Last week I got sent the first gripping ‘episode’ of Peroni Collaborazioni, the fashion project I’m working on with Shaun Samson. Together we’re creating a piece that defines Italian style which will be showcased in November. So what is Italian style? I started off thinking about knitwear (spurred by Shaun’s graduate collection that melded knits, plaids and denim so expertly together) which took me back to the golden age of Benetton’s rainbow coloured vision and Missoni’s iconic zig zags. Then I got hooked on the idea of the eccentrics: Schiaparelli, Anna Piaggi, Moschino, because I love wit and humour in fashion. Then the classic luxe heritage of Italian style as personified by Armani, Gucci and Fendi’s fabulous furs took hold. But in the end, after much debate, we arrived at a different place.
Shaun’s work so far has been very much about textile innovation; he’s an experimentor who loves to play around and let the magic happen of its own accord. I love the way the modern-day eccentrics like Prada and Marni play with textiles, juxtaposing mad combinations together, demonstrated so beautifully this season in Prada’s pailette-fake-fur-snakeskin-lurex texture-clash. Having access to our super-knowledgable Italian fashion consultant Anna Battista has also been quite the eye opener. In one of our email exchanges, she sent me the following:
“People usually think it’s the designer who is the genius, but in Italy it was often the case that the unassuming textile designer was the real genius behind a fashion collection, especially in the heyday of Italian fashion. Many textile manufacturers in the Prato area (who closed their business after the crisis) were actually as skilled and talented as the fashion designers themselves and came up with amazing fabrics. I think in Italy you have fashion designers who are great fabric connoisseurs such as Valentino and Giorgio Armani, but also fashion designers who experimented with fabrics in great ways such as Roberto Capucci or Walter Albini.
“Emilio Pucci who’s more known for his kaleidosopic prints even patented his own fabric called Emilioform, while accessory designers such as Salvatore Ferragamo pushed things further, experimenting with materials as varied as invisible thread, candy wrappings, cork and even gold in his shoes. In more recent years we have seen interesting surface elaborations at Fendi (well they have great knowledge there about leather and fur…) that merged Burri’s burnt paintings with fashion. Gianni Versace also mixed plastic/PVC and silk to obtain lurid effects (that some critics deemed as rather kitsch) and patented the oroton, a sort of metal mesh fabric imitating chain mail that could be draped, dyed or printed.”
Hello, who knew Versace invented that chain mail fabric (that is quite prominent in the forthcoming Versace X H&M collab by the way)? Certainly not me! So we have gone in the direction of labour-intensive fabric experimentation, which is obviously Shaun’s forte. And we have gone for the sensible option of creating a simple piece which will let the fabric do the talking. There are only a few weeks left to complete the project so time is of the essence. For now, let me leave you with this wee write-up of the project in The Guardian…