Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Paris Haute Couture: Antonio Grimaldi's American Dream

Backstage in Paris at Antonio Grimaldi's haute couture show, held at the historic Westin Vendôme hotel. Main photograph (above) and cover picture by Elli Ioannou for DAM
Italian couturier Antonio Grimaldi has come a long way from his hometown in southern Italy's Salerno. Today, the designer shows on the official Paris haute couture schedule and has an atelier in an historic palazzo in Rome. We take a look backstage before his latest show for Autumn/Winter 2019-20. Inspired by American 1930s black and white films, the new collection is a contemporary take on Cary Grant and Mae West with a dash of punk, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Reporting and photography by Elli Ioannou

Couturier Antonio Grimaldi
backstage in Paris
 
AMID the fluted gold columns, crystal chandeliers and florid burgundy brocade of the 19th century Westin Paris-Vendome's Salon Imperial, at 3 rue de Castiglione, Italian designer Antonio Grimaldi presented an equally sumptuous new haute couture collection.

Called I'm no Angel, after the 1933 film starring Mae West, the designer was inspired by the voluptuous actress in the black and white film. A quote from the film ~ "When I'm good I'm very good but when I'm bad I'm better" ~ was the starting point for the collection. Mae West was the screenwriter and made her character a circus performer who stars alongside Cary Grant.

Grimaldi says he likes the irreverence of Mae West and her taste for scandal that upset the staid Americana ethos at the time and that also established her as a Hollywood star.

The designer also looked at the Surrealists' fascination with her, such as Salvador Dali's famous 1934 work, Mae West's face which may be used as a Surrealist Apartment. In that spirit, Antonio Grimaldi added a dose of elegantly surreal punk to the collection with gold nose and lip rings and spiky jewellery, worn with sweeping, fluid gowns.

The leitmotifs for the collection are bias cuts that look like giant ribbons of fabric that shape themselves to the body. The colour palette is drawn from the hues of black and white films such as sand grey and anthracite. This is contrasted with vivid hues of bright reds and purples. Grimaldi has created asymmetrical, architectural forms that follow the curves of a woman and balanced gauzy, transparent materials with heavier, silken fabrics.

"When I'm good I'm very good but when I'm bad I'm better" ~ Mae West

Models backstage before the show,
wearing brilliant purple gowns
One of Grimaldi's favourite materials is a crepe fabric alternated and overlapped by velvet, chiffon, and taffeta, finished with special appliques. A chiffon sunray pleated dress has radial folds that burgeon out from slits and overlays cuts in the fabric. A triple organza blouse is both voluminous and light with transparent inserts. The collection also includes trompe l'oeil dresses with capes that flutter out behind.

Adding to the sense of modern richness are embroidered details that include materials such as metal, iron, black lacquered chains and crystals. These create grids and shapes that enhance the transparency of the gowns. Grimaldi also uses champagne-hued peacock feathers to emphasise the lightness of some of his creations. Metal belts with fringes and belt bags are stylishly combined to form part of the dresses. Overall, the look of the models is cool and soigne, with pulled back hair fixed with spiky clips, light brows and a streak of red eyeshadow under the lashes. The custom made jewellery, including combs and bracelets with pointed studs, was created by French jeweller Bernard Deletrrez.

The leitmotifs of the collection are bias cuts that look like giant ribbons of fabric that shape themselves to the body

Black leather turtlenecks
were a highlight of the
men's collection
Shown as part of the collection on the haute couture runway in Paris, were Grimaldi's men's looks with inspiration drawn from a modern day Cary Grant.

The suits were made in collaboration with the Neapolitan company Principe dell'Elganza, well-known for their fine tailoring.

Antonio Grimaldi designed the men's silhouette to have a soft line too, with sinuous shoulders and round curved pockets, all with a subtle colour range of charcoal, grey and black.

The tailored suits are hand-stitched with wool fabrics such as gray flannel, tweed and houndstooth. The collection includes double coats, flannel suits and evening tuxedos worn with black leather turtle necks.

