London Fashion Week – The Italians Come To Town

Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:20

The Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics and the recent London Fashion Week… swinging London completed this year’s hat trick of memorable events in high style – and with some notable Italian input on the designer front.

The five day LFW showcase – mainly set in stately Somerset House - attracted around 5000 visitors and according to Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, over £100 million worth of orders. Amongst this Brit fashion landscape of business on the up and cool creativity as always in abundance, designers of Italian heritage continue to hit style headlines. Showing for Spring/Summer 2013 were the assorted talents of design duos Peter Pilotto and Preen to the established Moschino; bright spark Kinder Aggugini and fashion darling, Antonio Berardi.

Antonio Berardi - Born in the UK to Sicilian parents, somewhat similarly to Kinder Aggugini, Antonio studied at London’s prestigious Saint Martins College of Art and Design as well as working as John Galliano’s assistant. Following his impressive final year collection in 1994, he was championed by key London buyers; the next season his first professional collection catapulted him into the big time.

As well as prodigious design talent, Antonio has shrewdly accrued business skills to enable his brand’s autonomy. He is one of the few internationally influential designers operating as an independent. Part of his success he attributes to the renowned Italian firm Gibo, for their trademark technical expertise in the manufacture of his clothes. In 2009, his beautiful black and white lace dress design was honoured with the award of Dress of the Year. Described as one of her ‘favourite dresses ever,’ it was famously worn by Gwyneth Paltrow to a film premiere in Paris. Beyonce, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Beckham soon joined other red carpet clients in rhapsody over the label’s signature sexy elegance. In autumn the same year, following a brief business relocation to Milan, Antonio returned to the London Fashion Week to great acclaim. Always a hot ticket to view, the press widely declared this season’s catwalk collection a ‘stand-out’ amongst the 62 on show.

Antonio Berardi
Antonio Berardi, London Fashion Week S/S 2013 Collection - [Photo Credit: Catwalking]

Antonio, your latest show once again garnered praise for its ‘body-conscious brilliance’. What are your favourite innovations in this collection?

‘I wanted to make luxury and embellishment look fresh, a little sporty and youthful. We used everything from carbon fibres for the embroideries to solarised plastics!’

It’s been said that your Italian heritage entails a celebration of the female form…

‘Yes, but at heart an artist’s appreciation of the female form… I love a curvaceous look and like clothes to enhance natural curves. I think having a natural feel for fabrics and how they can be used to maximum effect, extends the vocabulary of a woman’s body language…’

Who has most influenced you in your career?
‘My mother, mostly. She had impeccable ladylike style which was a perfect reflection of her personal philosophy: that a woman’s clothes should reflect her femininity, propriety and sense of quality. John Galliano was also a profound influence and inspired mentor, demonstrating the value of being true to one’s personal vision without compromise.’

A unique collision of cultures appears to be your creative strength…

‘Much of my original inspiration comes from the blend of being British Sicilian. Artistically, it is like a fusion, with roots in English craftsmanship - traditional Savile Row tailoring - with the added warmth and expressiveness of Sicilian culture down to its colourful, free-spirited clothing. I am also excited in general by music, post-modern art and independent film. I like to keep an eye on the streets, from London and Paris, to New York - and of course, Palermo!’

Kinder Aggugini - One of the most intriguing of the new breed of Italian designers. ‘A name to note,’ says Suzy Menkes of The International Herald Tribune. It was just four years ago that Kinder stepped into the spotlight with his own name collection at London’s Dover Street Market. Ex-punk Kinder’s quirky sense of humour belies his immaculate design background: the UK’s Observer newspaper refers to him as ‘the world’s most feted ‘ghost designer.’ Though born and raised in Italy, he studied in London at Saint Martins College of Art and learnt tailoring on Savile Row. Dressed as a policeman apparently, he then applied for, and got, the job of working for John Galliano. Stints at Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Calvin Klein, Costume National and seven years as head designer for Versace post-Gianni, all ensued. Now his apparel’s stocked from Russia to New York by way of Spiga 2 in Milan - and Blondie singer Debbie Harry’s a fan. Curious to know other stars Kinder’s dressing? Click on ‘celebrities’ on his website. You’ll find a picture of Sid Vicious and the caption ‘As If!’

