Top Banner
Apr / May 2013
Curiosity and the Couturier

Writer: Farah Aljundi

When Daniele Cavalli, son and heir of Roberto, took charge of the label’s menswear recently, he managed to take the label in a bold new direction whilst remaining true to its past.


Ah, Fashion. It has us all wrapped up and turned around and influences whether we prefer to dress ourselves in Italian cashmere or Ecuadorian potato sacks. This is why when I was asked to investigate the concept of survival in fashion, I found it particularly difficult to pinpoint what keeps whom afloat, let alone what it takes for a design(er) to stand tall and graceful.

Thinking about this reminded me of a young man I know. A man who stands, humble yet elegant, carrying the burden of Atlas on his shoulders, hands clasped behind his back, as if in perpetual contemplation. He has been described as “un vecchio giovane, un giovane vecchio” - an old youngster, a young elder.

That man is Daniele Cavalli, a mischievous hybrid of rocker’s edge with Italian grooming. He has the soul of a bluesman and the fascination of a flowerchild.  As modern as they get, he will still open doors for women and is quick to lend chilly shoulders the warmth of his tailored coat.

This young man is the heir to an empire that counts on half a century of excellence and leadership, one of the most innovative icons of Italian fashion. Ever since he took control of the menswear department at (Roberto) Cavalli, he has introduced refreshing innovations that nevertheless remain true to traditional Italian craft and more importantly; the Cavalli vision.
Notorious for working instinctively, Daniele explains that he is lead by his curiosity and “whatever allows him to daydream”. One day it might be an old photograph, the next a forgotten track from one of his records. Whatever the source, Daniele holds onto it, fixated. Studying it inside and out, until it translates into a design.

His last source of fascination has been with the inner workings of the kaleidoscope he received as a gift from a friend during one of his travels. When he began taking it apart to study the simple mechanism - essentially three coloured mirrors that reflect light off one another - Daniele came to the realisation that by placing his iPhone camera before it, he was able to capture magnificently detailed psychedelic patterns that represented a beautiful fragment of reality.

These shards of existence took root in his mind as intricate prints and soon, Daniele was on a quest to have his imaginings manifest in photography. By attaching a telescope to the camera, he re-created the kaleidoscopic effects. And so the concept for a new season began.

The desire to dissect and deconstruct the fundamental elements of the kaleidoscope’s reflective surfaces gave way to the idea of a play on mirrors. The result had Daniele thinking about the patterns used on micro-ties - a kind of minimalist bowtie - and their fundamental role as the ultimate masculine representation of excellence.

“I understood the potency of what could be done with these images in the form of photographic patterns, which then got me thinking about the micro tie and its role in creating the typical English gentleman,” he tells me. “It was there, that the Cavalli Gentleman’s Club was born.”

And so, for Cavalli’s last Autumn/Winter collection, Daniele opted away from the traditional catwalk show and decided to show in his own little sanctuary instead, a velvet-dipped room of dim, mirrored corners, beautiful people in tuxedos and the scent of exotic cocktails, the sort of warm, hushed atmosphere that is redolent of the kind of nostalgia only found at the bottom of a glass of well-aged single malt.

Accentuated by micro prints derived from Daniele’s kaleidoscopic experiments, the Astrakhan coats, unmistakable Cavalli leather, soft tuxedos, silk trousers, slippers, bow ties of the latest Cavalli creations channelled the decadence of London in the 1800s.
“For men, actually for the world in general, I think it’s far more important to tell a story of emotion, of a life and of a lifestyle, a way of being and approaching things. Which is why not only did I want to place the viewer in front of my designs but in front of a dream, in front of a state of mind,” he continues. “The collection’s not about what’s cool, it’s about what’s relevant to me. The day I’m in love again, who knows? It might consist entirely of flowers and red roses!”

Despite this, Cavalli Jnr. makes sure not to let current events and changes go unnoted. He refers to the difficult times Italy is going through and invites those around him to step outside their woes and continue to daydream.

“It’s fundamentally about where you want to take people, where you want their minds to travel. But I don’t want to pretend to delve into this too much, because at the end of the day, it’s clothing,” he explains. “Which is why I want to create a lifestyle around the Cavalli man, to communicate a character. Not just the clothes. Fashion is turning the world and churning the markets, but the only way to survive is to stay true to your curiosity. It gives meaning to life.”

When I ask him how he will innovate next, Daniele explains that he has planted the seeds of his ideals and will remain true to them. Any changes will happen organically but the formula will remain clear; clothes as character, as part of a lifestyle that celebrates the artisan, revealing an attention to detail that often goes unnoticed (and unappreciated) on the traditional catwalk.
“Its all about the details! The devil is in the detail!” he laughs. “I don’t change my ideas because of the market. I look and I listen to the market but the ideas remain my own. The most important thing is follow your instinct. It’s the only true mix of your innermost feelings, education, culture and spirit.”

The outcomes of our lives are greatly determined by the quality of the questions that we ask ourselves. Those with heightened curiosity, open to the power of potential are usually those best fit to find intelligent solutions and lucrative opportunities. Rather than being bogged down in beliefs, they withhold judgement to make way for ideas. Curiosity may have killed the cat but the lack of curiosity can kill much more. Observing the world around us with an open mind is something many professionals have unlearned but it’s a skill with which we are all born.

“It’s sad but I don’t feel much curiosity in the world nowadays. If one does not nourish curiosity and dive deeply into things, how is one supposed to form one’s own ideas?” asks the old young man. “Without forming your own ideas, you cannot remain true to your personality. Thinking differently is a metaphor for owning your ideas and therefore, your true self.”
Now, that’s how to survive in the world of fashion, ladies and gents. I rest my case.

Right Pane Banner1
your picks
A woman’s beauty, whether it’s the shape of her face, how she carries herself or does her hair means nothing if she doesn’t know how to dress. Here’s the best to make the best of you.
To help you shop well, we’ve scrutinised the very best of today’s offerings and distilled it down to a few key pieces you just have to buy. Here’s looking at your Ultimate Wardrobe.
The scale of what’s happening in Macau is testament to the rising purchasing power of the Chinese. A decade ago, there was just one casino. Now there are dozens. To some this city is the new Sodom and Gomorrah but to millions of Mainlanders it’s serious business.
Right Pane Banner2
Right Pane Banner3