Interviews by Spencer Bailey | Portrait by Grant Cornett
Run me through your creative process when making a collection.
I’m not a minimalist. I’m much more of a reductionist. My process is really about elimination. It’s about chopping and polishing. If you come to the studio at the beginning of a collection, there’s so much inspiration, from every corner. At first, it’s so all over the place, but as we go on, everything becomes calmer and calmer. The essence of the first idea is what prevails. We go through a major trip. It’s exciting for me, for the designers, for the pattern- makers. I really believe in collaboration among people. Everybody’s a part of it.
How did you design the fall/winter 2013 collection?
I was into plaids. I was in a very graphic, linear mood. We made some interesting mixes of fabrics. That was the beginning of it: textiles. I developed this particular drop-needle weave; to do it, you take the looms and isolate some needles, and then you create a sort of punched-open hole in the fabric. And for the colors, I used all these military mélanges and celadon greens and forest greens. Sometimes, mills have yarns that are “stock grown” for many, many years, and those are amazing. Usually weaves and yarns are the starting point. Then you go on trying to find something that makes sense.
The second part of the process was identifying this woman, this character. I had seen this one clip on YouTube of this amazing movie, Ivan’s Childhood, by Andrei Tarkovsky. It was just so inspiring, and it made sense with everything I was already working on. The colors, they feel slightly aged, all the military blues, the greens, black. One scene in the movie shows this girl, and she’s so powerful in it. It’s this completely psychological love affair, and it takes place in this amazing white-birch forest. She’s with a gentleman, who’s obviously a soldier, and she’s in this very tailored military coat. And she’s totally in control of the situation. The collection became that essence: the woman who wears a coat, the coat becoming the iconic piece, the idea of protection. And she was super sexy. She was sensuous in it. We developed the collection based upon that powerful, strong character. In fact, we did broader shoulders just to emphasize them, to convey the strength of a woman in power.
Do you often respond to cultural references when you work?
Oh my God, yes. It’s happened so many times. And it’s happening right now, actually. I had to take this trip to Brazil, and I went to São Paulo. I never knew São Paulo, really. I grew up in Minas Gerais, I went to Rio, and then I came to the U.S. São Paulo was somehow a different world for me. It still is. But I was so excited about what’s happening there. I went to this area where all these graphic artists have taken ownership of their neighborhood. It’s basically four streets that are completely graffitied. The houses, they have murals everywhere. It’s like a fantasyland. I think it’s become a kind of showcase. Seeing that was very energizing.
I find that today there’s a spirit of the early ’80s. It’s exciting to think of that: Basquiat, the whole time when things were just a little more free. I think it has somehow come back again. It’s still out there somewhere. There’s almost a political statement behind the art. I follow the artist JR on Instagram, and I saw his work back in Brazil—it’s amazing, the freedom of it.
As a fashion designer, do other types of design inform your work?
Very much so. Especially architecture—and art in general. Architecture came into my work even before I knew it inspired me, because I grew up in an environment in which it was very prominent. My parents had this manufacturing business, and that’s where I used to hang out after school. With scissors and paper, I’d be pasting and cutting all day. I built little houses. I think architecture is so representative of one’s life and ability to roam.
For the full interview with Francisco Costa, buy a copy of Issue 102 here.
How did you put together the fall/winter 2013 collection?
I usually start with a trip after the shows. For this collection, I went to Tokyo. It’s one of my favorite cities for research. Sometimes I go to Tokyo; other times, L.A., Berlin, or London. Usually, I collect stuff like books and vintage objects. That’s how it starts, and then we come back to the office and start looking at every- thing. We get a model, we put things on the model, and we start formulating concepts. We ask, “What’s the concept of the collection?” I come up with a color story, and then we start designing the first pieces. This process starts really, really early. For next fall, I’m starting now. It allows me to have luxury. I have two, three fittings during the seasons—meaning that I can see things multiple times until they’re almost perfect. Usually when I do the first fitting, I do different things and decide which direction to go. It’s a work in progress from that moment on. After the first fitting, we do a fabric selection. Then it’s two more fittings and making changes. Then—to say it simply—it’s the fashion show.
What did you find in Tokyo?
It’s always inspiring just to be on the streets. There’s an aesthetic in Japan that’s very different from the Western aesthetic. The ways in which the Japanese look at and experience things are so different. These trips really enrich me. I want to see what the kids in Tokyo or Paris or London or L.A. do—or want to wear. I think it’s important for a creative person, for a designer, to be in touch with these things firsthand, not just because somebody brought it to you or told you. That’s really not the same.
How do you make your design choices? Is it visceral?
Yeah, it’s a little bit of intuition, a little bit of a gut feeling. A little bit of wanting to do some- thing different and new. Sometimes I put more work on the fabric technology; sometimes I put more work in shapes. Sometimes it’s more in color. This is also a house that’s based on minimalism. It’s a love-hate word, minimal- ism, and so sometimes I think if you make a strong statement in shape, you have to be more restrained with color. It’s not a rule. I try to balance these elements the best I can. You don’t want to have an overload of new shapes, new fabrics, new everything. Otherwise it gets too crazy. You need to balance all the ingredients in an interesting way.
What was your ambition for the fall/winter 2013 collection?
I always like reconciling opposites. In this case, it was to take the sportswear world and the formal world and meld them into a third entity. That’s why I called this collection “formal sportswear,” because there were elements of the formal wardrobe. Herringbone and houndstooth were expressed in a different way, for example. There was quilting, and within the shape of herringbone or houndstooth, there was a neoprene material. I wanted to merge worlds because this, I think, is the way we live. We are not living in a super-formal world anymore. The modern world is a world in which we all move in different situations. I have a fascination with athleticism throughout my collections. It’s a sort of trademark that I’ve built. But I also elevate that language onto a fashion-show level.
For the full interview with Italo Zucchelli, buy a copy of Issue 102 here.