At this point, taglines like “women designing for women” and “clothes for real life” have been so overused, they’ve almost lost their meaning. But it’s still surprisingly rare to see either one of these decrees actually put into practice; in 2019, where are the clothes women really, truly want to live in?
A few names stand out in the current fashion landscape: Roksanda Ilincic, who launched her eponymous collection in London in 2005, and the three-year-old Milan-based label Attico, designed by Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio. The two lines might look radically different—Roksanda is rooted in minimal, sculptural silhouettes and saturated colors, while Attico plucks much of its inspiration from the ’80s—but the women approach their collections in a similar way: by thinking about what’s missing in their own closets.
In a candid conversation with Vogue’s Rickie de Sole, Ilincic and Tordini discuss designing for themselves and their friends, where they find inspiration, and how to create clothes with real value. Read on for the highlights of today’s panel, below.
On designing clothes that are meant to be worn, loved, and cherished:
“I’ve never believed in this idea of wearing something once and then throwing it out or forgetting it,” Ilincic said. “I think clothes [are imbued with] real emotion and meaning, and the connection between a person and their clothing happens naturally. When you find a piece of clothing you love, you should cherish it and wear it often, in many different ways. Recently I’ve changed my collection [model] to only have two collections instead of four, and I’m offering fewer pieces to give clients time to enjoy the clothes and understand where they came from, what the collection was about. It’s important to be more conscious about how we approach design and what we see as being valuable, and really believing in what you create.”
“When we started Attico, we wanted it to feel like a real wardrobe,” Tordini added. “We work on each piece singularly, so it has its own soul. You almost feel like [the pieces] belong to different women, [because] when you open the closet of any woman, there are many different styles. We like to have that kind of diversity in our collections. [In my own wardrobe,] I like to have things I can wear for multiple occasions,” she continued, pointing out her own look of the day: a strong-shouldered blazer, leather trousers, a T-shirt, and satin pumps. Street style followers will recognize it as her go-to uniform: “I’m a T-shirt girl.”
On learning directly from the women they dress:
“Trunk shows are an incredible learning tool for me, and the biggest benefit is understanding my customer and getting to know her personally,” Ilincic said. “Particularly women in different regions with different cultures. They all have different needs. This global way of communication is exciting for me, and after I meet these women, I usually produce something I learned from them in my next collection. When I started my brand, I said I was a woman designing for women, and I always want that to be felt in my clothes. So to meet them [in person] has been a big, positive change.”
Tordini started Attico with Ambrosio at a time when a social media presence was crucial to success, and they communicate with many of their customers through Instagram. But as far as understanding how they want those women to feel in their clothes, they’re their own best editors. “As soon as we receive the first toiles [or samples] in the office, the first thing Gilda and I do is try them on to see how we feel,” she said. “That’s the first [hint] at how a woman will feel when she wears our pieces.”
On supporting other designers:
It’s a common misconception that designers are in constant competition with each other, but that’s never been the case for Ilincic or Tordini. (Perhaps it has something to do with being women and our natural inclination for collaboration and support.) “[In my own wardrobe] I’m spoiled for choice, and I mainly wear my own brand,” Ilincic said. “But I have many designer friends in London that I grew up with, in a way, so you’ll always find their pieces in my wardrobe. Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha, Jonathan Saunders…I think there’s this incredible community in London. We see each other as comrades. It’s really a privilege to wear their clothes and mix them with mine.”
Tordini added: “I wear my brand a lot, but I appreciate a lot of designers’ work, so for me, it’s natural to mix what I create with what I buy from other brands. It’s really important to support each other and create connections.”
On the current state of fashion—and why it needs to slow down:
“I wish the pace was a bit slower,” Ilincic added. “That’s one reason why I decided to merge my [main and pre-] collections, because being a mother, balancing my work and personal life was becoming difficult. I just felt that life was passing me by and I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s important for us to take joy and reflect and be in the moment.”
Tordini echoed that sentiment, and is experiencing similar pressures to create more and more product: “We’re going to present our first Pre-Fall collection in November, and we fought it for so long,” she said. “It isn’t that we don’t want to work [on additional collections], but we want to try to keep things small and not put so much out there, and to control the amount of product we are going to produce. [Laughs] But the requests were so strong, so we’re going to try it.”
On designing with a partner:
“[Working with Gilda] is like a marriage, we spend so much time together and we’re also friends,” Tordini said. “So it’s important to find a balance between those roles. Of course, sometimes it’s not easy—we have different points of view. But there are a lot of great things, because we’re very different people with different personalities, [and] it pushes you to be open and do something you wouldn’t expect.”
On being their own muse—or not!
Neither Ilincic or Tordini would admit to being their own muse for their collections. While their tastes certainly influence how they design, their collections are more about understanding how women like them might want to feel in their clothes. “You have to think about so many women when you design,” Ilincic said. “But I can really relate to what women want to show and what they want to hide, so that’s how I approach [each] garment. I have many muses—the people around me are my muses, the people who wear my clothes, they come in many shapes and sizes and backgrounds.”
“On our mood boards we have a lot of women from the past,” Tordini explained. “They’re women with personalities, they have a fun side. We see our real customer, or the ideal woman [who wears The Attico] as someone with the same attitude.”
Go Behind the Scenes at the 2019 Forces of Fashion Conference
Originally Appeared on Vogue