Backstage at the show, Antonio Grimaldi says he always wanted to be a designer, since he was a child. The designer was passionate about art, fashion and in particular about craftsmanship. He learnt the secrets of couture in a small atelier in seaside Salerno, on the mountainous southern coast of Italy.

The men's silhouettes have a soft line, with sinuous shoulders and rounded, curved pockets

Grimaldi started working with his mother and sister when he was 15 years old and later designed his sister’s wedding dress. In the summer, he started to go to the couture atelier in Salerno because he wanted to learn about how to make beautiful clothes. The designer says when he was growing up in Italy, fashion school was only for women, so he went on to study graphics and art but was still determined to be a fashion designer.

A soigne model in diaphanous
black backstage in Paris
Today, he says that working with dressmakers early in his career taught him about textiles and the art of modelling designs to the body. He explains it was also very satisfying to work in an atelier, when he was young, where he was able to turn his sketches from dream to reality. Because the designer studied art rather than fashion, this is still an important aspect of his design philosophy for all of his collections.

One of the highpoints of Grimaldi's career was being invited to show as a couturier during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week. He says this is important from a business standpoint, as it provides the best fashion platform in the world to reach international buyers.

During the initial phases of creating a haute couture collection, Grimaldi thinks about the mood of the collection and then does the sketches. Next the fabrics and textures are chosen but this changes as the design of a garment develops. Lastly are the modelling and cut of the gown that will eventually be seen in that season's show.

The designer sees the process of creation as the same for both ready-to-wear collections and couture. He is always inspired by art in some form but he believes the magic is designing haute couture, with its virtuoso attention to detail and craftsmanship, where every part is done by hand including the embroidery.

Tap on pictures for full-screen slideshow from Paris

The fluted gold columns, crystal chandeliers and florid burgundy brocade of the 19th century Westin Paris
Vendome where Antonio Grimaldi presented a sumptuous new haute couture collection.

Grimaldi added a dose of elegantly surreal punk to the collection with gold lip rings and spiky jewellery, worn with sweeping, fluid gowns.
The leitmotifs of the collection are bias cuts that look like giant ribbons of fabric that shape themselves to the body.

The colour palette is drawn from the hues of black and white films such as cream, sand grey and anthracite.

Grimaldi has created asymmetrical, architectural forms that follow the curves of a woman and balanced gauzy, transparent materials with heavier, silken fabrics.
 Metal belts with fringes and belt bags are stylishly combined to form part of the gowns. Note the Surrealist 'lips' rings in red and gold.
The AW1920 collection was called 'I'm no Angel,' after the 1933 film starring Mae West. The designer was inspired by the voluptuous actress in the black and white film
Adding to the sense of modern richness are embroidered details that include materials such as metal, iron, black lacquered chains and crystals.
Shown as part of the collection on the haute couture runway in Paris, were Grimaldi's men's looks with inspiration drawn from a modern day Cary Grant.
 One of Grimaldi's favourite materials is a crepe fabric alternated and overlapped by velvet, chiffon, and taffeta, finished with special appliques.
During the initial phases of creating a haute couture collection, Grimaldi thinks about the mood of the collection and then does the sketches.
Fabrics and textures are chosen after the first sketches for the couture collection but they change as the design of a garment develops. Lastly, the modelling and cut of the gown is finished.
The tailored suits and coats in the collection are hand-stitched with wool fabrics such as gray flannel, tweed and houndstooth.
Overall, the look of the models was cool and soigne, with pulled back hair fixed with spiky clips, light brows and a sweep of red eyeshadow under the lower lash.
A quote from the film 'I'm no Angel" ~ "When I'm good I'm very good but when I'm bad I'm better" ~ was the starting point for the collection.
Today, Antonio Grimaldi says that working with dressmakers early in his career taught him about textiles and the art of modelling designs to the body.
Grimaldi believes the magic of fashion is designing haute couture, with its virtuoso attention to detail and craftsmanship, where every part is done by hand.