Romeo is There

With his authentic and unconventional creativity, he has marked the golden age of Milanese fashion. But Romeo Gigli does not look back with nostalgia, and continues to work without losing his clear vision of the present

  • Romeo is There

Anyone who owns an original piece by Romeo Gigli holds it dear and probably still wears it, because although it was designed some twenty or perhaps thirty years ago, it is still perfectly modern and plausible. And it is precisely this pure design, this timeless quality that makes Gigli quite unique in the history of Italian fashion, although everything that is produced under his label, which passed into other hands due to various corporate adversities, has nothing to do with him anymore since 2004. 
A fact that is utterly unconceivable, and yet has not discouraged this cultured gentleman raised in the womb of an aristocratic family from Romagna in 1960s Italysurrounded by ancient books, music and tailor-made clothes, who became a fashion designer almost by accident turning a wealth of knowledge, travels and experiences into designs, visions and meaningful creations. Gigli entered the fashion hall of fame with his legendary 1988 fashion show in Paris, welcome by an endless standing ovation, and went on to play a leading role in one of the golden eras of Italian and international fashion with a free spirit and an innate candourthat allowed him to shrug off commercial restraints and swim against the current not to provoke, but simply to affirm his creative vision.
Today, Romeo Gigli continues to work, teach and collaborate with artists and musicians, as he has always done. Among his latest collaborations are the Eggseveningwear collection, created this year with Giordano Ollari, owner and buyer of multibrand 'O, and the costumes for the production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni with sets designed by Barnaba Fornasetti (2017).
Here's what he recently told us about his life, his work, and the fashion industry.
Raised in a family of antique booksellers, you studied architecture and only later took an interest in fashion. How has this complex and diverse education influenced your work?
RG: Until the age of 19, in addition to classical studies, I was educated to become an antiquarian bookseller. My father had an ancient book library that I consulted very often, having the opportunity to discover some truly extraordinary images from the 16th, 17thand 19thcentury. I then enrolled in architecture school but did not graduate due to death of my parents, which was a great shock. So I decided to start traveling and I did it for ten years, all around the world: Asia, South America, the Far East. Being a collector, I bought tons of handicrafts, costumes, materials, carpets and sculptures. I sent whole containers home, and this melting pot of things contributed to shaping my imagination.
Fashion is a combination of shapes and decorations. How did you manage to balance these two elements in your work and is there one that is more important to you than the other? 
RG: Shapes are crucial. When I started designing my first collections, my main goal was finding shapes that were timeless. After so many years - my first collection dates back to 1983 - people sometimes still stops me along the street to tell me that they have kept my clothes because they are still perfect and contemporary.
You have experienced the golden era of Milanese fashion as one of its greatest protagonists. What should we treasure and what should we forget of that time?
RG: It was the greatest of times. I entered the fashion world for fun, just because it fascinated me. There were good times and bad times. I fondly remember Gianni Versace, who loved my work and always came to my fashion shows. I never managed to establish the same relationship with the other designers of the Milanese scene, it was not customary to invite colleagues to one’s fashion shows, there was a sort of internal war that I honestly didn’t like. In Paris, however, in 1988 I invited Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Jean Paul Gaultierto my show and they all came.
I think maybe in those years we could have done better, we lost quite a few opportunities because of some attitudes that are typically - and dramatically - linked to our national culture.
On the other hand, however, another aspect of Italian culture is among the things we should preserve from that season: the great ability of our partners, the manufacturers who produce everything that makes Italian fashion unique, from the craftsmanship to the extraordinary and incomparable quality of the materials and the patterns.
What do you think of the contemporary fashion scene and how do you picture the future of Italian fashion?
RG: Well, there are a few things I like, but I am under the impression that everyone’s chasing the same thing, as if there were some kind of ‘diktat’. I’m afraid that young and emerging designers are badly hampered by these processes, and by a market that is completely in the hands of the big fashion corporations.
In all creative industries, it is crucial to have the freedom to tell one's own story, otherwise generating beauty becomes impossible. It does not suffice to pursue trends or mix elements as a form of provocation; a sensible and unique project is what it takes.
How can we preserve the complexity of design, manual skills and the sartorial work in the digital age?
RG: Manual skills and design will always be at the base of creativity, in fashion as well as in design and architecture. No one can replace us humans in this, not even a computer. Imagination, freehand drawing, gestures and pencil strokes remain the starting point of any project. The process that leads to the creation of a garment always goes through physical elements such as mannequins and mirrors, because the shape needs to be pictured in a dimensional sense. And finally the illustrators turn that idea into a hand-drawn sketch. Only then can the process be digitalized.

Author : The Slowear Journal


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