Italy’s new generation
At the beginning of the month, international fashion press across Europe flocked to the continent’s largest, and albeit probably sunniest, film studio for an off-schedule design showcase like no other: Rome’s celebrated fashion week, Altaroma.
Now in its 20th year, the initiative plays a huge part in the economy of Italian fashion existing outside of Milan, recently taking up at Cinecittà Studios, the historic film set used in the filming of classics such as La Dolce Vita, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cleopatra, in its celebration of the best and brightest emerging design talent Italy has to offer.
Supported by the Italian Trade Agency, Rome’s Chamber of Commerce and the region of Lazio, Altaroma scouts the work of designers and artisans across the country, promoting them through physical and digital platforms whilst offering additional guidance, support and mentorship as they begin to flourish into their own brands. And how exactly does the country’s premier international talent showcase propel the voices of independent Italian designers? By hosting a slew of bespoke runway presentations, exhibitions and events spread throughout the city, of course.
Below, we checked in with some of the scene’s freshest faces, delving into their fashion journeys, sustainable practices, and thoughts on the future of Italy’s bustling fashion industry.
Founded on an ethos of sustainability and political outcry, Lorenzo Segehezzi’s bespoke fashions and Club Kid-like accessories speak to a rich and lengthy history of queer style icons. From mesh torsos printed with mantras like ‘Queer Revolution’ and speeches by American activist Sylvie Rivera, to pointy-eared headgear and sculpted trousers, the Italian designer’s artisanal pieces lead toxic machismo into a world of compassion and flowy beauty. We’d call it a freer land, but that would mean overlooking an array of breathtakingly bold corsetry that posits the designer in a world truly of his own making.
BS: Who are your queer heroes?
LS: There are a lot of people that I consider my queer heroes, be it for their activism, their roles in queer history or their revolutionary art. Sylvia Rivera, Divine, Marsha P. Johnson, John Waters, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Blanca, RuPaul, Manfred Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Pier Vittorio Tondelli just to name a few.
BS: Why is it important for you to place queer history at the fore of your work?
LS: Because it gives me strength and power, it’s such a passionate inspiration for me. It motivates me both as a person and as an artist. Also, it’s not something that a lot of people really know about. We’ve always been here but yet, our history has been kept secret until very recently. It’s our duty as queer folks to educate the people around us so the future generations won’t have to go through what we and our queer predecessors have been through.
BS: How would you define your design ethos?
LS: It’s hard to define my work with a captivating and catchy phrase, it makes me feel so pretentious. I try my best to be as experimental as I can while reinterpreting traditional tailoring techniques in a contemporary way, my goal is to create high-quality garments that are a social, political and cultural statement against queer oppression, gender binaries and fast fashion abuses.
BS: Can you tell me a little more about your focus on sustainability?
LS: I’m an artisan that makes garments only on-demand, I don’t and don’t want to have a mass production so I guess that should make my work sustainable by default. That being said, I really want my design process to be as sustainable as possible so I do my best to use second hand and deadstock materials.
BS: What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?
LS: I’m pretty sure it would be something involving some kind of creative art form. Other than that, I would probably be studying zoology or palaeontology like I wanted to do when I was a child. My goal growing up was to become a scientific illustrator, and here I am hand stitching boning channels on a corset…
Simon Cracker packs all the punches as a one-of-a-kind maker – his designs might be reproducible, but they will never, ever be identical. Fusing an array of upcycled textiles, be they flowing silks, slouchy knits or shiny tinsel, a childlike curiosity for creating sees him plunder a pre-school dressing-up box to create layers of soft-punky splendour.
BS: How do textiles inform your approach to design?
SC: My design approach is very 3D: doing upcycling, I use both fabrics that are leftovers, deadstock and already existing garments, which I destroy and rebuild straight on a dummy. My creative process is a continuous dialogue between the concept that I have in mind and the raw material that I find: it’s a matter of balance.
BS: Does fashion always have to be ‘groundbreaking’ to make a point?
SC: Fashion is eventually just clothes, if they are not challenging and if they don’t tell a story they lose their deeper value. Every change in the history of fashion, even the ones that today we give for granted, had been groundbreaking at their own time. Today you can find ripped t-shirts in H&M, but going back to punk, it was a major, offensive revolution.
BS: Where do you find beauty when creating your pieces?
SC: Beauty and ugliness are very individual concepts. To me, real beauty is found in the imperfect. I like the beauty of giving a new life to something that was discarded, considered waste or not important. And the beauty of seeing people feeling good in my garments, without being overshadowed but enhancing their personality, is priceless.
BS: As a next generation designer, do you see hope in fashion’s future?
SC: Fashion has always been a business, but one that relied on creativity. Today we are missing a lot of creativity, being strangled by marketing strategies and Excel sheets. I hope that fashion will regain its relevance as a language that allows you to express your inner-self on the outside. I also hope that fashion will take much more consideration in the environment: our world is suffering and fashion has a sort of responsibility, being one of the biggest causes of pollution. Sustainability, which today is a topic, should not even be mentioned: fashion should be sustainable by its nature.
BS: What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?
SC: I would have kept my grandfather’s little business of house painters alive.
Glamour rules the roost at Edoardo Gallorini. With a penchant for the finer things in life colouring his passion for creating, the Italian designer fawns over creamy silks, extravagant bouncy feathers, and in-your-face bold prints. His “deeply superficial camp attitude” underscoring each satin glove or billowing gown, the Gallorini guy and girl suffers no fools in their quest for elegance, and why would they? Whenever they enter the room, the world stops.
BS: How did you initially gravitate towards the fashion design world?
