Alessandro Dell’Acqua Looks to the Future
Alessandro Dell’Acqua isn’t one to wax nostalgic. “For me, designing is all about a new story and a modern attitude,” the designer said before a cocktail party in honor of his ready-to-wear label, No. 21, at the New York residence of Valentina Castellani on Friday night. The soiree celebrated a new push for the brand, which, founded in 2010, gained financial backing from Gilmar in 2012. And the evolution of his label is evidence that Dell’Acqua’s forward-looking philosophy applies not only to his clothes, but to his life, too. Fall ’14 will bring plenty of new adventures for Dell’Acqua, now 50. He’s launching menswear under the No.21 moniker, as well as presenting his first collection for heritage French house Rochas, where he was appointed creative director in October after Marco Zanini announced that he was leaving to head up Schiaparelli. “I’m not a young designer, so when they called, I said, Are you sure?” Dell’Acqua laughed, noting that other storied houses (like Balenciaga and Loewe) have opted for younger creative directors (like Alexander Wang and Jonathan Anderson, respectively). Sometimes, however, it helps to have a talent who knows the ropes.
Indeed, Dell’Acqua is no up-and-comer. In 1996, before stints at Malo and Les Copains, the designer launched his successful, hyper-feminine namesake line, known for its whimsical yet seductive allure and lingerie accents. Two years later, he started an eponymous menswear range. But his story is all too familiar—Dell’Acqua lost the rights to his name after a dispute with his parent company, Cherry Grove (who also owned Malo), in 2009. He made a comeback a year later with No. 21—a ready-to-wear label named for his birthday (December 21) and his lucky number. “It’s about real women,” he told Style.com during that first show in 2010. Now, three years later, the brand, which is carried in stores like Selfridges and Matches, independent boutiques, and at such e-tailers as Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi, delivers just that—smart staples (think: embellished separates, slick blazers, and crisp overcoats) that cater to real-world women with a penchant for luxury. “No. 21 was born out of a horrible moment for me,” recalled Dell’Acqua. “I wanted to do a little line that was completely different, but still had my DNA.”
Today, Dell’Acqua churns out four collections a year under his label—and that’s not including the forthcoming men’s range. “I didn’t really want to do menswear,” he admitted. “But the customers kept asking me, and men were buying the jumpers, bomber jackets, and knitwear that I was making for the women.” The range, he confirmed, will boast his signature masculine-feminine mash-up. He’s even planning on including a navy jacket made from bonded lace—a staple in his womenswear outings.
Fall ’14 will be busy for Dell’Acqua, what with his inaugural collection for Rochas and the new menswear lineup. He was tight-lipped about what we’ll see in the Rochas debut, but was very clear about what he won’t be showing. “I don’t want to do archive Rochas,” he said. “Reality is important in this moment of fashion. I don’t like repetition. Something from the fifties or sixties is OK to [incorporate] in the details, but I like the new contemporary. Women don’t want to look like they’re in another time.” As for the added workload, Dell’Acqua isn’t concerned. “I don’t have a life [outside of designing] right now, but I’m very mentally organized,” he said, smiling. But that doesn’t mean he’s free of first-season jitters. “I’m very excited, but very nervous,” he admitted. “Rochas is a big opportunity for me. It’s like I’m starting all over again.”