Collini Milano brings its storied past into the distant future, taking its long history in the industry and adapting it to create innovative and endlessly intriguing styles. Beginning in 1937 as a brand specialising in fur, the label has since developed a tradition based around adaptation, bringing its notions of glamour to all walks of life. Since the brand’s takeover by Carmine Rotondaro in 2016, that tradition has only gotten stronger.
The attached series, which captures models performing the menial tasks of everyday life in both glamorous Collini Milano attire and masks that allude to the current global pandemic, signifies the manifold worlds the label now occupies. Through its experiences within these realities, the brand aims to adapt and embrace its heritage while continuing to break trends and innovate to fit our ever-changing world. To discuss this movement, Schön! spoke to Carmine Rotondaro, CEO and Creative Director of Collini Milano, about his takeover of the label and where he sees it going in the future.
You acquired Collini Milano back in 2016. How has the label and its ideas changed under your guidance?
Collini was founded in Milan in 1937 by a family of fashion makers who specialised exclusively in fur. It became very successful and well-known serving the upper class of the city, which was also the most prominent in Italy. Going through the very conspicuous archives of the brand, I was impressed by the constant thrive towards experimentation of the founder Roberto Collini, who has always been looking for new solutions, techniques and effects, while staying true to the glamour of the brand.
What I did was explode this glamour component of the brand to many new product categories (womenswear, menswear, shoes, sneakers, accessories, handbags) and to combine it with the aesthetics of my style that I like to call “everyday glamour”: a wearable and functional fashion that adds a touch of glamour to every occasion of the daily life of our customers, to make them feel special and chic also in the most mundane and ordinary moments of their daily routine. This is the aspiration of my fashion.
As it concerns fur, we worked hard to develop a manufacturing process that is 100% based on existing furs and on fur scraps.
What inspired you to move from behind-the-scenes to running the label in the first place?
I worked in fashion my whole life, and this was out of deep love and passion for this industry and for its ability to turn the way we all look every day into a form of expression.
For a long time, I looked for the right way and opportunity to express my aesthetics and style and, when I got in touch with the Collini family, I connected immediately with the incredible history of these fashion makers and with their long and relentless journey of craftsmanship, innovation and glamour, and I thought that was the good fit — what I had been looking for.
It is still incredible to me how innovative and forward-looking some of the old Collini styles are. No fear of experimenting while being true to the brand DNA of glamour and exclusivity: for example, the precious materials and cuts used in the collections — still amazingly contemporary, though in some cases it was forty years ago. This is the reason why I decided to step in.
This latest campaign stresses the idea of adaptation. Why is being adaptive and resilient important to the Collini Milano brand?
As a brand founded in 1937, Collini went through wars, terrorism, economic crisis, oil shocks and, in general, through the huge political, social and economic changes of Italy and of the world. And Collini always carried on in its strive towards glamour, innovation and sophistication. Hence, resilience and adaptation are key notions of Collini history. During the current pandemic emergency, these are also notions that have become the daily focus of everybody’s life: resistance to the crisis, surviving the epidemic, adapting to isolation, adjusting to the new social distancing measures. I felt that the long history of Collini and its story of constant adaptation, adjustment and change connected very well to the unusual experience that we have all been living during the pandemic. And I found that Collini had to say something about this and send its own positive message about the extraordinary ability of all of us to adapt and be resilient, and to do so in style.
Themes of forestry and magic are also present. Did you have any specific places or stories in mind when you were working on this collection? What were they?
The experience of the last months meant the absolute victory of nature, which was free, expanding and blossoming while mankind was contained and isolated. Animals gather in the forest, and therefore forest represents for me the symbol of natural and instinctive aggregation, which aggregation has been a forbidden territory over the last few months. The forest is also a place of magic and mystery, as magical and mysterious is the connection that we all developed during the emergency. I have always been very much attracted by the world of magic and mystery, and this is very present in the last Collini collection (FW 2020) and, in general, in the overall Collini style, which features a lot of silver and gold cascaded over the body like liquid potions in the form of jackets, coats and blazers. Garments that, like touches of modern fashion magicians, are able to transform the body and the mood of the wearer and to turn also a dull day of quarantine in an occasion to experiment and prepare new styles for better days.
