Sergio Rossi’s designs at a Milan Fashion Week show Fall-Winter Season 2017/18
For some it is a throwback to the origins, others talk about small and quality productions. The truth is that the fight between craftsmanship and fast fashion is very broad and includes endless opinions and points of view. And now that I’m starting writing about it, that’s when I realize how hard it is.
To get started, my first difficulty is the terms used. I do not think “slow fashion” is the correct expression and 100% opposed to “fast fashion”, ironic as it sounds. I choose craftsmanship or any other synonym since the previous term, as it is understood today, does not help me to reach the objective of this text. I don’t want to talk about sustainable, ecological or local fashion, or at least not just about it. The concept goes much further.
I don’t want to focus on fast fashion either as that set of brands or production chains, such as Inditex, the most recognizable example when it comes about that term. I want to focus the attention on that fast-producing fashion that lacks magic but nevertheless, many are the brands that adopt it. Even outside the low cost framework.
I would like to introduce the theme through the designer and master shoemaker who pushed me to think about this idea. Weeks ago, the fashion world lost Sergio Rossi, named “King” of Italian shoes. The one who turned a family office into a tradition, into a way of understanding the shoe and later, into its own brand.
Rossi learns the profession when he is just a child in the heart of a destroyed Italy after the passage of World War II. Becomes a craftsman of the detail, in a true perfectionist moved by the good taste. He opts for wearable footwear, for a fashionable design and not exaggerated. Thanks to him, “Made in Italy” becomes relevant in a significant way. A label that has directly inspired designers like Gianni Versace or Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. The idea is to transmit a provenance, put in context and differentiate yourself from art for art’s sake.
Design added to craftsmanship is therefore a different way of approaching manufacturing. The traditional way that today those brands that need reinvention sell as innovative. It is usual that the concept of craft is separated from the concept of taste and is related to something rough. But this way of creating fashion is synonymous with unique, craft, context, manual, quality, and functionality. We talk about differentiation in design, original inspiration. We are talking about a concept that looks in the opposite direction of what the sector is today.
With this I do not want to determine how brands should manufacture, produce or think, but I suppose it is relevant to differentiate and understand when there is a meticulous and artisan work process to when there is simply good brand communication.
I do not underestimate this last strategy, since I would be shooting myself in the foot. The aim is to exalt those designers who have surrounded themselves with success due to artisanal techniques learned from a trade that has been practiced for centuries which toda is executed by machines, whose sole objective is mass production. This is a very close reality that I am talking about and deserves its fair recognition.
I would not like to finish this article without talking about one of the great current designers, who, in my personal opinion, completely marks slow, artisanal, manual fashion andt the “made in” stamp. I’m talking about Guo Pei or, more popularly known, as the designer behind Rihanna’s spectacular canary yellow dress at the 2015 MET Gala. One of the biggest survivors of mass production and fast fashion in the middle of a country that knows a lot about industrialization: China. Perhaps its greatest impediment, but also its greatest luck. The designer is an expert in creating unique and unrepeatable pieces, since the making and embroidery are done by hand and there is no room for copies. A self-taught and talented recruiter from the best fashion schools in the country. A true example of what we define as artisan fashion.
Large brands that I prefer not to name in this article have pursued this differentiation in the creation of “limited editions” that are nothing more than a commercial hook. Do not be confused by products that want to be disguised as “unique” and they work as a strategy for a consumer who thirsts for personality in a world of copies and mass production. I think that if the objective is distinction, what is missing is a point of “slow”. We are completely obsessed with the passage of time and there is no longer room to stop and look for the balance point on a scale where the brand image has much more weight.
To conclude, as I have already mentioned, this article is dedicated to the missing Sergio Rossi, a master of craftsmanship who leaves a great legacy and gives us a gift to a Gianvito Rossi guided by parental art. A sincere admiration for the work of the designers and craftsmen quoted and not quoted.