Italian fashion designer Maurizio Galante finds inspiration for his collections in the colours and history of artisanal cultures, writes Stephen Crafti.
Each July, couturier Maurizio Galante unveils his latest collection in Paris. The backdrop is generally simple and pared back to allow his extraordinary multi-layered creations to take centre stage.
“For me, it’s not about theatrics. The idea is to remain pure to the initial idea,” says Galante who, with his business and creative partner, designer Tal Lancman, poetically articulates ideas for furniture, lighting and objects through their company Interware. “Irrespective of the project, the ideas must have ‘soul’, with a story behind each one,” says Lancman.
For Galante, who has been captivating the media’s attention since he presented his first haute couture collection in 1991 when he was admitted to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the value of the ideas are as pivotal as the work to create each garment. Some may take a week to produce, others hundreds of hours.
“Three years ago we decided to dedicate each collection to an artisanal association in a different country from around the world. I will visit the country several times to study the region, techniques and messages,” says Galante, whose Fall/Winter 2019 collection fell deeply into the cultural aspects and messages emanating from Mexico.
For that collection, craftsman Antonio Cornello Rendón welcomed the duo into his home/workshop, where large woven straw sculptures, like ‘solar discs’, appeared within the red brick and saffron yellow walls.
A following four-hour trip to Tzintzuntzan revealed a sparse landscape where cacti alternated with acacias to colour this bare, orange land. The inspiration of these wild colours, such as tangerine, creamy white, dark night, mint green and magenta, was unveiled on Galante’s catwalk, along with the artisanal skills of Cornello. “The purpose is to collaborate with the local artisans and help support the local culture,” says Lancman.
History also plays an important role in the development of a collection. For the Mexico-inspired show, the starting point was when a Spanish conquistador came to Mexico and met the native people, two worlds colliding.
“This collection was filled with beautiful contradictions,” says Galante, who included original fabrics found in Mexico, as well as producing new ones. “It’s similar to cooking, in that the fabric is just one of the ingredients that needs to combine with others to create a favorable outcome.”
Galante, who plans six to seven months ahead, is now turning his creative juices to Africa. “There’s something quite mystical about Africa,” he says after being drawn to the local music from the outset: a combination of simple notes made into something much more.
“There’s something quite pure about the culture, but also extremely sophisticated,” says Galante, who is thinking of a black and white palette for the 2020/2021 collection. When I suggest the outcome will most likely be graphic, Galante is quick to respond: “There are so many shades of both black and white, each one having its own depth. It’s all about balance.”
Although revealing the concepts and processes flows easily from Galante’s lips, when it comes to price or his clientele, they are firmly sealed. The late and renowned architect Zaha Hadid was regularly photographed in Galante’s creations. But few, if any, client names are mentioned. Clients arrive discreetly, some who have seen the garments presented on the catwalk; they then repeat their visits between two and five times. The more complicated designs can take up to three months to produce.
“Our clients want to dress in a unique way. They’re certainly not afraid to be introduced to new silhouettes or materials. Couture is like buying an art piece as much as clothing,” says Galante, who often sees his garments displayed on walls when not being worn.
Technology, via the internet, has also changed the way couture is consumed, both by the wider audience and Galante’s clientele.
“When I started, the process and the finishing were at the core of couture. Today, it’s more about the image, what’s projected out there globally,” says Galante. However, for both Galante and Lancman the artistry, along with the execution, remains paramount, whether it takes the form of a chair, a light, an object or an interior (the duo designed the Ducasse sur Seine restaurant on a boat for Alain Ducasse).
Slavishly following fashion or a season is also something that’s avoided. “Today, haute couture clients are jetsetters. One client might be here in Paris today, and then in Sydney tomorrow. Haute couture isn’t seasonal any more. It’s about evoking emotion,” says Galante.