Italian stallion, with shirt down to there (point low), Romeo Gigli made his name in the late 80s cutting extraordinary clothes. Now he’s back with a capsule collection inspired by China’s beautiful people, in a collaboration with Hong Kong retail wonderland Joyce. It’s cause for celebration.
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In i-D’s 1991 International Issue, Rebecca Voight nicknamed Italian designer Romeo Gigli “Romeo with the Mona Lisa smile”. These days, the smile is more Cheshire cat than Mona Lisa, igniting every time – and it is many times – he launches into a memory or anecdote about his long love affair with fashion. A buzz name and big player in the late 80s/ early 90s, Romeo Gilgi showed decadent, renaissance inspired, street style polished clothes in Paris, going for 50,000 Francs a piece. He was assisted during this time, and until 1989 by a young fan, Alexander McQueen, but that’s another story. Now at 62, after a lengthy hiatus away from fashion, Romeo Gigli is making a comeback with an exquisite men’s and women’s capsule collection for Hong Kong concept superstore Joyce. Founder Mrs Joyce Ma bought Gigli’s first collection in 1986, and was the first person to bring international designers to China, changing the style landscape forever. Today China’s fashion scene is exploding and making the West take note are stores like Joyce (now headed by the suave Andrew Keith) and photographers like Chen Man, who shot the Romeo Gigli for Joyce campaign images. “It was lovely working with Chen Man”, Signore Gigli told i-D online at the launch of the collection in Venice, a location that made sense because he’s just so Italian and everyone was there for the architecture and film. “I have worked with many wonderful photographers, with Paolo Roversi with Sarah Moon and Max Vadukul. When I see work that is different, so strong, I like that. I fell in love with Chen Man’s photography because of her i-D covers, they are beautiful, those beautiful Chinese faces.”
Gigli used, arguably, a fairly random bunch of people for the Joyce/ Gigli campaign, including British designer Charlie Casely-Hayford, American model Matthew Avedon (yes connected), Mexican based blogger Denni Elias and Chinese model Ju Li Li. Because, he says, real people like to see real people. When we ask who his customer is today, he pays dues to the old fans but gets really excited telling us how his 14-year-old daughter’s friends all want to wear the collection too. Though it’s been nearly twenty years, Gigli hasn’t lost his touch. His clothes are as relevant today, actually more, than they were then, because he’s doing it the old school way, with such a strong i-Dentity and it stands out so much from the laser prints we’re experts in. Trying on a crushed blue velvet cape coat and gold embroidered dress, you feel like an empress. At the touch of the fabric on your skin and the way it falls all natural, rises that fabulous fashion ‘oooo’ from a place you thought didn’t exist and you suddenly have an appreciation for the real fashionistas, the loyal collectors of Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Romeo Gigli. It does feel different. “I was a traveller for more than ten years”, Gigli says, “my eyes are full of colours”. From orange rust on silks to purple velvets to gold brocade for women, and silver collars, silk stripes and bow ties for men, the collection is a body of art. Joyce President Andrew Keith told i-D, “It is essential to nurture and support creative talent and to inspire customers with unique and beautiful product. Joyce has been working with Romeo Gigli from his very first collection in 1986 and we have always admired his extraordinary talent.” It worked, we’re inspired. Watch our i-N Conversation on style and substance with the fashion romantic, new-renaissance Romeo Gigli, here laid out alongside Chen Man’s campaign images (top 4) and fashion blogger Nadia Sawar’s portrait and Venice snaps wearing archive Romeo Gigli.
JOYCE by Romeo Gigli is available at joyce.com and at Calle del Ridotto 1388, 30124, Venice.