"I remember looking over a fence into a garden when I was 14,” says Nicola Gerber Maramotti of a French childhood memory that marked her for life. “I saw this beautiful French mother with four kids and was mesmerised. She was impeccably dressed, there was a fresh baguette on the table, some cheese and a bottle of wine … this idea of simplicity, savoir-vivre, family values, enjoying the moment. I said to my mother, ‘I want to be that exact woman one day’.”
Today the German-born ambassador of the Weekend Max Mara Pasticcino Bag Hommage à la France project is part of Max Mara Ownership. She lives in Italy, and is married to Ignazio Maramotti, Chairman of Max Mara s.r.l, , with whom she has four children. When we meet on a rainy Wednesday morning at Le Meurice in Paris to talk about the brand’s latest launch, she is immaculately dressed in a white linen suit. She looks fresh and happy. Next to her, a bright pink Pasticcino Bag. “And I had espadrilles made in the same colour,’ she says with a wink. “I think it adds a nice touch to an otherwise quite simple outfit!” Her husband’s father, Achille Maramotti, founded Max Mara in 1951.
“He was very inspired by French designers. He actually introduced the idea of prêt-à-porter to Italy at the time,” she explains, while delving into the brand’s early ties to France. “And our first Max Mara store abroad was in Paris on Rue du Four.” So, picking the Gallic country as a second stop for the new edition of Weekend Max Mara’s Pasticcino Bag World Tour was kind of an evident choice.
Named after the Italian word for ‘small pastry’, the now iconic pouch was originally inspired by a typical Italian weekend tradition. “Every child remembers their grandparents bringing home a tray of little pastries for the family on the weekends. They come in all kinds of colours, shapes and sizes,” she remembers. “They’re sweet and colourful and creamy and puffy, and some of them come with little cherries on top.”
While the Pasticcino was launched back in 2016, the idea behind the world tour was actually born two years ago. “We wanted to find and celebrate the best artisans around the globe. There is so much industrialisation nowadays and handmade art is becoming more and more difficult to sell. We wanted to highlight excellent artists, unique culture, traditional savoir-faire and manufacturing – the very best of each country – and communicate about it to young people,” she says, explaining the exclusive cross-seasonal project. “These are skills that have been built up in different corners of the world for generations and have to be sustained. We’re on a mission to protect the craft industry and the savoir-faire. It’s a social responsibility.” In this vein, the latest edition of the Pasticcino Bag celebrates La France, and the country’s centuries-old heritage in the art of lace and ceramics.
Stylistically, the creative team was inspired by Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. “She represented a very lively and colourful lifestyle; her way of dressing, the colours, the flowers, the macarons, the lace dresses,” Maramotti says, reminiscing about the historical drama, starring Kirsten Dunst, and based on the life of the illustrious former French queen, who famously loved her cakes. “We started out by looking for the most incredible French lacemaker,” she recalls the beginning of the creative process. “And then everything went from there.”
While the luxurious Guipure lace is made by Master Dentellier André Laude, a high-end specialist that has been weaving with a unique savoir-faire since 1850, the two signature boules of the clasp have been crafted by Manufacture des Emaux de Longwy 1798, a historic earthenware factory recognised by the French government as a Living Heritage Company and renowned for its artistic ceramics and venerable know-how. “We wanted the boules to look like sweet sugary bonbons,” says Maramotti, affectionately gliding her fingers over the surface of the glossy enamelled ceramic balls. “That took hours and hours and hours to make.” One of the two is engraved with the signature Weekend Max Mara butterfly. And then she looks at me with big eyes, “And did you know that they sing?” She is referring to ‘the Song of Enamels’. Each pearl is hand-crafted in an exclusive type of ceramic called faïence, treated with special varnishes and, because the material is alive, when it comes out of the oven it has a thermal shock, which makes it crackle – even years after the purchase of a Weekend Max Mara handbag. “I’ve been keeping mine close to my ears at night and I’m waiting to hear it sing.”
Weekend Max Mara is all about the feeling of being on a weekend. “I wish we could all get away more – life would be so much more colourful!” she says. “Of course, we all work hard, but it makes such a difference to just do something else every now and then –visit a museum, go out to eat, discover a new city, see something new, get out of the routine.” And she adds: “I just feel so much better when I manage to create a healthy balance between my work that I love, my family that I love, and some other time, either alone, with family or friends, doing something else. It really makes all the difference.”
Over the years, the Pasticcino Bag has become somewhat of a collector’s item for Weekend Max Mara aficionados. Maramotti tells me about a customer who recently sent her a picture of herself in her garden with her dog and 50 Pasticcino Bags. “My daughters have them in all kinds of colours. They use them to go away for the weekend. They’re so nice and light and soft, you can literally just squeeze them into your suitcase and they always come out looking like new. It’s a fun object, it’s playful and feminine. And really easy to wear.”
The ‘Hommage à la France’ special edition comes in five colours, inspired by typical macaron flavours – citron, rose, graines de courge, cassis violette and réglisse. Each bag is numbered. “We want to launch a new edition every year. We’ve already started working on the next edition. Of course, I can’t say where it will be, but I can say it will be very far away from here.” We can’t wait to see what the House’s pastry chefs are cooking up for us next. One thing is for sure: it will be another very sweet weekend rêverie.