The idea of a grand, retired, old-world Roman couturier collaborating with a wayward young tyke of the Belgian school may sound like a scheme from the far realms of fashion improbability. But as of this season it’s a reality. The Capucci collection, launched for Fall in Milan, is a start-up project that has brought in Bernhard Willhelm to reinterpret the work of the label’s revered founder, Roberto Capucci.
The difference between this and many another revival of a defunct fashion house is that Capucci is alive, spry and actively involved in the enterprise at the age of 74. Another twist is that Willhelm is only the first of the young designers who will be involved; next season his contributions will be shown alongside those of Tara Subkoff, of Imitation of Christ, and the Spanish designer Sybilla.
Never a conformist to the fashion system, Capucci had a reputation as a genius sculptor of fabric who showed his collections not according to the season but when the inspiration moved him. Backed by the heavyweight Italian fashion industrialists Franco Bruccoleri, Franco Pene and Aldo Palmeri, he’s now aiming to introduce a new generation to his name and legacy. “The world changes. There are no more balls or women who can come for five fittings for a dress,” he says. “This is a new adventure. I want to see how young designers could carry on the spirit of what I do with a new attitude.”
After being invited by Capucci to immerse himself in the house’s archive of 30,000 designs, Willhelm emerged with the core of a small collection that merges street fashion and couture construction. Head-turning items included a gargantuan down parka with vast, puffy leg-of-mutton sleeves and a gray bat-winged sweatshirt cardigan that falls into tails at the back. It looked like the intriguing start of a project that will get into full swing next season. Watch this space.