CR Muse: The Quiet Triumph of Anne-Marie Beretta

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This is CR Muse, a series dedicated to the remembrance of important artists and idea-makers from our past who have shaped culture as we know it today. From traditional creators to those of conceptual thought, we celebrate these women known not only for their work but their confident, eccentric style as well.

Taking on a creative director position at an established fashion house is a daunting task that entails striking a balance between modernizing a label while still staying true to its DNA. French designer Anne-Marie Beretta seemed to have experienced little to no difficulty when she took over the helm of Max Mara in the 1970s. Beretta excelled at identifying the house’s key codes, blending them with her own ideas of fashion to create a lasting new identity.

“A Max Mara coat comes from a search for balance between fabric, shape, color and manufacturing to reach perfection,” she once said, summarizing what the label has since become known for. While Beretta designed many pieces for the house, without a doubt her piece de resistance is the 101801 Icon Coat, designed in 1981. Baretta placed her focus on form and tailoring over embellishments and ornamentation, a defining characteristic of her oeuvre. Featuring slightly oversized and draped shoulders, the minimalist, double-breasted coat is still in production today and remains one of Max Mara’s best-selling pieces.

It is important to note that while Max Mara was an integral part of Beretta’s career, it was not her only fashion venture. She began designing stage costumes for award-winning Spanish costume designer Antonio Castillo before working with designers like Oleg Cassini. By 1974, she had launched her own line. Form and fabric continued to be guiding principles in her creations, propelling her to become one of the most forward-thinking designers of her time.

The masculine, hard silhouettes of the ’80s can be traced back to her work. But unlike her contemporaries—Claude Montana and Giorgio Armani among them—Beretta added touches of softness and restraint, allowing her designs to retain a sense of modernism. In 1985, she was among several notable French designers nominated for “Best Spring Collection” and “Best Designer” at the inaugural “Oscars of Fashion” event in Paris. She lost to Montana and Azzedine Alaïa, respectively.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Beretta’s name is still most closely associated with Max Mara, where her legacy continues to carry a certain weight. “[She] gave women the chance to break into the corridors of power,” Ian Griffiths, the house’s current creative director, has said. “I still design for that woman, but as she would be today.” Griffiths even began his career working under Beretta herself. The house may not carry Beretta’s name, and her tenure there certainly eclipsed her career, but she has left a lasting aesthetic stamp on the label—as well as on fashion.

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