How do you think the new Collini Milano blends modern style with the spirit of the original label?
As I was mentioning before, Collini has always been about experimentation and glamour, also when it was a family-run store catering for the Milan elites. These two elements, experimentation, and glamour, still are the true essence of our brand today, and they represent the main guidelines and sources of inspiration for the creation of our collections, for our communication, for the display of our merchandise and for the distribution of our products. In this territory of experimentation and glamour, the modern Collini connects with its heritage and glorifies it.
I always try to make sure that our collections are truly innovative and experimental on the one hand and glamorous on the other hand. For example, our collections include glitter biker trousers, shiny golden and silver jackets with fringes, a golden printed-crocodile coat, cashmere pulls printed with pure 24K gold, shiny and glitter Cuban heel boots, fluo-combat boots, jersey sweaters with shiny fringes on the sleeves, printed leather purses for men with a golden metal handle, etc. It is an experimentation that constantly blurs and combines different aesthetic codes (rough, technical biker trousers and glamorous glitter), genders, and functionalities (the easy and comfort of a sweater and the uber-decoration of the fringes on the sleeves). This constant experimentation towards glamour across looks, genders, and functionalities are why our collections are special and unique in today’s menswear marketplace and also why they are connected to the heritage of the brand.
Tell us a little about the “gas mask” photos. How did this idea come about, and what does it say about the brand?
The idea of the gas mask photos also derives from the creation process that blurs and combines different aesthetic codes and functionalities into a single presentation. It is this steady contamination between different suggestions: of the danger and angst suggested by the gas mask and of the peaceful and quiet home settings in which the pictures were shot — of the oppression and containment suggested by the mask and of the outspoken glamour and chicness of the styles that we chose for the shoot. And, again, the combination of the duress and harshness of the gas masks and of the sparkling femininity of the models wearing them. This concept of “contamination for glamour” underlying the campaign is what Collini stands for. And I find it interesting that the word “contamination”, which we normally use for styles, is originally a concept that has to do with viruses.
You’ve mentioned that the current pandemic has compressed many ideas of life into one place: the home. How do you see that change reflect in fashion, specifically in your newest collection?
It is true that the current pandemic has forced us to compress virtually all aspects of our daily life into one single place and into the most ordinary of all: our home. This is the place in which we are normally cosy and comfortable but, during the pandemic, this is also the place in which we have been directed and forced to also be all the rest that we normally are in other places: elegant, sexy, sociable and glamorous. The pandemic confined the glamour of our life into the most “everyday” of our life’s premises. Now, the mantra of Collini has always been “everyday glamour” and, in the post-COVID world, we will continue to build on this concept and to create a fashion that is, at the same time, easy and chic, functional and feminine, wearable and glamorous. This is for us the big fashion message of the pandemic.
What does the future look like for Collini Milano?
I believe that post-COVID, people will want to regain what the pandemic emergency has taken away from them. More specifically, they will want to enjoy, celebrate, and communicate — all of which has been inhibited during COVID in the same way. And they will want to do so appropriately and responsibly.
Collini will be there to cater to this wish and aspiration of our customers. As said, I believe that fashion is a means of communication and, most importantly, it is communication from a distance. By wearing a special and unique garment, footwear, or accessory, we all send a message about our mood, our state of mind. And we can do so from a distance and without breaking the new social distancing rules. These rules have redefined some aspects of socialising and of accosting other people. I think that a bold and unique look and appearance will be more and more a way of communicating and socialising. With its array of glamorous looks, Collini can certainly help with that.
But also, a special and unique look is a way of celebrating ourselves and the beauty of many aspects of the daily life that we used to take for granted and that the current pandemic has suddenly interrupted and turned off. I think that the Collini style is particularly suitable for this need for celebration, and we will always be up to it.
Discover more about Collini Milano here.
all designs. Collini Milano
photography. Zhili Xue