Walter Albini. Creativity and fate.


Today we’re introducing a monthly section dedicated to the geniuses of Italian fashion who are not recognised in history books yet. 20th-century fashion historian Paola Maddaluno leads us in the discovery of a chapter of our guiltily forgotten past.

It’s the Seventies.
Milano is hosting some of the most prestigious promotional events for luxury womenswear: Modit for prêt-à-porter houses and Milano Collezioni. These events set the early signs of Italian fashion design. It’s a new “temple” of fashion, based not only on serial production and manufacturing organization, but mostly on scrupulous exhalting of quality.
Walter Albini pioneers this new era. He is one of the first “centaurs”, partly merchant, partly poet. Following his motto “Enjoy today and leave unpleasant things for tomorrow,” his fashion does not just cater for customers who want exclusive and unique items, but rather it is meant as a language linking arts and markets, culture and richness. In the December 1978 issue of “Vogue Italia” he stated: “For me, each outfit tells a story, of love, of anger, of violence. Each one is a moment, a person, a place, and each has a role, like in a theater. To change clothes you have to change your attitude and spirit, and take on a new role. Every time, every season, every collection.”
Defined by “Women’s Wear Daily” magazine as the new Italian star, Albini devoted his first two collections, Anagrafe (1970) and Preraffaellita (1971), to the search for rigorous and light cuts that remind of the figures of the Thirties. He experimented heterogeneous patterns of warp and weft, reaching bizarre and very elegant matches. He collaborated with many companies at the same time: With the Misterfox brand, founded with Papini, he invented the “uni-max” formula, i.e. cut and colour uniformity for men and women. With Diamant’s he designed the item deemed to become his signature: the shirt jacket. He entered into a contract with the first prêt-à-porter distribution company, Effetiemme, managed by Aldo Ferrante, Franco Tossitti and Gigi Monti, parent company in the group owning Basile, Callaghan and Escargots. For Callaghan, Albini worked jersey; for Basile, he designed outerwear, for Escargots, playful knitwear. This “centaur” could maintain his style specificity, although working with different companies. He moulded his creativity without altering the basic principles in his language: material harmony, shape reduction, the synthesis of a hippie expression, anti-establishment and ethnic, mixed with sophisticated urban casual style. Albini’s art was deep-rooted in values such as peculiarity, consistency and ability to innovate. He tried to overcome challenges and biases, barriers and borders.
Nonetheless he gave in when confronted with his fate, his too-early death. As Maria Luisa Frisa commented: “Many remember Albini and quote him expressly, but there is a much more important way to celebrate the works of great designers: it is when the echo of their work affect an entire era (…). This is the greatest praise, a continuous and silent homage that Walter Albini could not enjoy during his life, but perfectly clear to us today. Now more than ever, the fashion system that owes him so much is definitely going through a crisis, but (…) his work left a crucial mark in contemporary fashion.” Albini: an author and director in the Italian contemporary fashion.

Translation credit: Erika Cambini

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