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A drastic change of hairstyle often means a page must be turned and a reset is in order. Francesco Risso chopped off his bleached curls right before today’s Marni show in Tokyo. “I think it was time to start a new chapter,” he said at a preview, sporting a neat new buzz cut and a groomed beard. He looked serene, and rather cool, in an ascetic-chic all-white outfit, wearing a slender goatskin coat over pajamas cut from sheets of pristine, rustling wrapping paper.

Thick yellow and red paper covered the couch and armchair where we sat for the interview, and massive quantities of stark-white paper were laid out on the wooden floor and podium of the indoor arena in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium where the Marni show was held. Built by the architect Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Summer Olympics, it’s a structure, as Risso pointed out, “both rigorous and intimate—it looks to the future while keeping a feel of enveloping protection, like if you were in a womb.” This way of balancing discipline and humanity, cutting-edge design and domesticity, connects with the soul-searching Risso has been doing on the meaning of making clothes.

Showing in Tokyo now just felt right. “Here in Japan I’ve found a profound sense of patience, of stillness, of respect, something that in the West I believe we’re losing.” He continued: “We’re surrounded by futility. After three years of pandemic, where we all have been vocal about the changes we wanted in the system, to slow down, etc., we’re back to square one. We are again devoured by the brutality of the algorithm.”

Going back to the love he feels for his metier keeps him grounded. At the show, on each of the paper-covered seats, he left a handwritten letter (“it took me a month to write it,” he said) whose opening line asked: “Why do I make clothes?” For the Marni creative director, clothes are living creatures, they touch, breath, move; it’s a love dance, a sentimental relationship: “Because they’re our companions, and there’s more to them than just air kisses. I don’t know if I make clothes that people need, or if I make clothes that need people, or if I make clothes for the people that I urgently need to need the clothes that need them…What I do know is that today we need less and less clothes that are needless.”

Risso is a musician, and learning how to play the cello over the pandemic taught him that hard-won discipline is creatively rewarding. It’s about achieving a composition that balances rhythm and rigor, “the pause and the note.” Making clothes is about giving life to objects “that have a harmonious, pleasant sound.” He knows the power of music as a great equalizer, and his consummate showmanship came once again to the fore tonight. Musical director Dev Hynes envisioned a soundtrack performed by the Tokyo Chamber Orchestra, whose musicians were all dressed in the same paper that covered the arena’s floor and podium.

White, of course, is a non-color that speaks of absence, but also of clarity. It is a carte blanche on which new words are ready to be written. Wrapping the arena in white paper spoke of a desire for simplicity, for reducing noise and distractions. But Risso is no minimalist, and even if he preached rigor and linearity, the collection had presence, density, and punch.

He traded his usual slightly bonkers decorations for starker, elemental graphics, and reduced the palette to a few saturated primary colors: yellow and red playing against white and black. Every look was an all-over proposition, and for both men and women in the mostly local cast (plus Marni favorites like Paloma Elsesser and Angel Prost), silhouettes alternated between slender and form-fitting and bulky and bulbous.

Tailoring was offered in oversized versions, and knitwear, a Marni forte, had fuzzy mohair surfaces, as in the jumbo round-cut piuminos that were among the collection’s standouts. The swirling, magical motifs of sirens and unicorns of previous outings were nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by kinetic grids and optical checks, and by slightly Kusama-esque bouncing dots of various sizes. Rectangular tunics and angular apron dresses contrasted with form-fitting, heart-shaped bustier dresses that were kept neat rather than sensual. Cocoons in padded leather or wool conveyed enveloping, comforting warmth.

The 1,800 guests included the K-pop superstars Mingyu and Joshua of Seventeen, the actress Tessa Thompson, and the musicians Ghali, Skepta, Iann Dior, King Princess and 24kGoldn, who cheered Risso from the front row. “It’s a collection with one foot in tradition and the other in a not-impossible future,” he said backstage. “It’s a sort of rhythmic alternation of proud normality and proud creativity.” If only normality was as Risso dreams it up.