Elsewhere in Milan: Quira, Arthur Arbesser and Plan C
In a season where Milan fashion began rebounding from the pandemic, there was plenty to see away from the catwalk. We caught up with three young designers thinking way out of the box.
Quira: Fabulous forbidden dreams
There’s a new fashion star in the firmament in Milan. Her name is Veronica Leoni. Her brand is called Quira.
Named after Quirina, the nickname of the grandmother of Leoni, a designer who hails from Rome and has a hyper impressive CV. From head knitwear designer for Jil Sander herself to pre-collection head of Celine, under Phoebe Philo. Her resume wouldn’t matter a toss if Leoni didn’t have real talent. But flair and ability she clearly has in spades.
On a sunny afternoon, she presented her first collection inside a showroom normally used in Milan for hipster designer dinners. And, quite frankly, this was the most impressive debut in Milan in many years.
Quira is all about sculptural shapes but made almost nonchalantly: an oversized fine wool scarf wrapped and knotted into a fabulous skirt, a mannish check shirt twisted into a layered posh punk skirt, or a sheath of liquid silver draped into a gown worthy of Isadora Duncan.
"It’s my forbidden dreams. It’s very primitive. It’s five of us, just friends. I worked in London three times in my life, the latest was with Phoebe at Celine. Then I came back to Rome in 2017 and decided to create something personal. And during the pandemic we put this together. I wanted to create a bubble and be obstinate," explained Leoni.
Leoni’s clothes drape, droop, seemingly fall off the shoulders, but all ever so gracefully. Her tailoring – large trenches, raincoats worn askew – is oversized, enveloping but always flattering. Plus, there is lots of quirky energy, as in one putty gray deconstructed leather carpenter’s apron that recalled a Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture.
Made in the finest of Italian fabrics in first-rate factories, the collection feels to the hand to be very high quality, especially its fabrics. Her creations are blessed with a certain lightness; their volumes mean they float yet never look flimsy.
"I’m on my knees most of the time pinning trousers and clothes. Trying to create a sense of space. Draping really excites me, the way that fabrics behave spontaneously. I am very tactile and play with fluidity along side very structured tailoring. I like that eclecticism," said this Roman and Romanista, since she supports FC Roma football club.
Moreover, the whole Quira project came fully conceived with complimentary accessories – arty medieval clog boots or a series of soft mid-size totes. There were even a few poetic menswear looks.
"My first time doing menswear and it came out spontaneously. It’s a great opportunity for me to challenge gender with a more expanded view. I want to be sophisticated for everybody. I want to fit a lot of characters and not be niche," Leoni concluded
Ever since Philo retired three years back, fashionistas have been on a Holy Grail-esque quest to find her successor. Turns out they did not have to look that far. Just go to Rome.
Plan C x Perimetro Tokyo
Plan C is the fledgling fashion house of Carolina Castiglioni, a sophisticated Milanese designer with a thing for Tokyo. Hence her latest project, a gallery show and creative hook-up with path-breaking magazine and art group Perimetro in a special edition devoted to Japan.
The result was a great collection of images shot by eight photographers – Japanese, Italian and French – of Tokyo, ranging from studies of ancient barbers and dark and twisting inner-city elevated highways and rivers, to eccentric cityscapes and quirky bars – all the things that make Tokyo unique.
"Tokyo is my favorite foreign city, and where I find so much inspiration. So I loved the idea behind this concept, of seeing Tokyo from so many different angles," the designer explained.
The images were all displayed on huge rolls of fabric suspended inside the art gallery in south Milan, in an exhibition entitled "Tokyo and its Contemporary Storytellers."
Alongside them, Plan C produced a limited-edition selection of pristine T-shirts on which were sewn fine fabric reproductions of the Tokyo photos.
Parallel to that, there was a selection of novel everyday Japanese products – from curling shears to teapots – in yet another example of Plan C’s very particular manner of mingling art and commerce.
Arthur Arbesser: Bucolic on Via Della Spiga
Always a novel voice in the fashionable firmament of Milan, Arthur Arbesser created a pop-up that was as much a gallery as a showspace this season.
The designer named it "Arthur Arbesser Casa," the latest use of the space as part of a project called "Visiting Installation Art" (VIA), a series of curations in multiple disciplines, displayed in vacant storefronts in order to restart the Milanese economy. Located on the luxe shopping street of Via Della Spiga, it featured a marvelous hand-painted Matisse-like fairytale backdrop and all sorts of witty works of recycling, along with objects for the home.
"What’s the point of throwing out DHL and Amazon boxes, when you can turn them into flowers," smiled Arbesser who had pots of these hand-painted scissor-cut "dried flowers" as décor.
His new collection was similarly naïve with long, childlike silhouettes or boxy, boyish shirts made in papery Japanese poplin or techy nylons. Quirky check frocks with huge patch pockets, hand-painted with images of bucolic gardens, or patchwork check prints made into plissé gowns – all topped by great crocheted straw bullfighters’ caps.
All very carefree, and very Arthur.
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