​marco de vincenzo, the face of a new generation of italian fashion

Marco de Vincenzo is the young Sicilian designer and LVMH investee trusted with the epic task of leading Italy into a new era of fashion.

by Anders Christian Madsen
27 November 2014, 11:15am

Italian fashion isn't too different from a monarchy. For 60 years, Made In Italy has ruled the country's fashion industry like a princely family, Giorgio Armani and the late Gianfranco Ferré watching their thrones and treasuries while the dynastic families presided over each of their own specialty duchies. If Pucci, Gucci, Versace and their likes represent the reigning nobility of Italy, Marco de Vincenzo is the Crown Prince, even if he's now owned by the French. "It has given me the chance to think with a long term mindset, giving to my brand the solidity and the reliability requested by the industry nowadays," the designer says, reflecting on LVMH's recent forty-five percent acquisition of his label. The fashion giant reportedly injected ten to twenty million euros into the company, but de Vincenzo is adamant it hasn't affected his lifestyle. "Personally nothing changed," he insists.

But then of course, the 36-year-old designer has a lot riding on his brand's shoulders. Tipped to lead Italy into its new era of global fashion supremacy, he's been schooled by Silvia Venturini Fendi for the past fifteen years, serving as the Italian fashion doyenne's bag designer at the house (also owned by LVHM), as well as team member to Fendi's Artistic Director, Karl Lagerfeld. "It's where I have grown and developed. I have definitely absorbed Fendi's creative approach or at least it has a really strong affinity with my own approach," de Vincenzo says. He's attracted to Lagerfeld's energy - "renewed and intact every season" - while he speaks fondly of the numerous challenges, which have formed a bond between Mrs Fendi and himself. "Without a doubt Silvia and Karl are great examples of how invincible strong passion can make you," he notes.

After ten years at Fendi, de Vincenzo debuted a small collection at Paris' Haute Couture week in 2009. Franca Sozzani, another keeper of Italian fashion pride, snapped up the designer for her What Is On Next initiative, laying the first bricks to what would eventually cement his crown prince status. While slowly building his company, de Vincenzo stayed with Fendi in Rome, and hasn't left since. "I chose to set up by myself after ten years at Fendi, so I was very conscious of how to manage my time and be as efficient as possible. Being a designer is such a privilege and that in itself motivates me, because I enjoy the creativity in my work so much. It instils a form of strength," he says. His balancing act between Fendi's heritage ways and the challenges of developing a new label would create a unique situation for de Vincenzo, and one that's rare for a young designer.

"I'm attracted by a combination of both," he says, referring to the new and old ways of fashion. "A lot of Italian industries are becoming more open to technology without disregarding the importance of man power. Working in this new way is quite charming. You can still defend what must be defended from the past but be brave at the same time, using your imagination to look to the future." Inspired, perhaps subconsciously, by Lagerfeld's fascination with technology, de Vincenzo has trademarked his work on an at times mind-boggling fabric development, morphing everyday materials into incredible 3D creations leaving little evidence behind of where and what they once came from. He looks to the 1960s, he says, "for the optical effects and the experimentation, to the 1980s for the maximalism, and to the 1990s for the minimalism."

Above all, de Vincenzo fashions the often-clinical spirit of tech garments into a kind of expressive glamour, which could only ever be the handiwork of an Italian. And as he says, "I like glamour. It fascinates me to see a woman's gaze change and her confidence grow when she feels glamorous. I'd say I look to achieve this in every collection I design." Glamour, of course, is a defining factor in Italian fashion and a virtue in an export that's traditionally been fronted by Italian-born designers based in Italy. Raised in the culturally loaded Sicilian surroundings of Messina, de Vincenzo's background is flawless as far as his Italian fashion future goes. While his parents didn't work in the arts, they recognised their son's creative outlook, and encouraged the dreams, which would eventually see designer idols such as Miuccia Prada and Walter Albini firmly placed on their son's horizon.

"I have always been a dreamer, and ever since I was a child I have used drawing as an escape from reality," he says. "But despite being friendly and sociable as a child, I could sometimes be quite solitary and melancholy. I remember middle school as a period characterised by a continuous sensation of wanting everything from life. In high school I was very interested in the importance of words. I would say I was a good student. I was hard working, curious and well-balanced." Did he ever rebel? "If to rebel means to have let external factors or wrong decisions slow down my path or dictate the outcome, then yes, I'd almost define myself a rebel," de Vincenzo admits. If he sounds serious it's because his determination matches his early success. He's fiercely ambitious, but never to the point of attention-seeking.

He'll say thing like, "Behind provocation there are often strategies and I'm not particularly a strategist," and if you ask him if he's consciously commercial in his work - a question brushed off by most designers - he'll simply say, "A lot." For as he points out, "The dresses are made for women, so women have to desire them. I always try to keep this in mind when I'm designing my collections." But behind de Vincenzo's business-savvy confidence lies a sympathetic and much more philosophical point of departure. He won't give you a breakdown of the people he admires in the world, but instead tell you that he admires those who put other people's interests before their own. "Those who approach politics in a clear and serious way, and those who risk their lives every day for a humanitarian ideal," he says, noting that his greatest aversion is a lack of passion and enthusiasm.

De Vincenzo's biggest dream is to live by the sea - "it takes my breath away, always and everywhere" - but few places mean more to him than Rome, the city in which he lives and works, and where he earned his induction into the Italian fashion industry, even if the city isn't officially a fashion capital. "Rome is a beautiful city and I think it's perfect that it seems quite far removed from fashion. The free time I spend there is uncontaminated, pure and so reinvigorating," he says. As the birthplace of houses such as Valentino and Brioni - and, of course, Fendi - there is a certain beautiful symbolism in the fact that Italian fashion's new hope should be based in Rome, too.

Following years of decline on the country's fashion scene, Camera Moda - the Italian fashion council - pulled all the stops out for the anniversary of Made In Italy this year, enlisting all their houses and dynastical fashion families for celebratory events, not least in Florence during the Pitti Immagine fashion fair where Pucci, Ermegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Ermanno Scervino did their part next to Marcelo Burlon, who flew the newcomer flag. But if Italian fashion is to reinvent itself as a platform for new talent, de Vincenzo notes, there needs to be a stronger support system for young designers. "There is still a lot to do. The attention is growing, but the concrete supports we need are not tangible yet. It's like the requirement for a new generation of talent has not been seriously considered yet," he says. At least, with Marco de Vincenzo in line to the throne, Italy is on the path to victory.


Text Anders Christian Madsen
Catwalk photography Mitchell Sams

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