EG: Since I was a child, my parents educated me to follow an ‘aesthetic of beauty’. I used to go with them in search of the fine fabrics for their tailor-made clothes to travel around Italy and discover its art and architecture. We loved antique markets, flower markets and traditional events. All these interests conditioned and moulded the entire aesthetic of my work.
BS: Talk us through your focus on sustainable and upcycled materials?
EG: The brand is careful about the theme of sustainability using a lot of dead-stock fabrics, with a preference for natural and precious fabrics, most of which with the ReLive Tex certificate, issued by Maeba International, an environmental statement concerning the recovery processes of fabrics that guarantees the transparency and traceability of the fabrics from their origin. All our garments are made by small artisanal residencies in northern Italy.
BS: Who are your fashion muses?
EG: My longtime muses are iconic actresses, like Silvana Mangano, Marlene Dietrich and Catherine Deneuve. But if we’re talking about today, the one and only Tilda Swinton.
BS: Your collection at Altaroma delved deep into the opulence of Italian fashion, what were your inspirations for the show?
EG: All of my collections refer to films. This new one, called “Showgirl” was inspired by Cabaret by Bob Fosse, with Liza Minnelli and Marisa Berenson. They impersonate two opposite characters and worlds: Marisa, as Natalia Landauer, is a rich, educated and naive bourgeois girl, while Sally Bowles is frivolous, sexually open, free. So the collection is a clash between these two worlds, a more elegant, sober part, and a flamboyant, fun, crazy one made of feathers, colours and chaotic prints.
BS: What does fashion’s future look like to you?
EG: I hope that fashion will once again be an expression of dreams and desires, of ideas and creativity, of fun and beauty, and not just a run-up to novelty and hype like today.
Alberto Audenino’s vision of female exuberance started with a plastic bag, the material from which he’d create some of his very first masterpieces. Inspired in equal parts by sustainability and the bright lights of the red carpet, the Italian designer founded his brand in 2014, and would spend the next eight years toying with severe laser-cuts, uniquely sourced materials and his own idea of elegant style. This season the designer takes on the elaborate excess of the 1980s, armed with blue velvet power suits, leopard-print car coats and glitzy party dresses that had us yearning for the glory days of Italo Disco…
BS: Could you tell us a little about your latest collection at Altaroma?
AA: For my FW22 collection at Altaroma, I tried out many new items that I’d never previously presented, such as knitwear and coats. We’ve made them more attractive with bold prints, of course, and you can’t miss the long cocktail dresses. The inspirations are manifold, but taken especially from the rock music and dancefloors of the 1980s.
BS: Your work is about imbibing your wearer with power and confidence, where do you think this stems from?
AA: I think it comes from the confidence I, myself want to convey to women when they wear my clothes, and the fact that when people wear my work – my customers or my friends – feel safe, beautiful, sexy and powerful.
BS: Do you think fashion always has to be serious or political?
AA: I think the only way to escape from our ego, is fashion. Fashion has no gender, no politics, no sex, no colour, everyone feels and should feel free to convey what they want – and the most important factor is the clothes.
BS: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
AA: I would like to see my woman every season in flashy and powerful lines, ones that are precise and geometric, but that always follow the fashions by mixing it up.
BS: What’s your earliest fashion memory?
AA: My first fashion memory is of blankets. They were the only fabrics I had as a child, and I enjoyed putting them on mannequins and creating clothes.
Looking at the world of menswear from a bird’s eye view, revelling in its tenderness but also it’s strength, Alessandro Marchetto’s Gams Note is a label guided by fluid shapes and casual tailoring. A study in the rigidity of uniform, his logo depicts two lovers in a tender embrace, born from reinterpreting the coats of arms generally used by boy scouts but now reimagined as a symbol of inclusion, equality, and respect for the environment – all fundamental principles of the designer’s creative oeuvre.
BS: How would you define your design ethos?
AM: I have always sought a casual fashion that is not necessarily too constructed, appreciating and searching for something real and authentic. It’s essential for me to propose a product in line with what we are experiencing in everyday life, and with Gams Note I wanted to present a tailored, transparent, and tangible answer to that.
BS: What does Italian fashion mean to you?
AM: The great care given to all stages of production, the attention to detail, and the ability to create aesthetically and technically very beautiful and wearable garments. It is truly inspiring for me to be able to work with the Italian artisans and their extraordinary precision, and intuition for detail. Sometimes a nice synergy is born, which allows me to experiment and create my clothes in a very exciting way.
BS: Talk us through the inspiration behind the collection you showed at Altaroma?
AM: For FW22, I wanted to offer garments entirely made in Italy, with fine waste fabrics from famous textile companies. For ethical and sustainable reasons, the garments are season-less, produced in small quantities, suitable for several occasions, and easily layered together, to offer up something timeless and high-quality. The main inspiration comes from the extensive research and deconstruction of men’s uniforms, especially in the world of scouting and outdoor activities, with silhouettes designed to be as fluid and contemporary as possible.
BS: Why did you choose menswear as the vehicle to communicate your vision?
AM: I have always been attracted to the world of menswear. I like to have a very tailored approach to what I do, and menswear allows me to express it to the fullest. From the very beginning, I wanted this project to pay great attention to the body and its physicality, and before arriving at the finished garment, I spent many hours on fitting and repairs. This, for me, is the emblem and the essence of men’s fashion.
BS: How do you feel about the future of fashion design?
AM: I think we are experiencing a very special moment, in which the word ‘future’ can have an ambivalent meaning. It scares us, but at the same time, always hopes for something better and new. New, incredible and interesting brands are emerging all the time, and thanks to the enormous power of social media, many of them are able to make themselves known more easily. I also find that especially for my generation there is greater attention for everything that has an ethical, sustainable, and inclusive message.