Diego Della Valle is after my job. “We [as fashion houses] are more like editors in chief now,” explains Tod’s president and CEO. “Editors need 12 covers a year” (or in Grazia Middle East’s case one every week). “We need a new project every two months.”
It’s for this reason – specifically the inauguration of T Factory – that I find myself in a candle-lit peonie-strewn setting in Dubai having dinner with Alessandro Dell’Acqua. The Italian designer is the first to be signed to Tod’s new Warhol-inspired series of collaborations with unexpected creative talents.
Why him? “Because I’m 100 per cent Italian and I’ve always worked within the Italian fashion system. I feel this was important to Mr Della Valle,” Alessandro muses. However, with his existing commitments as Creative Director of Rochas and building his own brand N°21 since 2010, how did he find time when other designers are crippled with the exhausting demands of the catwalk show schedule? “I don’thave a life,” he jokes.
On further investigation, the real answer appears to be that he’s in possession of an agile mind, a laid-back attitude, and a team of assistants who can keep up with him. “In the morning I’m working on Tod’s, in the afternoon N°21, in the evening Rochas,” he reveals.
That’s quite the design dexerity, especially since the classicism of Tod’s is at such odds with the iconoclastic values of N°21. “They are all completely different worlds that require an entirely fresh approach,” he concedes. Does it require a soundtrack of Puccini in the morning for inspiration, switching to rock guitars of Blondie and Joan Jett in the afternoon? Apparently not. “Luckily when I first started out in the industry at the age of 18, I worked for so manydifferent brands and had to do so many different things, that helped me to work quickly. In the same day, I could be working on three different collections.”
And considering one of his former assistants, Francesco Risso, has become the new Creative Director of Marni, with others currently climbing the ranks at Gucci and Bottega Veneta, the School of Alessandro Dell’Acqua has become a hit factory in itself. In some ways, nothing could be more rebellious than shaking up the traditions of Tod’s. “I liked playing with new ideas for a traditional brand. It was a huge challenge for me because Tod’s DNA is very different from my world. That was what attracted me to the project.”
The results? A concise capsule collection of nine shoes and seven ready-to-wear looks – concise because Alessandro feels that quality combined with discernment is how fashion can start to create a more sustainable future. “We need to return to fewer, more concentrated collections. People don’t need all these dresses. It’s not good for fashion to oversaturate the market.” See? What could be more iconoclastic than that?
Photos: Courtesy of Tod's