One of the biggest events on Ireland’s social calendar in the first half of 2017 was an exclusive fashion show by luxury Italian design house Max Mara, as it brought its full Spring/Summer 2017 collection from the catwalks of Milan to Belfast City Hall in support of leading learning disability charity Positive Futures. I was more than delighted to be part of the management team for this event, producing the show alongside the creative director Andreas Stavrou from BaByliss.

The event was hosted by kind permission of the Right Hon the Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston, who supports Positive Futures and make up for the show was by Charlotte Tilbury with hair by international session stylist Richard Phillipart for BaByliss

Nina Walls, owner of the Max Mara store in Belfast, commented: “The fashion show was inspired by architect, designer and intellectual Lina Bo Bardi in a fusion of creative, radical passion. Bo Bardi was a woman with a vision years ahead of her time who embodied Latin America’s compelling take on modernism; at once rational and sensual, sleek and luxuriant, athletic and sultry, hi-tech and artisanal. For modern women with big ideas, the Max Mara Spring Summer 2017 collection proposes a new blend of voluptuous modernity: intelligent, audacious, sexy fashion with a lifespan as long as Bo Bardi’s designs.”

The collection oozed international appeal, with tropical prints and hi-tech fabrics alongside wooden clogs and visors.

Bo Bardi was connected to Tropicalia, the avant-garde cultural movement whose touchstone was the ultimate exotic icon, Carmen Miranda. The eponymous 1968 album “Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis” by a group of artists including Bardi’s friends, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Gal Costa, was a landmark musical manifesto and makes for a soundtrack that swings to Max Mara’s chica boom beat.

Design is often said to be about pulling order out of chaos but Bo Bardi wasn’t all scared of letting chaos in. Her quasi-brutalist concrete and plate glass structures would be incomplete without the rainforest that grows around (and through them). The profuse flora and fauna that she adored inspire lush prints, sliced into patchworks that echo the precise geometry of her architecture. Torn layers of propaganda posters echo the tumult of design, culture and politics into which Bo Bardi threw herself.

Bo Bardi created some mouth-watering design classics. The ‘Bola de Latao’ chairs she installed in her home, ‘Casa de Vidro’, look as good today as they did in 1951, in wellworn tan leather, with restrained saddle stitching - which appears too on luxe suedes, double faces and the new BoBag.

Like Max Mara, Bo Bardi loved those traditional leather crafts, but she embraced new technology too. Max Mara borrows high performance jerseys and nylons from the sports arena for glamorous bodycon dresses, bodies and combinations with heat sealed construction. A structured mesh gives a hi-tech makeover to Max Mara’s own design icon, the 101801. Shiny new Lina sunglasses and Bardi-esque wooden soled techno-clogs completed the look.

All in all one of the best international collection fashion shows I’ve seen in Ireland.

All photographs courtesy of Stephen Potter