Antonio Marras grew up with a love of culture admiring every form of artistic and creative expression. His father owned several boutiques in Alghero, which encouraged Marras to develop technical skills based on the different materials used in the clothes.
With no official training, Marras had developed a solid, technical understanding. His early skills led to an entrepreneur from Rome to entrust him with the creation of a ready-to-wear collection. This enabled Marras to debut his first fashion collection in 1987.
In 1996 Marras was asked to present another fashion show, again in Rome. The show featured his strong attention to detail and craftsmanship having an emphasis on Sardinia with the leitmotiv of ligazzio rubio, being Sardinian dialect for red string. The collection represented Marras’s key foundations of his future style.
Three years later in 1996 Marras presented his ready-to-wear collection in Milan for the first time. Inspired and dedicated to the writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, Marras’s early style of Sardinian themes was portrayed with a contemporary look.
In 2001 Marras was recognized for his growing talents and was awarded the Francesca Alinovi award in Bologna in 2001. The year also saw a book dedicated to his work written by Cristina Morizzi.
In 2002 Marras showed his first men’s collection at Pitti Immagine Uomo. This marked the beginning of Marras showing regularly during Milan fashion week.
The same year saw Marras continuing to develop and experiment with his “Laboratorio” line. The collection, developed in Sardinia, used skilled seamstresses and embroiderers. Described as “not exactly ready-to-wear, not exactly couture”, Marras encouraged his workers to reconnect with their skills and tradition. He saw “Laboratorio” as a workshop wanting his workers to experiment.
In 2003 the Masedu Museum of Contemporary Art in Sassari, Italy, dedicated a show to him entitled ‘ Antonio Marras. – A Tale of Form’. The year also saw Marras begin his involvement with ‘double weave’ in Alghero. A series of annual shows featured Marras collaborating with one or more featured artists.
In 2003 Marras’s recognition rose again with the LVMH group appointing him artistic director of Kenzo. Marras still remained living in Alghero, from where he to commuted to Milan and Paris.
In 2006 another book was published on Marras by the Fondazione Pitti Discovery titled ‘Antonio Marras’. The same year the prestigious contemporary art foundation Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo of Turin celebrated their ten year anniversary hosting a photography exhibition named ‘Antonio Marras – Ten Years Later’. This marked the first time the foundation had featured a fashion designer. The exhibition contained photos of Marras taken by Russian-American photographer Yelena Yemchuck.
Antonio Marras is known for his emphasis on history in his designing. At Kenzo, Marras copied the founder Takada’s belief in a fusion of fashion and infused his own Sardinian roots into the style. Marras transfused this to his own line, featuring his origins with historical and tribal references but always with a contemporary flair.
Antonio Marras was born in Alghero, on Sardinia. The island has always deeply influenced his aesthetic.
His fashion debut was the result of a lucky chance. In 1987 a fashion house in Rome asked him to design a prêt-à-porter collection. Their invitation was due to his dual baggage of skills: cultural – Marras has always involved himself in every form of artistic/creative expression – and technical. The latter is based on his know-how of materials and forms which he developed within his family’s business of a number of shops they owned in Alghero.
This combination of intellectual input and practical experience provided him with solid foundations on which to build his first, eponymous collection. In 1996 he was asked to present an haute couture show in Rome. The key elements of his style were already clear to see: the focus on craft techniques; Sardinia as a source of inspiration that is never reduced to folkloristic kitsch; the recurring theme of the ligazzio rubio (which in the Sardinian language means a “red thread”), which becomes a fully-fledged hallmark of his style.
He debuts with his prêt-à-porter in March 1999 in Milan. The collection has all the elements of his poetics. There’s always a theme, red threads. Then the taste for elegant contrasts: burn marks on luxury fabrics, distressed gauzes and sumptuous embroidery, visible seams and brocades together with a perception of modernity, richly decorative elements on vintage clothes, mixtures of rich and poor, male and female, decoration and structure, form and function.
In parallel with the collections, he continues to experiment through his Laboratorio and Serie Limitata ranges: not quite prêt-à-porter, not quite couture. Clothes made by hand in the Alghero designer’s big homestudioworkshop. Clothes that retain the allure of authenticity because only a few pieces exist and, at the same time, they may serve as the starting point for models included in the first line.
In 2003 LVMH, the French luxury goods group, invites him to be the artistic director of the Kenzo fashion house, which will be Antonio’s travel companion for eight years, until 2011.
The line ISOLA MARRAS is launched in May 2007, debuting with the 2008-2009 autumn/winter season. Not exactly a second line, rather a more accessible, decoded Marras world. Antonio establishes his headquarters in Milan. In all these years Marras made a fundamental choice, both sentimental and artistic: he never gives up living where he was born. From Alghero he travels to Milan and Paris, but it is always to Alghero that he returns in pursuit of creativity, inspiration and material for his expressive universe.
His work as a stylist takes him all over the world, but he persists in living on Sardinia, aware as he is that the island gives him his energy.
He lives in Alghero in a big home/workshop on a hill high over the sea. He shares his home with his family/tribe, who take an active part in his creative work.