Shaun Samson

On collaboration and the creative process

Having never designed anything before (because, hello, I’m not a designer) or even worked on a designer collaboration, it has been a truly fascinating experience working with Shaun Samson on Peroni Collaborazioni.

To recap, this project began back in the summer when Peroni approached me (along with Susie Bubble and Emily from Fashion Foie Gras) to take part in this project where we would each design a unique piece that represented a new vision of Italian style together with our choice of emerging designer. When I put Shaun Samson’s name on the shortlist, I really wanted him to say yes but actually expected him to say no. The recently graduated MA designer had already won the highly coveted International Talent Support Prize in Trieste, wowed the press with his accomplished graduate collection and was down on the LFW schedule for the SS12 Man show in September. So why would he want to overload his to-do list by collaborating with someone he had never heard of?

Ah but he did say yes and so we embarked on this journey together. What has been most rewarding is witnessing a designer’s process. Unlike many creatives, Shaun doesn’t work much with visual references, he prefers the hands-on approach, playing with materials, techniques and chemicals to create his own fabrics. For our project, he has literally worked through the night experimenting before doing a day’s filming where we’d bat ideas back and forth and make decisions. And what drives him is the creativity and curiosity of the process itself which is a joy to experience. Through our meetings, phone chats and texts, I have also witnessed the reality of a young emerging designer who has to constantly juggle shows, shoots, showroom appointments, trade shows, orders, balance sheets, interviews and on and on, pretty much single handedly – although of course with friends, mentors and interns chipping in. So this journey has been enlightening not just from the point of view of how something gets designed (let me be clear, I have not picked up a single pin or thread, all the physical work has been Shaun’s) but how one keeps everything else ticking along as well.

This evening will see the culmination of the nine week Peroni Collaborazioni project (see Susie’s here and Emily’s here) as all our finished pieces are unveiled to a gathering of guests. Until then, I will leave you with this video that shows a final glimpse of the work in progress,  including Shaun’s awesome nine-layered fabric…

By the way, if you’re interested in Italian style as a subject (and as I mentioned in a previous post, Italian style is totally having a moment right now), this Guardian webchat by Anna Battista is well worth a read, especially the comments on Italian manufacturing …

Peroni Collaborazioni – the final countdown

Peroni Collaborazioni update. We have just eight days until hand-in, My esteemed collaborator Shaun Samson is currently out of town juggling other commitments, and I have a jam-packed week ahead. Oh and then there’s the small matter of how are we going to display our final piece at the showcase event on November 3rd? Ha, no pressure then. (more…)

Peroni Collaborazioni: making the magic happen

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