Follow Paul Franco’s lens as we enter the Italian-born, London-based designer’s distorted daydreams for autumn/winter 17 and probe the power of dress.
"I would like people to understand the power of clothes and how they can influence your feelings," Micol Ragni explains over email. From the moment she launched her eponymous label in 2014, the Italian-born, London-based designer has encouraged us to question what we wear, how we wear it and how it makes us feel. Experimenting with fabrication and exploring volume and silhouette, she blurs the line between sculpture and fashion.
For her debut presentation for autumn/winter 17, she muddied the distinction that bit more. Taking inspiration from Jon Rafman's digitally distorted busts and virtual reality worlds, Ragni reflected upon the impact of technology on our everyday lives. The post-industrial collection delights in similar distortions. Whilst Rafman achieved his results via computer generated manipulation, Ragni created a physical and wearable 'object'. In a reaction to how technological tools can make us feel almost alien to our own nature, the clothes are designed thinking of a way to make the body feel protected from the external environment whilst simultaneously projecting an image of strength.
In a world created by Alice Kirkpatrick, Ragni cast a mix of muses and friends that included Tessa Kuragi, Zoe Blue, Manami Kinoshita, Becky Strauch and Neema Kayitesi. "It was about creating an atmosphere as if the models were in a party and people would enter the space and join them," she explains. So how will this collection make us feel?"These garments can make you feel more empowered and create a space for you to be yourself," she adds. As we follow Paul Franco's lens and re-join the autumn/winter 17 party, Ragni invites us deeper into her world.
What was the creative catalyst for autumn/winter 17?
One of the inspirations for the autumn/winter 17 collection is Jon Rafman's work, Sculpture Garden (Hedge Maze), which was exhibited at the Zabludowicz Collection in 2015. The texture and the block colours of Rafman's distorted busts and statues influenced both the fabric choice and the silhouette of the whole collection.
What drew you to his distorted sculptural work? And how did it inspire your own manipulations?
On seeing the exhibition I had a strong feeling of deja vu, of something I had seen in a dream, does it ever happen to you? The fact that all the works were produced digitally made me reflect on the relationship between technology and human life and how much the virtual world has altered the way we communicate with others. The distortion of the bodies in Rafman's statues was visually striking and the way the statues were displayed in complete darkness and in the middle of a maze made me aware of a certain solitude I feel towards the future and I wanted to create some clothes that represented those feelings. Don't ask me why I felt those things!
From the designs themselves to the women who wear them, Micol Ragni celebrates strong womanhood. Who are the women who inspire you today?
Erykah Badu is a real living legend in my eyes, and inspires me immensely. It has been an honour and a dream come true to make outfits for her tour this year. I share her vision of encouraging personal evolution and individuality. I find the process of writing music very intimate and it is really inspiring for me to work with musician who can be so open about their feelings.
Could you tell us about the autumn/winter 17 casting?
The casting for the presentation involved some of my muses and friends, I like to work with people to whom I connect with on a personal level, I like unique personalities and I like women that have a certain virility to them, not necessarily in their look but more about their character.
What does feminism mean to you?
I think feminism is about wanting to bring balance between sexes and subvert to the patriarchal system we live in. I do not feel that excited about being a woman but I do know it is the right time to be one.
What's the best thing about being a woman in 2017?
I do not recognise myself with a specific gender and I always had mixed feelings about being female and accepting my nature. I believe everyone has both female and male aspects within themselves and we should try and make use of both of them and balance them out.
If people can take one thing away from autumn/winter 17, what would you like it to be and why?
I would like people to understand the power of clothes and how they can influence your feelings. The garments in the collection can make you feel more empowered and create a space for you to be yourself.
The collections are designed in London, manufactured in Italy and presented both in London and Paris giving the label an extremely fluid sense of geographical identity. Where, if anywhere, do you feel most at home? In today's digital world, do you think we even need just one place?
I do not have a specific place that makes me feel at home, I love London and I feel privileged to be able to live and work here but also around Europe. I personally think the feeling of being at home is not about being physically in a place, it is rather about a the feeling you have for a person, a lover or a circle of friends you really relate to and that makes you feel you are belonging somewhere.
Since launching in 2014, what has been the biggest lesson you've learned?
I would say that it has been about believing in myself and trusting my vision deeply enough to bypass criticism.
What excites you most about tomorrow?
To resist from compromising my individuality and maintain my creative vision.
Finish this sentence: "The future is..."
Believing in the power of creativity.
Text Steve Salter
Video Paul Franco
Set Design Alice Kirkpatrick
Make-up Lucy Bridge
Models Tessa Kuragi, Zoe Blue, Manami Kinoshita, Becky Strauch and Neema Kayitesi
Location Ditto Gallery