We often hear the word "craftsmanship" mentioned in connection with fashion. Powerful luxury brands use this term almost as a label to hint at handmade garments or accessories in high-quality materials that take days to be made by artisans.
But, if we take into consideration the revolutions in manufacturing and production techniques we have collectively witnessed in the last few years, we could probably state that, at the moment, craftsmanship is something suspended between the hand-made and the machine-made.
The real difference is made by the craftsperson who should be an in-between figure, a sort of artisan and technician, with a passion for beautiful things and an in-depth knowledge of materials. Just like Gabriele Colangelo.
His S/S 17 collection shows consistency with his previous ones and confirms he wants to take fashion into the future via fabrics and textile experiments. Colangelo usually moves from an artist for his collections and for this season he started from the works of American Dianna Molzan.
The latter tackles themes such as deconstruction and the materialization of traditional painting materials and tools. After removing the canvas, Molzan focuses indeed on the empty wooden frame, employing yarns and threads in a sculptural way to create new spaces such as grids and cages. The wooden support of the canvas therefore ends up supporting Molzan's sculptures while also framing the wall's empty surface and creating a new space behind the canvas.
Decomposition was a key theme in this collection: Colangelo cut fabrics such as silk cady and Prince of Wales woolens into strips and then proceeded to reassemble them into fabrics that he used for tops, mid-calf length skirts and dresses and even in a leather coat. The shapes and silhouettes were simple, long and lean, but streamers left dangling here and there created variation and movement in the sleek garments.
Colangelo also covered his slip dresses in a floral motif that seemed to expand on the fabric like a malevolent virus and that revealed itself on a closer inspection as made with a sort of devoré shredding treatment.
The way Colangelo hid narrow trousers (note: Colangelo is among the very few contemporary designers who sends on his runway well-cut trousers for real women) under dresses was another reference to Molzan and to the way she goes beyond the surface of the canvas to explore what's underneath.
Fur made an appearance (Colangelo comes from a family of furriers) adding a note of modernist primitivism: smooth and curly sheepskin burst from seams and merged and combined with the fabric.
Among the timeless highlights of the collection there were a few nappa leather pieces - a dress, skirt and coat - that represent a real investment of the "buy now wear forever" kind rather than "buy now and throw out tomorrow" type.
You could draw further comparisons between Colangelo's S/S 17 collection and Molzan's works: just like the latter could be conceived as a material reaction to our visual culture, Colangelo's garments end up being a way to react to the modern banality of overembellishments or to the lack of textile knowledge of many designers out there.
This is actually another key point that distinguishes Colangelo from other contemporary designers: some critics compared his shirts to Jacquemus', but there is a vital difference since Colangelo knows his materials, creates their own fabrics and starts his collections from textiles, developing them six months in advance with Italian mills.
In a way this is a labour intensive process that at the moment is more Japanese than Italian (mind you, Colangelo has a sort of Japanese sensibility when it comes to textiles...).
Colangelo may not be high on the list of trendy designers pumped up by the fashion establishment (it is often the case that the less knowledgeable end up being the most praised ones...), but he is definitely a modern craftsman. Ah, yes, a final note, as it happened in the past, expect these fabric experiments to be copied sometimes soon by some trendier young designer.