Vibrant velvets, acid stripes, pastel faux furs, shimmering lurex coats and ruffle-adorned shoes: with its profusion of clashing textures, colours and patterns, Marco de Vincenzo’s autumn/winter 2016/17 collection is nothing if not confident. The Italian fashion scene has long been associated with labels renowned worldwide such as Armani, Prada and Versace. However, the past few years has seen a wave of young designers emerge to sit side by side with these established names.
The new names
Designers such as de Vincenzo, Vivetta Ponti and Arthur Arbesser – who all show at Milan Fashion Week – cut their teeth at established fashion houses before taking the leap to launch their own labels. Ponti, for example, set up Vivetta in 2009 after having worked for Roberto Cavalli. She explains what prompted the decision to fly the Cavalli nest: ‘I felt the desire to communicate my world. I learned a lot while I was working there, but I was feeling incomplete. I wanted something where I could be myself every day in my life.’
Armed with a solid foundation, these designers have proved they know how to take their respective past experiences and apply them in new exciting ways. What sets this new wave of talents apart is that each label puts its own distinctive twist on fashion. Roman native Stella Jean draws on her Haitian heritage in her trademark colourful creations; the Vivetta collections are whimsically infused with a nostalgic nod to the past ‘inspired by many things, like vintage postcards, old fabrics, dolls and childhood souvenirs’; Lucio Vanotti’s style signature is a distinctly modern, minimalist aesthetic.
Being a young designer is not without its challenges, as de Vincenzo, who has the backing of luxury conglomerate LVMH, explains. ‘The beginning was very hard and, in some respects, being an Italian designer nowadays is not easy,’ he says. ‘The joint venture with the LVMH group gave me a lot of reassurance, and the attention toward me has grown over time, making the challenge even more interesting.’
Despite the difficulties, Vanotti explains that there is still room for up-and-coming designers: ‘People are always interested in the new, especially if the new is an answer to their question.’ However, it isn’t enough to be brimming with creativity. The real challenge is finding financial support and ways to gain exposure. To that effect, the past few years have seen a rise in initiatives to support young creatives in Italy.
In 2011 Jean was runner-up in the annual Who Is On Next award, which is organised by Altaroma – in collaboration with Vogue Italia – with the aim of discovering and supporting young talent. Older designers are also keen to provide a platform. Donatella Versace has regularly hired emerging names as creative directors of her Versus line. Since 2013 Giorgio Armani has been inviting young creatives to show as guest designers at his theatre during Milan Fashion Week. In the past, labels such as Stella Jean, Vivetta and Lucio Vanotti have showcased their work at the Teatro Armani, something that Vanotti says was ‘a great media opportunity, a chance to draw attention to my work’.
As a general rule, these designers have a close relationship with Italy. Sicilian-born de Vincenzo presented his first show in Paris, before returning to his Italian roots and Milan Fashion Week. Ponti is a staunch supporter of the Made in Italy label: ‘Here in Italy there is a strong tradition of textiles and I really want to help all the artisans who are working to hand it down from one generation to another.’ Jean proudly represents her mixed Haitian-Italian heritage in every one of her celebrated collections.
Ultimately, there’s a clear sense that these designers are proud of their country’s heritage. Vanotti says, ‘I am very pleased that I had the good fortune to grow up in Italy. In Italy we are surrounded by beauty and fashion, and perhaps we do not realise it, but it has a strong influence on our lives.’ Drawing on the nation’s rich sartorial heritage, these designers are lending a new voice to Italian fashion as the new generation carrying the country’s reputation for style forward into a new chapter. These are Italy’s fashion luminaries of the future.