MIDO Eyewear Show

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

While you might not have heard of it, Italy’s Mido Eyewear Show is the leading event for eyewear professionals. It’s an exhibition during which major international brands present their new styles and innovations for prescription specs and sunglasses—and, while it might sound like it’s purely for industry members, it’s fascinating for anybody interested in fashion and design.

The show saw some 1200 exhibitors last year—two-thirds of which were international. Mido president Cirillo Marcolin says of the 2016 event, “We’ve been working hard to renew the traditional concept of a trade fair. For this reason we have abandoned the classic idea of ‘trend area’ and we have created The Design Lab and More. The first focuses on niche brands and independent productions, while the second will be animated by seminars and conventions about the evolution of the markets.” Of the many designs and designers Marcolin is excited about, he tells us, “Recently we’ve discovered a young producer who uses old vinyls to make eyewear, and in Munich we have spotted spectacles made of real leather… It is not just about pure creativity and prototypes, since what you’ll see there are actual production pieces, maybe handcrafted, but ready for the market.”

Marcolin offered us a sneak preview of Mido, and there were many stand-outs worth mentioning. Of the most notable, Lapo Elkann’s Italia Independent will unveil the next designs to come of their collaboration with Adidas Originals. Color is the main event—with ’80s vibes and tropical patterns featuring heavily—while retro shapes match. Another favorite hailed from Boston Club, whose spectacles are completely made in Sabae, Japan, despite the misleading name. Their designs are vintage-tinged, yet their use of innovative materials (like Japanese acetate Takiron) and unexpected colorways keep them current.

“Storm,” the debut collection from the brand Gabe, is made up of wooden frames that boast a screw-less horn hinge the brand calls a “snap-joint”. There’s a delightful blend of natural materials and structural development at play here. As for Fakoshima, designed by Konstantin Shilyaev, their offerings are purely conceptual and utterly extreme. Their “Kabuki” collection reveals a theatrical edge—sunglasses become a mask. Influenced by art and avant-garde, Shilyaev will also unveil a collaboration with Indian-born fashion designer Manish Arora at Mido.

Finally, Movitra‘s mission is simple: to protect lenses from shocks and scratches. With this in mind, Filippo Pagliacci and his team have developed and patented a special system that allows the sunglasses’ arms to rotate and become a barrier for the lenses. Not only is it a logical yet innovative concept, the designs are ultimately wearable.

The 2016 Mido Eyewear Show is on this weekend, 27-29 February, at the Fiera Milano Convention Center, Strada Statale del Sempione 28, Milan.

Annunci

Sergio Rossi FW 2016/2017

“My shoes are Rossi, Sergio Rossi”. Here’s what we could be saying next winter.

The FW 2016/2017 collection designed by Angelo Ruggeri is almost completely black and clearly inspired by secret agents, spies, soldiers and trekkers.

This is going to be the perfect line of accessories for a charming man in need to go to an exclusive party, run away, fight, catch an helicopter jumping from the terrace, climb a mountain, kill the evil guy and then lay in front of a fireplace.

Maybe this is not daily life, but for many a daily dream.

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Costume National FW 2016/2017

Costume National is synonym with black, New Wave, rock’n’roll darkness. Until now.

The show we saw a few days ago in was Milan truly a surprise. Despite  it felt undoubtedly “Costume”, this time around Ennio Capasa painted his dark canvas with sporadic touches of flashy colors like fire engine red, cobalt blue and chlorophyll green. Not to mention the artisanal “couture” touches, intricate embroidery as well as an elaborate use of studs.

Like in a rock show, the colors acted as spotlights, and spotlights make you discover something that was hidden, underlining once again the mysterious power of darkness.

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Paula Cademartori SS 2016

With the current SS collection Paula Cademartori is showing that she’s not just an “emerging designer” anymore, but a full grown-up creative and entrepreneurial mind.

Bags, shoes and small leather accessories are slowly and inexorably creating a real fashion world, ready to be expanded in several directions. Her vision is clear and her approach is that of an established brand.

It’s not anymore just about color and fun, but here we’re seeing style, class, elegance, irony, something pretty rare and unusual in the landscape of young fashion.

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Making Louboutin

A few months ago I was in Naples for a rare occasion to visit one of the factories that make men’s shoes for Christian Louboutin. I love to witness the making of things, in particular when it comes to handmade stuff.

In the past few days the official Louboutin Homme Instagram account is showcasing some of the pics I took at the factory. Seeing those wise hands at work, in the act of transforming those precious materials into pure beauty, makes me live once again those wonderful days. And understand why #CLLovesNapoli.

If this is not enough and you want to read the full story I wrote for Cool Hunting, just follow this link.

Factory Visit: Christian Louboutin

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Since setting up his eponymous label in 1991, French designer Christian Louboutin’s shoes have become synonymous with power, prestige and class thanks to their sexy, edgy design and extreme creativity. Lesser known is the fact that Louboutin produces men’s footwear as well—something that should be on the radar of all shoe enthusiasts.

On a very hot day this July, we had the chance to visit a factory in Naples, Italy, where skilled artisans create these rare, esteemed objects. This area is already known around the world for the production of high-end footwear, continuing a tradition rooted in the 19th century that exploded culturally after Word War II. The production process behind Louboutin shoes is entirely led by hand and consists of a minimum 30 steps. Fine leathers and precious fabrics (like cashmere and grosgrain) are cut, sewn, shaped and combined—but everything starts with a drawing.

