Harking from Verona, but with a debut in London, Manuel Facchini’s story is one of paving a way to a unique stylistic identity, one very much set apart from his contemporaries. The Milan-dwelling designer has crafted an aesthetic that summons architectural shapes, acute geometricity, and inventive patterns. Learning his craft at Central Saint Martins, Manuel Facchini’s signature narrative approach to design developed into a seasonal instalment of oneiric motifs. Since 2006, he has also held the creative reins of Byblos, the iconic Milanese house, where he has reinvigorated the collections with sleek ready-to-wear. For the autumn/winter 2017/2018 collection of his namesake label, the designer celebrated the contrast between sportswear and a darkly gothic look: this leitmotif runs throughout his work, and fuses opposites. The elaborate Baroque-like details purvey a 3D effect to the clean lines of the looks, where quasi-military silhouettes define a warrior woman. Schön! sits down with the designer to discuss the ramifications of digital in his futuristic world, the importance of experience and the launch of his capsule See Now, Buy Now collection.
How did you come to work in fashion? What differences can you see between Milanese and London fashion?
When I was a little child I used to draw and sketch all the white corridors of my house, so the decision to work in fashion was very natural. I was always interested in fashion and art but, above all, the idea behind the creation.
London fashion is fresh, innovative, wild and pure in terms of creativity. In contrast, Milan is quite commercial, solid and pragmatic, with no space for bold expressions of extravaganza.
You’re driven by innovation – how do you plan to embrace the new digital means of communication, creation, and sharing?
Fashion is one of the most important evolutionary forms of our society and for this reason it cannot overlook technological and digital innovations. In the past, collections were seen by a select few working in fashion and only enjoyed by the general public almost a year later. Now, communication is instantaneous, and we tend to sell directly to the consumer. The intermediate stages are slowly disappearing – namely, multi-brand stores, unless they too have become digital.
Because of these changes, I’m creating a capsule collection following the logic of ‘See Now, Buy Now’, that will be available to the consumer in June.
What is the importance of manufacturing in Italy?
The ‘Made in Italy’ seal is a figure of speech, but it’s also synonymous with a guarantee of absolute quality envied all over the world. The culture and the experience Italy has cultivated over the years have no equivalent elsewhere.
In which ways do you think having worked for other brands as a designer before working on your own namesake house gave you strength, determination, and knowledge?
Even more than strength and determination, it gave me something that is immeasurable, impalpable and extremely important in this field: experience. From simply handling the fabric, experience allows you to fathom the final product. It allows you to predict the movement, the flow, or, on the contrary, the rigidity and consistency of the piece even before it’s been created. Studying allows you to free yourself in spaces of pure creativity, whereas experience, and as a result, perception, allow you to envision designs before they’ve been realised.
You study the crossover between sportswear and a more grunge, gothic aesthetic – what fascinates you about these two worlds? How do you reconcile the two?
I love contrasts because I believe that the fusion of two fields – that, at first glance, seem irreconcilable – can create a DNA that is both innovative and experimental. This way, you can translate X and Y chromosomes in the world of fashion.
If your inspiration refers to something that you’ve already seen in fashion, the result will inevitably be similar to that which you’ve already seen. If on the contrary, you are inspired by something utterly disconnected -such as art, nature, or music- the result won’t be predictable in the slightest.
With my brand, Manuel Facchini, I wanted to blend a Gothic world with the high-tech aspect of sportswear. What do they have in common? Seemingly nothing. But it is precisely the strength of this contrast that renders my designer DNA unique and recognisable. Gothicism is an expression of a remote past, but also of drama and femininity, whereas high-tech sport is an expression of what is most relevant nowadays.
Sport influences our daily life more and more, not solely for health reasons. High-tech is a form of innovation, so I use these production techniques to interpret a Gothic approach. A remote past and the future meet to create a new vision.
What, for you, is beauty?
Beauty is indefinable. It isn’t something that you learn like a mathematical formula. It’s something that you feel; it’s pure emotion. You can find it in a gaze, in a movement, in the sensation you feel when looking at a work of art, at the theatre, or simply on the street. I love beauty in all its expressions. My challenge is to keep reinventing with every season and to find a story that moves me. When I see my designs coming to life exactly as I’d imagined them, I feel that emotion.