» HADOUKEN « italian designers are not having “a moment” you’re just now paying attention to them
It’s becoming more and more difficult to find truly revolutionary science fiction and fantasy these days. Thanks in large part to the advent of modern computer animation, throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the genres absolutely exploded in popularity. The result? A development of industry standard arcs, tropes and other storytelling devices. Since William Gibson penned Count Zero, post-apocalyptic rag-tag armies of rebels have been fighting to save the galaxy from corrupt corporate citizens, cyberpunks and mutants in both this world and beyond. Sentient complex computer systems began popping up all over the place pretty much right after Skynet sent the Terminator to destroy Sarah Connor in Los Angeles. And let’s not even get into all of those princesses, captured and exiled (oftentimes to a parallel universe), who need saving. It’s even become difficult to make a determination as to whether some of these films, novels, TV series and video games are serious or just some tongue-in-cheek sophisticated form of satire.
Perhaps my favorite storytelling device, despite the wonderful examples listed above, is the “sleeping awake” trope. You know it. Humanity is duped into focusing its collective attention on a single grave issue while a young, eager rogue uncovers the real threat, usually one of annihilation, which has been bubbling right under their noses the entire time. The ol’ Mississippi Switch!
Over the course of the last five years, with the proliferation of social media, we’ve seen an aggressive transformation of the fashion industry’s preferred aesthetic. Barely one year after Alexander McQueen’s untimely and sad passing, the Museum of Modern Art in New York celebrated his designs in what would go on to become one of the most successful exhibitions in the history of the storied institution. Aptly titled Savage Beauty, its influence kickstarted the red blooded, thrillingly distressed, beauty-in-savagery obsession that has littered the runways, streets, independent boutiques, concert stages and fast fashion copycats ever since.
Such obsession has been widely embraced and advanced by the Parisian Houses. Mapping out the most successful brands, both on the runway and at retail, over the last five years takes us from Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy to Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent. Not only did the vicious Rottweilers, distressed denim, grungy flannels, leathers, aggressive religious appropriation and shiny hardware all become retail favorites during this time, they also set up a blueprint for the designers of tomorrow: turbo charged, yet surprisingly minimal at times, rock ’n’ roll sells. It’s easy to see howKanye’s early-decade fetishization of Givenchy influenced his own Yeezy collections, or how that fetishization gave rise to independent labels like En Noir and Enfants Riches Déprimés. And to take absolutely nothing away from Vetements, while its genius comes from its silhouettes, oversized proportions and branding, its success is rooted in the ironic familiarity of its hoodies, denim and graphic t-shirts which feel as if they could easily have been in any of Slimane’s Saint Laurent collections.
But now, after years of fatigue, editors are telling us that Paris is becoming predictable and that Milan is having a moment. The rumors started shortly after the fall shows last February — if you round up 30 industry insiders with ties to Milan for a quote, well, it must be true! But boy has that theory gained steam — if you round up 30 industry insiders with ties to Milan for a quote…you get my point. With Alessandro Michele leading the charge at Gucci, young masters are seemingly popping up all over the peninsula. (One would imagine that if the First Families — Prada, Armani, Versace and Missoni — relinquished control to fresh creative directors that we would have ourselves a stew goin’.) Massimo Giorgetti, despite leading his own seven year-old label, MSGM, closer and closer to nine-figure revenues at over 250 points of distribution, is now receiving very high marks for his work over at Pucci. Having been labeled “Belle of the Ball” by Suzy Menkes and Giorgio Armani, Stella Jean has roared into the public consciousness and has positioned herself for a creative directorship at any of the Houses. And then there is Marco de Vincenzo, the cosmically whimsical Sicilian and creative genius behind Fendi’s “Monster” accessory revolution who now has LVMH financing his eponymous label.
Could it truly be that this all just “kind of happened” simultaneously? That’s hardly the case. Certainly, megaphone wielding ambassadors like Carlo Capasa, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana’s new, outspoken president, help move the ball down the field. If you stand on a mountain shouting “Italian fashion is undergoing a renaissance!” long enough people just may start to believe you. Having the complete support of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has pledged to invest millions of dollars in infrastructure to help sustain everything from Milan Fashion Week to manufacturing initiatives, doesn’t hurt either. But the truth of the matter lies in the cyclical nature of fashion whereby the industry’s elite not only become tired of a particular style or trend but also are forced into adopting “new” ideas in order to maintain their superiority and status as “tastemakers.” I put “new” in quotes because, surprise: the fantastical and lighthearted designs of Italy’s new guard are not new at all. Italian fashion has always been about color, pizzazz, embellishment and whimsy.
You’re just now noticing it because our leaders won’t stop talking about it. And for good reason. It’s been almost a decade since the Great Recession, and despite pockets of turmoil popping up (as they always do), things are generally…not bad. The bleak, dark and indifferent styles that rose in prominence after the global financial crisis seem a bit anachronistic now, don’t they? So, perhaps the industry has been lulled into a malaise and is starting to lash out against the styles d’hier? My bet is “probably.” And when the rest of us finally awaken, the Italians will be ready, as they have always been and as they always will be.