Max Mara DNA.
“She’s definitely a woman who is not a fashionista, but she loves fashion,” Prezioso Maramotti said, describing the Max Mara customer. “She’s the kind of woman who wants that piece that stays in her wardrobe, that she can use again, and not throw out later because it’s not the color of the season anymore,” she added.
That also entails adapting to the changing times. Prezioso Maramotti noted that women’s lifestyles are much more dynamic today than they were at the time when her grandfather founded the company in 1951. Today, in addition to raising children, women work and travel more, and may not have time to go home to change before going to a dinner party.
“So there’s a need for a wardrobe, which is so much broader and much more interchangeable,” Prezioso Maramotti said. That means, for instance, creating clothes that don’t wrinkle after being packed in a suitcase, clothes that can mix and match, transition easily from day to evening, and which are still in fabulous condition and fashionable for many years to come.
While the current fall collection was inspired by the ’50s and early ’60s style of Marilyn Monroe, the sumptuous fabrics tailored to create a flattering silhouette, the subtle colors, and the couture details have been reinterpreted ever so seamlessly to fit right in 2015.
From Family to Business Structure
Prezioso Maramotti is very respectful toward her late grandfather Achille Maramotti, who innovated industrial tailoring techniques when he founded the company, making Max Mara the precursor of modern prêt-à-porter fashion.
“I miss him terribly,” Prezioso Maramotti said about her grandfather, wishing that she could still talk with him about business and life. She also values the support of the rest of her family, including her uncle Luigi Maramotti.
While she’s a strong leader, coming across very directly she said, she also values solving problems by considering different angles while brainstorming with her team.
Overseeing more than 100 employees, Prezioso Maramotti has to operate on many different levels, balancing her time and mindset between day-to-day operations and strategic decision making, ensuring the consistency of the brand across the board.
In business she’s very pragmatic. “Obviously you have to pick your battles, but there are some things which I’m really not ready to negotiate. That is also part of the reason why our brand has such integrity,” she said.
One only has to look at the stitching of a Max Mara classic drape coat in pure camel hair or the carefully crafted Whitney bag to be impressed by the integrity of the brand, especially in how it has carefully calibrated tradition with innovation.
“There’s a lot of love that we put into this. We really love Max Mara,” Prezioso Maramotti said.
“When you love what you do, that’s a very big driver,” she said, calling herself a bit of a “workaholic.” Still she makes sure she has enough time to go running, cycling, kite surfing, or sailing; she loves listening to jazz, and spending time going out, or cooking and having friends over for dinner.
“I think that love is all that matters, love for your work, your family, for all the people around you,” she said summing up her core belief in life.
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