Among the newest and most talented Italian designers who presented exciting collections during the last few seasons, there is Gabriele Colangelo.
I mentioned him in previous posts in this blog, but, during the last few months, Colangelo’s woman has developed quite a bit taking on a new identity and personality, revealing herself as an elegantly chic and refined, yet real woman.
Indeed Colangelo’s Autumn/Winter 2009 collection mainly features designs dedicated to women who want to wear them.
The collection doesn’t feature anything too extreme or unwearable, but garments that, while retaining a sort of “dream quality” about them, have one main aim, being worn by many women.
This is why Colangelo often states he finds his heart beating in unison with Alber Elbaz, one of the few designers out there who still manages to make women dream with his designs.
There is another important point to make while analysing Colangelo’s designs: though luxury is one of his prerogatives, he doesn't express it through extremely rich and at times tacky details such as excessive amounts of sequins.
An example of this new interpretation of luxury is the “punto mosca”, literally “fly stitch”, but known in English as “fishbone stitch”.
This type of stitch - mainly used for heavy fabrics or when stitching the hems of men’s jackets supported by a heavy lining - consists of one long diagonal stitch crossed by one short diagonal stitch.
Colangelo re-employed this stitch in his A/W 09 designs. Now, while such details may not shine like cascades of sparkling Swarovski crystals, they are proof of a rekindled interest in the craftsmanship (it usually takes Colangelo three hours to rework the "punto mosca" into one of his designs) of custom tailored clothing.What inspired the Autumn/Winter 2009 collection?
Gabriele Colangelo: Traditionally in my collections I try to combine two different inspirations, a cultural one and an artistic one. For my Autumn/Winter 2009 collection the former came from an exhibition I saw at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum by Scottish artist Siân Bowen; the other is instead linked to fashion and in particular to a study Madame Grès did on pleated garments. Siân Bowen’s works are characterised by light cross-hatched lines that represent for this artist the beginning of the drawing. I reinterpreted the cross-hatched lines in my designs with thread, using the “punto mosca” (fishbone stitch) and glass micro-beads characterised by a square and regular shape. For what regards the pleated details, I didn’t employ the simple “plissé soleil” (sunray pleats), but I came up with 1 cm pleats that, stitched one by one onto the garment, create a sort of three dimensional vertical effect. The beads were mainly applied to the upper part of the pleats, to decorate them and create a certain movement and discreet yet feminine trails of light.
What kind of fabrics did you choose for this collection?
Gabriele Colangelo: I opted for fabrics such as boiled wool, double cashmere and more refined materials such as enver satin and silk for the dresses. The colour palette includes dark nuances that go from black to blue, and lighter ones from bronze and blush to a sort of citrine, that also evokes in some cases the yellow and green shades of oil.
Is there a material you would like to rediscover in future collections?
Gabriele Colangelo: This year I worked on a very special technique: I blended fabric with fur obtaining a very interesting effect, a sort of luxurious textile that doesn't allow you to tell where the fabric ends and the fur starts. From far away you get the impression there are splashes of fur on a piece of fabric, so it really looks unusual. This is the most innovative and experimental feature I employed in the collection. I also created extremely light furs in shaved mink that you can fold as if they were woollen cardigans and even carry them in a case. All these experiments were done following and innovating the highest principles of craftsmanship. I think in future I will continue along these lines.
Will you develop any accessory line in future?
Gabriele Colangelo: I already designed some bags and shoes for my summer collection and all the people who saw them showed a lot of interest in them. The shoes were really beautiful and featured a special heel that went well with the designs. I do love accessories as they complete a woman’s look and style, yet I do feel they are part of a wider project and I will have to sit down and seriously think about an accessory line before venturing into it.
What’s your favourite A/W 09 collection?
Gabriele Colangelo: I loved Jil Sander’s clean, rigorous and graphic lines and Raf Simons’s ability of renewing the brand while still respecting its heritage. I like these collections, they are intelligent, beautiful and well executed.
As a young designer you started doing your own catwalk shows only in the last few years: do you like them or do you think that catwalk shows can somehow be limiting?
Gabriele Colangelo: A catwalk show is a sort of final epiphany of a collection, the result of a long process, yet the inspirations behind that particular collection and its essence often get lost during a catwalk show as the viewers’ attention gets attracted by other things and I guess this can damage one’s work. I do think that what makes the difference between a dress and another can be an invisible detail such as a hemline stitch and this is a construction detail you can’t see on a runway. You should be able to come and see behind the scenes how a dress is made to be able to properly analyse it. I think that what’s missing in catwalk shows nowadays is a little bit of culture: I sometimes feel sad when I read catwalk reviews as the way they are written or the comments they feature often make me wonder if the designer wasn’t able to express what they felt or if the people who went to see the show didn’t really understood what they saw. Too often critics stop at the most superficial aspects in a collection because they were literally blinded by the sparkling crystals that decorated a dress. Yet I guess that such things reflect in a way the times we are living in. This is why when a while back I did some lectures at Bologna University, I told the students that they have five sense and they can’t just think about satisfying one sense - their sight - when they design a collection, but each single sense must be taken into consideration.
What plans do you have for the future?
Gabriele Colangelo: My label has acquired a certain credibility thanks to my collections, so I would like to keep on working on my designs and maybe also get a job as a consultant. Clients keep on coming and I must admit that, though we are living in financially critical times, this is a good moment for young designers. I do think indeed that times of crisis always manage to bring new things and nurture new talents. Besides, I have met quite a few buyers and shop owners willing to support such young talents, showing that, despite the crisis, there are some brave fashion-forward thinkers and entrepreneurs out there.
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