T Introduces: A Fashion Designer Carries on the Legacy of a Textile Artist
The fashion designer Marco Zanini’s mother is Swedish, but growing up in his father’s native Italy, he never gave his Nordic roots much thought. It wasn’t until he turned 30 that he “became passionate about anything Scandinavian,” says the Milan-based 52-year-old, who served as the creative director of Halston, Rochas and Schiaparelli before launching his namesake ready-to-wear brand in 2019. “I started to spend my summers there, digging into anything that felt and looked Swedish.”
One of his discoveries was the work of Märta Måås-Fjetterström (1873-1941), a textile artist known for her elaborate patterns that meld Swedish folk motifs with Modernist design. After purchasing two of her rugs at auction, he became fascinated with the idea of visiting her studio (“I wanted to see those famous looms,” he says), which is still in operation in the small southern Swedish town of Båstad, and in 2016 he contacted the company that had been established to continue Måås-Fjetterström’s work shortly after she died. When Tina Swedrup, its current co-owner, received his message, “I of course Googled him,” she says. “And I realized I really loved his designs.”
When the two eventually met in person, they connected over their commitment to slow, careful production and their shared interest in traditional crafts. Last December, Swedrup broached the idea of collaborating on a rug. Not long after, Zanini was sitting on the atelier’s worn wooden floor sifting through thousands of hand-dyed wool skeins to come up with 12 different color schemes for his design called A Righe (which is Italian for “striped”).
“My motto was ‘keep it simple,’” says Zanini, who counts traditional Swedish rag rugs and the distinctively glazed mid-20th-century pottery by Berndt Friberg among his inspirations. Still, the magic of a Måås-Fjetterström creation lies in its inherent complexity. Each stripe of the rug is made up of 25 different yarns in complementary tones, the order of which is chosen by the weaver. When seen together, however, they read as a single block of color. In preparation for the process, Zanini had to handpick threads in 1,800 different hues. The resulting mélange creates the illusion that the stripes are rippling like the surface of a stream. “I thought, ‘It will never match the beauty [Måås-Fjetterström] created in her lifetime,’” says Zanini, whose rugs are available made to order from the company’s permanent collection. “But you can go near it, at least.” — Laura May Todd