The world’s major heritage labels are drawing on their roots as they look to the future. Some of Italy’s top brands are among those reinterpreting their archives this season
It has never been more important for brands to have their own distinctive story to tell. In an ever-evolving digitised society, what better way to retain individuality than to draw on unique heritage? And where better to find that than in the archives? Major fashion houses across the world are looking backwards to go forwards, going back to their roots in search of the authenticity that chimes with discerning clients. Fashion is cyclical, trends come and go, but classics retain all their allure – to the extent that some world-famous brands have set up their own museums to display prizes from their past. These include the Museo Gucci in Florence, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, which has branches in Paris and in Marrakech, and the Christian Dior museum in Granville, France.
Major retrospectives at the world’s greatest museums have also been devoted to leading fashion brands. Renowned examples include the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition held in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the 2018 Azzedine Alaïa exhibition at the Design Museum in London, co-curated by the designer himself before his death in 2017; and Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which runs at the V&A until mid July 2019. And some designers have a personal stake in the appeal of the archive; Kim Jones, former menswear artistic director at Louis Vuitton, holds one of the most comprehensive personal collections, including original pieces by Vivienne Westwood.
Recent design examples considered worthy of a comeback include the Burberry logo reimagined by Peter Saville, the Celine logo, and Dior’s classic saddle bag. Italy’s top design names are also drawing on their roots. This season, look out for retro inspiration at Sergio Rossi, established in the 1960s, where the SR1 collection completes a lengthy heritage-linked project. The relaunch started in 2016, and 2017 saw the revamping of boutiques around the world, with the Rome store reopening in 2018. The number 1 signifies new beginnings, while retaining the original SR identity – the rebranding respects and promotes the brand’s heritage while continuing to develop its identity. The pumps in the SR1 collection are available with a pointed toe, a tribute to the 1990s that references the boldness of the legendary supermodels of that decade. Metallic details are also a reinvention of a past style modernised for the future. The brand’s longstanding focus on femininity is referenced in the new collections and the nappa leather that has been a Sergio Rossi favourite since the 1990s also ties into its background.
The Fendi Baguette bag, a signature 1990s style, makes a strong comeback for spring/summer 2019, with new colours and prints and an extra shoulder strap to make it more innovative and current than ever. Launched in 1997, the cult Baguette was designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi as an everyday bag, with a short strap worn close to the body; its narrow shape is reminiscent of the French bread from which it takes its name and it is carried under the arm in the same way.
The spring/summer 2019 reinterpretations are varied – oversized, sequined, embellished, embossed with a double F, they make a strong statement for the future. Fendi has been synonymous with Roman style since it was founded in 1925; its famous Palazzo Fendi boutique was renovated in 2016 to house the first Fendi Hotel, featuring seven suites for special guests and a luxurious branch of the well-known Zuma Japanese restaurant.
Swiss-founded Bally has reintroduced a men’s trainer originally created in 1991. The redesign of the Kuba reflects the popularity of athleisure and streetwear styles, bringing the brand right up to date, even as it looks to the archives. Bally references its history season after season, but the Kuba trainer is the first model that’s a reworked original. The tennis shoes honour the brand’s Swiss heritage, and the style is available in the colourway worn by tennis champion Jakob Hlasek, nicknamed Kuba, who inspired the original trainers. The line was presented at Pitti Uomo in Florence and is the modern model with the strongest relationship to the brand’s history. Founder Carl Franz Bally, who launched the company in 1851, always aimed to offer modern, functional designs and this remains the brand’s ethos, with the addition of ready-to-wear clothing and accessories with a retro aesthetic.
Few brands have entwined a classic print so closely with their identity and DNA as Etro has with paisley. Etro celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018 and the brand’s strong heritage details have remained constant throughout its designs. The classic bohemian-chic paisley motif made its first appearance in 1981 and has decorated everything from garments to leather goods to homeware.
Etro’s extensive library, which includes hundreds of prints and fabrics from the 18th and 19th centuries, provides endlessly flourishing sources of inspiration. Each collection plays on classic paisley, whose droplet-shaped design is said to originate the historic Asian region of Mesopotamia. The motif is constantly updated by Etro, but always remains connected to its roots. The brand was founded in 1968 by Gerolamo Etro, who was inspired by his travels and his passion for history, and is still a family business with a strong personal theme to its collections.
Similar to Etro, Salvatore Ferragamo, built on innovative shoe designs, possesses a substantial archive. The company holds over 350 patents and the 20,000 models in its archive date back to revolutionary styles from the 1920s. Materials and function have been a constant focus for the company throughout its history, evident in the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum that opened in Florence in 1995. This season, creative director Paul Andrew was inspired by a 1940 shoe made for actress Loretta Young. The woven sandal with a wooden, sculptural block heel has been reimagined by Andrew as a flatform style with leather woven details, and as a modern reiteration of the original sandal. The ready-to-wear line also drew inspiration from a picture of Young standing in front of a palm tree, seen in prints and silhouettes for spring/summer 2019.
All these brands are not merely replicating their past triumphs. They are reinventing them for the 21st century, combining the genius of the past with the ingenuity of the present and making much-loved classics freshly relevant to a modern clientele.