Born in 1959 Consuelo Castiglioni, part Chilean, was raised in the Italian-Swiss town of Lugano. Launched in 1994, her label Marni was born out of a reputation she gained for her design work with her husband’s family’s fur business. At that time fur was at its least popular, labouring under an old fashioned fusty image. Castiglioni treated fur as an ‘ordinary’ fabric in her line of super chic, wearable clothing. The label, named after her sister, expanded as her customers expressed a desire for clothing to also wear under their furs.
Castiglioni is guardian of Marni’s 'European-inflected bohemian’ aesthetic. Early Marni designs harked back to vintage inspired shapes in pretty, quirky prints but the aesthetic has evolved over the years into the more streamlined, future facing one of today. Other Marni signatures include colour blocking, contrasts of texture and the heavy use of blue, beige and grey mixed with pops of bright colour. Marni clothing often has an unusual silhouette with curved hemlines, asymmetric cuts, belted sack dresses and excessive volume. Castiglioni is an expert at mixing complex fantasy prints, graphic patterns and natural textiles.
Few fashion labels have as precisely defined an image as Marni, whose clients are bohemian, eclectic with an artsy Italian ‘chi-chi’ edge. Celebrity fans include Cindy Sherman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kyra Sedgewick. Fashionistas, critics and influential editors all pile into the Milanese Marni fashion show, many of them dressed head to toe in Marni clothing. Marni clothing is comfortably recognisable in its shape, it is interesting and avant-garde while still remaining wearable and accessible. Its eclectic style means that a fan of Marni can easily mix early hippy inspired collections with more recent refined collections to build an individual yet cohesive look. The Marni look is often finished with whimsically patterned tights, leggings or bright socks worn with geometrically inspired platforms or wedges. Marni sunglasses, handbags and other accessories are usually big and bold; true to the Marni aesthetic they are often made in clashing colours or prints. As a self controlled label, Marni is able to spend as much time as needed in researching and refining the materials that it uses, ensuring everything meets their exacting standards.
Marni is still a family run business with Consuelo’s husband Gianni as its CEO and their daughter Carolina running Marni online sales. With the company's increased growth and popularity, there have been frequent rumours of conglomerate takeover, especially during the glut of large sales in the early 2000s. However although the company readily admits to having been approached by potential investors and buyers, so far Castiglioni has been uninterested in selling.
Marni’s shunning of advertising and limited courting of the fashion industry gives the company a personable friendly feeling. Although the company now produces full lines of womenswear and menswear, handbags, jewellery and eyewear it still maintains its feeling of a close knit family owned business. The company cleverly does not produce static advertising, preferring that editors ‘express their artistic versatility’, gaining them a wide range of coverage in a number of worldwide editorials.