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July 31 2014

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A Room of One’s Own: Barbara Casasola Presents at Pitti

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Barbara Casasola

Nearly a hundred years ago, a famous lady of London dreamt of a room of her own. But times change and dreams get bigger. “I’ve always wanted a big house,” said the Brazilian-born, London-based designer Barbara Casasola, “with a red room, a blue room…” With an invitation to present a collection at Pitti Uomo and a little sponsorship funding from the fair, suddenly, like a wish on a bottle, it was so. She divided a crumbling but impressive structure on the Via Dello Studio—just off the city’s historic center and steps from the Duomo—into an apartment the likes of which have rarely been seen outside of fever dreams. One room was all brilliant fuchsia. Another, connected to the first by a long runway, was a teal-tinted blue. And everywhere, in lieu of windows, were screens projecting a Nouvelle Vague-inspired short film Casasola created with SHOWStudio’s Marie Schuller and Jamie Bochert (below). Bochert is a muse for Casasola, and this, the designer said, gesturing around, “is her house.” The sense was very much of peeking behind the blinds, not least because Bochert spends much of the film nearly nude. (Admittedly, that’s a magnanimous and somewhat curious decision for a designer to make for a film devoted to showcasing her own collection.)

The collection Casasola showed in her new digs was technically her first Pre-Fall, but she disliked the idea of a whole collection dedicated to commercializing her runway looks. Instead, she conceived of it as a capsule collection of, as she called it, menswear for women. It was a striking change, given that she’s known primarily for dresses. But for a first attempt—especially one boldly undertaken at a menswear fair—it was a strong showing. She custom-developed fabrics, including wools, wool-silks, and cady, to create monochrome suits with boxy jackets and deep-pleated palazzo pants, structured enough to retain the strict lines she prefers but pliant enough to swing like skirts when her models strode the catwalk from the pink room to the blue. Each was worn against bare skin, which lent an androgynous sex appeal not usually associated with tailoring. There were a few dresses and looser interpretations of her men’s-for-women’s theme—like jumpsuits whose backs had cutouts resembling lapels—but Casasola herself was in a suit of her own design (the prototype, she admitted), which suggested where her own sympathies lie, at least at the moment.

Womenswear designers at Pitti Uomo can sometimes seem adrift in the unfamiliar crowd of men’s buyers and editors, but Casasola is no stranger to Florence. Before launching her label, she worked here for Roberto Cavalli, and she produces her own collection here. “I invited the whole office,” she said with a smile. “All my seamstresses are here, and my patternmakers.” So the presentation was full of friends. She’d bargained for a house and wound up with a home.

Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Casasola

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