The relationship between an Italian man and his mother is the stuff of legend. In Sardinia, where Antonio Marras was born and still lives, it's at its most intense. Beyond blood, Mamma is roots—where you belong. In basing his new collection on his mother Nannina, Marras won himself a whole lot of creative brownie points. Passion, commitment, and memory provided three powerful cornerstones.

Marras is the middle child of five. Maybe the fact that he looked up to his mother so much accounted for the lean, elongated silhouette, with the models perched on high, thick heels. The shape also chimed with the forties feel, the era when Nannina was at her most beautiful. So skirts fell to mid-calf, there was a strong emphasis on the waist, and the models wore seamed silk stockings. The bright red lips and hair pulled back into a loose bun were also borrowed from Nannina's look. And the floral dress she wore the day she took her son to the movies for the first time was refracted through the roses and poppies that were printed on silk skirts and tops.

But her influence on the collection was even more fundamental. Nannina used to work with a seamstress to remodel vintage menswear for herself. That's a habit her son has turned into a career. Here, a man's jacket in houndstooth or herringbone had been dissected and put back together again on the base of another jacket, its pockets trimmed with marabou, its torso decorated with jet embroidery. This is the esoteric luxury of Antonio Marras, and in that same spirit a peacoat sported an astrakhan collar, while a full-length double-breasted officer's coat was turned into a floor-sweeping gown. The designer has his own kind of alchemy—he turned a pair of sailor pants into a floor-length skirt.

At the end of the show, the huge backdrop of Nannina's image splintered to reveal 38 models in deconstructed and reconstructed black slips with a man's white collar at their throats. Mamma and Pappa Marras reunited on their son's catwalk—it was yet another fashion moment, courtesy of Milan's hidden treasure.