Louboutin and his staff’s sketches are fleshed out into shapes and turned into a tridimensional design. The pattern-maker obtains a series of flat pieces that will be used for prototyping and—once the final prototype is approved by the designer—for production. The cutting process is key and is also done by hand. Depending on the piece of leather, the single parts are carefully positioned and cut in order to leave as little scraps as possible. It takes almost 15 years of experience to become a professional cutter and it’s incredible to see how fast and precise their hands work.

Precision is of the utmost importance when it comes to working with precious materials such as alligator. In this specific case only one animal skin can be used per shoe. The leather is chosen very carefully in order to make the two shoes as similar as possible, since each animal is unique. Once again it is a matter of fine eyes and expertise. The pieces of leather are flat after cutting, but soon take the shape of the part of the foot they will hold. The curvature is obtained by using machinery that combines pressure and temperature.

Stitching takes place next. The different pieces that will form the upper unite meticulously. “One single upper can be made of 12 different materials,” reveals one of the production managers who took us through the production lines. The artisans focus on their sewing machines with intensity as each stitch is a matter of millimeters, especially with Louboutin’s complex designs.

A red sole acts as a declaration and Louboutin’s signature. Interestingly, this color is obtained not by tanning, but with a secret lacquering process. “This complicates the process quite a bit,” the production manager shares. The soles arrive to the factory from a different production facility and, to avoid scratches, they are protected by a transparent film. It is only removed before when the shoes are boxed.

One artisan spreads a special mix of cork and glue onto the interior of the sole before it’s joined to the insole and upper; this padding will make the shoe much more comfortable. This (also secret) blend is kept inside a yellow tin with the logo of a very famous French champagne house. We asked if the blend includes chopped champagne corks, but the Louboutin staff simply smiled without an answer. The phase of sewing the sole consists of making several tiny passes—also rather complex. The hands of the artisans seamlessly switch from cutters to brushes, from cogwheels to wax sticks. Their elegance recalls that of a skilled classical musician.

As soon as the shoes are fully assembled, it’s time to polish. Leather is carefully and repeatedly caressed with pure cotton cloths for almost one hour, using French polish and other potions. Alligator leather, however, comes to the Louboutin factory in white (these blank skins are called “crust”) and it’s not dyed until the shoe is complete. As a final step, the artisans imbue a cloth with the color and literally paint the white upper, very rapidly and with extreme precision. This process guarantees deep and intense shades of color, since the pigments have never been warmed up or even touched during production.

Before leaving the factory, the shoes are inspected and all the edges painted tone-on-tone with a marker, making the shoe sharp and visually uniform—the process comes full circle with more drawing. It’s a gesture that truly feels like a signature by the team of these Neapolitan artisans—and a bond with Paris and the creativity of Christian Louboutin.

Rest in peace, Elio Fiorucci

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Yesterday, 20 July, one of the most colorful lights of the international fashion faded away. Elio Fiorucci has, for decades, been a reference for those who consider fashion as a synonym for freedom, color, fun, love. Fiorucci could seek and understand trends before there was a business around that practice; a creative mind able to transform his passion for beauty into a global enterprise. He was always looking for inspiration from the streets in each form, from art to fashion, food, design and anything that has to do with the total independence of thought.

In the early ’60s Fiorucci often travelled from Italy to London and get a glimpse of the goings-on in Carnaby Street, King’s Road and Portobello. Thus, he decided to set up in Milan (his hometown) a store that would resemble what he saw in London. On 31 May 1967 the historic store in Galleria Passarella opened—in the very heart of Milan. There, he sold shoes made by the family business and clothing and accessories from England, France, USA, South America and Asia.

His own creations have always been eclectic and influenced heavily by pop culture. Icons of his store were a hot pink jumpsuit, overalls made from machine-washable paper, plastic sandals (aka Jellies, designed by a young Manolo Blahnik), platforms and clogs covered in flowers, sock-boots and—perhaps most notable—his super-bright galoshes.

By 1977, the artistic direction of the house was to be managed by a group called Ufficio Dxing. While Fiorucci himself was overseeing, he gave lot of freedom to the team. The structure wasn’t hierarchical and was based on what they called “visual tourism.” Research was constant, and members of this creative group were constantly traveling on buying trips—seeking new, interesting products and artifacts from every possible field. Some were simply collected, others became part of the collection on sale at Fiorucci’s stores. Ufficio Dxing was also in charge of the conception of signature clothing and accessories, labels, shopping bags, store design and events. It could be said that they systematically reread the history of fashion since World War II, and this work has given rise to a map entitled How to Read Fashion, which summarized and compared the basic stages of fashion, film, art, music, historical events and customs.

Fiorucci’s work during the ’60s was intrinsic to some significant changes to the fashion industry. Several factors at play were altered forever: comfort (his jeans were among the first in Italy to be developed with stretch materials), youth (in his stores young people were catered to with magazines and loud music), nudity (his posters became advertising icons with almost-naked girls featured).

In the years to come, Fiorucci started legendary collaborations with the likes of Madonna, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and many others. Whether they were emerging artists or superstars, Fiorucci just wanted them to have something to say about the future of fashion and creativity. Despite his stellar career, Fiorucci remained incredibly humble; it was incredibly easy to talk to him, and he was often spotted on the subway in Milan. His passion for discovery and innovation, his eye for style and authenticity, and his desire to surprise have carved out a historic and important position in the history of fashion.