Kinder Aggugini
Kinder Aggugini, London Fashion Week S/S 2013 Collection

Kinder, what was the inspiration behind your Spring/Summer ‘13 nautical and whimsical show?

‘I read ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ by Hemmingway again recently and it touched me deeply. Although a very sad story, it depicts the strength of womankind…I wanted to bring this idea to life in an optimistic and eccentric way. I used conversational prints as the basis of the collection, to echo the conversations that man has with sea and that women have with each other.’

What are your personal favourites from your collection?
‘I don't have favourite pieces as such, but I love a balance between a masculine and feminine combination in a look. So a perfectly tailored piece combined with a super feminine dress is usually a winner in my mind.’ (His collection features pinafore dresses and dungarees reminiscent of traditional fishermen’s work wear; shorts in feminine gingham; broderie anglaise dip dyed to imitate the sea fading the garment hemlines).

Who are your design icons?
‘I love feisty women, especially those who express themselves through their creativity. Whether artists, writers or actresses I find courageous women endearing and inspiring. My prevailing inspiration is the fantasy of Coco Chanel married to Sid Vicious! I think though refined, Coco was more hard-core than Sid the punk. They combine to shape what I hope is my signature rock and roll elegance.’

Apparently you next want to shake up the menswear market?
‘Too often I see menswear brands directed at serious tailoring or casual sportswear or the exuberantly trendy. What about simple cool, you know? The stuff you can buy again and again, the stuff that looks contemporary and not out of fashion in three months. The stuff that will make your friends ask...’where did you buy this?’ That's what I want to do!’

Do you feel that your Italian roots in any way add to your design style?
‘Being born in Italy and spending my childhood there has definitely conditioned the way I think! From my mum demanding I polished my shoes before going out, to my dad teaching me about Gio Ponti and Pinin Farina, down to the sense of colour which is typical of Italian art and reflects in a deep research into fabrics, for example. I think I was imparted with a sense of style that will remain and affect my work forever.’

Other Italian designers showcasing at the LFW 2012.

Peter Pilotto - The half-Italian, half-Austrian along with his design mate Christopher de Vos, was shortlisted for the 2012 British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund. The two first met at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp: their label is now sold in 27 countries. Designs are consistent in their sense of dynamic elegance; always a perfect mix of well-placed textiles and prints, sculptural silhouettes and drapes.

Best in Show S/S 13: an ever more arresting yet alluring mix of colour and texture - as inspired by the duo’s ‘scientific view of nature as reflected in microscopic, encrusted, hyper-real prints’. Best epitomised in their flame red/yellow flamenco skirt set and latino siren black pencil dress with edge.

Thea Bregazzi with Justin Thornton of Preen, returned to show on top form in the wake of the duo’s tenth anniversary. Having met in the UK and worked together since the ‘90s, as previous nominees of the British Designer of the Year Award, the (married) couple are renowned as clever colourists and precise technicians. From small boutique beginnings in London’s Portobello, they now have 70 stockists worldwide, and design for Top Shop. Personal clients include Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Scarlett Johansson and Kirsten Dunst.

Best in Show S/S 13: adventurous in hue and execution, results are wearable with an element of surprise. Gentle mix and match fabric mash-ups predominate; easy flare dresses feature patchwork patterns of speckles and stripes. Painterly prints – darkly exotic to candy sweet - bloom beautifully across simple, sinuous shifts.

Rossella Jardini for Moschino Cheap and Chic - Following the death of Franco Moschino in 1994, former assistant Rossella became creative director of the label stable which also includes Moschino and Love Moschino. Franco’s style was often innovative and irreverent, yet packaged with tailored elegance. Rossella first worked with him on the Cadette label. Her eclectic design background also includes Nicola Trussardi to Bottega Veneta.

Best in Show S/S 13: Depending on your perspective, following research travels to Africa, the brand’s gone seriously off-track – or is exploring pastures – and possibly a client base, new. Approaching its 25th anniversary next year, this season’s preview lacks the label’s former Schiaparelli style mix of sharp wit and sophistication. More casual boho than tailored, hipster pants to oversized fruit motifs and transparent tops in an off-key colour palette by designer Francesco Rubino are not the full Franco!