Today, all of a sudden, I came across the name of an Italian designer: Lucio Vanotti. I did a Google search of his name and I simply fell in love with the demureness and sophistication of his silhouettes. After a brief infatuation, though, I started questioning the reason of my appreciation.
As a student of fashion history I am often tempted to avoid quick judgements about the present. History after all is a specific interpretation that the present gives about the past: selecting it, dismembering it, and trying to build relationships between distant facts or object. Therein resides the awkwardness of evaluating something that did not become history, because it has not become past, just yet. However, what a fashion historian can do while looking at a new designer is read his work against the specific heritage of the context in which his work sprang into being. If one thinks that fashion is the fleetingness of an eternal present, they are wrong. Fashion is a present that looks to the past while trying to imagine the future. Lucio Vanotti seems like a perfect example of this.
The tradition of Italian fashion could be roughly summed up in two opposite and complementary families. On the one side, the lavishness and sexiness of Dolce and Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Valentino and Cappucci, amongst the others. This tradition is reminiscent of popular culture and Italian Baroque. The construction of the garments is often draped, shiny and skilfully embroidered. These designers tend to be more related with the south of Italy.
The other big tradition in Italian design is the one that pursues the less-is-more motto. Simple shapes, utilitarian garments, and an understated idea of luxury are the trademark of this big tradition. Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferré, Marni, Bottega Veneta, and the Milanese house of Jil Sander could be ascribed to this school. The inspiration for these designers is more linked with the north of Italy and they owe most of their fortune to the industrial production and a certain culture of modernisation.
Lucio Vanotti, born in 1975 and a graduate of Milan’s Istituto Marangoni, is clearly the heir of the second big family of designers. For him the simplicity of a garment is not due to a lack of ideas, on the contrary it can be seen as the ultimate achievement. Demureness and simplicity in his work are never akin to something already seen, already bought, or already consumed. At the centre of Vanotti’s work is a man or a woman that wants to move, work, and be active, and for whom style and elegance are not secondary problems. This kind of humanism in his work was highlighted by the presentation of the AW 2013-2014 collection, where the photographer Francesca Forquet decided to portray the models as subjects from Piero della Francesca’s paintings. Once again, the present looks back to the Italian tradition this time the Renaissance humanism that put above everything else the human subject and its understanding. Vanotti does precisely this with clothing.
Header – Francesca Forquet, “Project LUCIO VANOTTI”