A black and gold Rolls Royce reading “Collini Milano” traversed the streets during Milan Fashion Week with a single objective: to catch the attention of passersby. This moment precisely embodies the mission of Carmine Rotondaro, the designer who carries the name of a 1937 Italian house on his shoulders. The creative director’s visually captivating research on identity continues in Spring 2020 via a bold collection that celebrates the idea of sin, and more specifically, the seven deadly sins.
In a modern world that’s constantly grappling with ethics in nuanced forms, from the policing of women’s bodies to internet addiction, the concept couldn’t be more timely. Rotondaro opened up to L’Officiel about carrying on a heritage brand, repurposing the archive, and bold collaboration.
What does carrying on a brand that’s been around since the 1930s mean to you?
It is certainly a great responsibility. But it’s also a continuous incentive to research, to deepen [the brand identity], and to compare it with one's own heritage. There is almost a constant creative bipolarity in which the past and the future of our brand interact - and must dialogue - continually. The terrain of this necessary dialogue is the present, the everyday life of our management and creative team, that shape the brand's identity and positioning for the months and sometimes years to come. When we make decisions to stay relevant with our collections, we cannot ignore the tradition of our brand. When something speaks to us, it is essential to know it in order to understand its voice.
How is Collini's archive heritage used?
The tool to learn about our brand’s tradition is the archive. It is the voice of our heritage and the way this [element] speaks to us. This is why consulting and referencing the archive has become a natural, almost automatic operation when we conceptualize a new collection. In some collections, the archive makes cameos. In the Spring 2020 collection, for example, the face of our "Heroine" set in the front of our sweatshirt of deadly sins comes from an image in the archive. The archive is like a lighthouse for us: it is not a place to go back to because there is no port; on the contrary, we need to move away from it to surf peacefully, but we must always keep an eye on it. To help us interpret our archive, we work with Raffaello Collini, the heir of the Collini family who greatly supports us in the reconstruction of the long and adventurous history of the family and of the brand.
Your latest campaign was shot by Asger Carlsen, an unconventional photographer for the world of luxury. How important is communication to you?
Communication is a fundamental pillar of our company and of our fashion process. Collini pursues an aesthetic that is undoubtedly original in the world of contemporary fashion, and thus has a unique point of view. This uniqueness in style must, in my view, go with similar originality in communication. Hence our continuous search for unusual creative encounters and mutually beneficial work alongside artists in other fields. The collaboration with Asger Carlsen for our campaign has naturally developed, as his art and our fashion share a common interest in the human body and its transfiguration. Asger is clearly a contemporary master of the transfiguration of the human body. But to think of it, the transfiguration of the human body is exactly what makes fashion and its incessant game of uncovering what is normally covered, covering what is uncovered, and mixing masculine and feminine influence. In this game of the human body, Asger and Collini have found a common ground of aesthetic understanding for the “Break the Rules” campaign, showing a fantastic universe of super-women and super-transfigured men.
Collini's new point of view is a bold world of ostentation. What prompted you to break with the past?
In reality, the root of Collini's new aesthetic point of view lies in its tradition and in the fashion sense of the founding family. Since 1937, the brand has dressed the Milanese and Italian elites with the most valuable and expensive items on the fashion market. It is therefore intimately glamorous and associated with a suggestion of great exclusivity and prestige. Precisely, this necessary connection with the bourgeois elites has contributed to favoring the conservative side of Collini when creating new collections. However, when I bought the company, I realized that even forty years ago, the brand was experimenting a lot with bold and disruptive aesthetic codes. Some archival images from the late '70s prove this, revealing extraordinary modern experimentation. The brand today - despite its autonomy from the past - feeds on this lymph of glamour and experimentation that has always accompanied the tradition. Collini's current aesthetic - in its audacity and rock & roll - follows two major guidelines: glamour and experimentation. And it's nice to know that these are brand attitudes that come from afar and sink into our tradition.
How did the idea of capital vices for the Spring 2020 collection come about?
Collini has a great tradition that, since its founding in 1937, has evolved and changed profoundly in many respects. However, a central and constant motif of the brand has always been the representation of an empowered and unapologetic woman in control. Almost all the innumerable images in our archive are proof of this. Under my management, Collini is going to continue this mission to accompany the style of a free and unapologetic woman. But free and unapologetic also means free to sin without having to hide or apologize. This is the conceptual genesis of the theme of our Spring 2020 collection: a reflection on the most profound and subtle aspects of being a woman in the modern world. A reflection that we will also pursue in our future collections by addressing different aspects of contemporary femininity. For this collection, we use sin as an opportunity for the modern woman's self-affirmation. Not something to be ashamed of or conceal, but something to declare and show off. Hence the sweatshirts labeled with the names of deadly sins, the ubiquitous and versatile metal charms with the deadly sins that can be easily applied to clothing, outerwear, bags, and shoes. Because sin must be easy...or not. Hence the bags, which declare sin with their prints and sharp studs and which, I hope for our clients, can contain their sins. Hence, in general, the pieces communicate a free and light style which should be the state of mind of the sinner when they sin. Many stars to glorify the sinner and make her a star. Many of the most remembered women of our Catholic tradition, from Eve to Mary Magdalene, are sinners. And so, in our collection, we have glitter and sequins to celebrate our sinners. In short, our vision for Spring 2020 is that of a woman proudly dressed for her sins.
What defines the uniqueness of Collini Milano 1937?
Our collections are truly innovative and experimental in many ways. For example, some of our iconic pieces include glitter motorcycle pants, shiny gold and silver fringed jackets, a gold printed crocodile coat, a cashmere pullover printed with pure 24K gold, shiny Cuban heel boots and glittery, fluorescent combat boots, jersey sweaters with shiny fringe on the sleeves, and printed leather bags for men with golden metal handles. Many of the looks experiment and combine different aesthetic codes (like rough, technical motorcycle pants and glamorous glitter), genres, and features (the simplicity and comfort of a sweater contrasts with the uber-decoration of fringes on the sleeves). I believe in this constant experimentation between looks.