Sensual, smooth and evocative, leather has always had a special place in the collections of the top Italian fashion houses. The country prides itself on its long traditions in leather-working, the sector's transformation from crafts to creativity dates back at least two centuries. The leather industry is unique in Italy, in part because it developed into a number of business clusters in various parts of the country, such as Tuscany. There are about 1,330 tanning workshops in Veneto, Lombardy, Campania as well as other regions. These in turn supply high-end footwear and leatherwear manufacturers in the regions of Lombardy, Tuscany, Marche and Abruzzo. The net result is that Italy still exports more leather goods than any other European country. (In the photo below, craftsmanship by Zagliani, courtesy of Zagliani).
Let's take a closer look at this tradition by exploring the latest designer collections by Italy's leading brands. This time we'll concentrate on the garments, leaving aside the accessories. Which will, of course, be playing an important part, as always.
“An earthly paradise populated by fantastic animals,the Eden of femininity, my creativity is expressed through garments that make the woman a sensual and mysterious creature." This is how Roberto Cavalli describes his women's collection for fall/winter 2012-13. The vicinity of this new, imaginary but tangible female paradise to the world of animals is provided not just by Cavalli's signature animalier prints, but also by a significant presence of leather, suede, fur, python, crocodile and other reptile leathers. The prints are created starting from hand-painted canvases depicting animal fur, but at the same time, a playfully confusing trompe l'œil effect is highlighted by python printed to resemble tiger or jaguar, furs that look like python, and pony artfully transformed into crocodile. It's as if the brand had created imaginary animals in order to shuffle the cards in a complex sequence of optical illusions, in an infinite use of circular cross-referenced sequences whose final objective is the subtle art of seduction. Must-haves from the maison include the mini-skirts and balloon dresses in frayed, printed and patched fur, and the maxi-skirts in tiger-print python or coconut-effect laser-treated mink.
The Versace collection for fall/winter 2012-13 is based on seduction, absolute femininity and glamour, with a sexy-rock mood along with regal notes based on dark allure. The black leather of coats and dresses contrast with reflections of light and applications of velvet, satin and metal mesh. The ‘Blade Runner’-esque jackets have closely-honed, rounded shoulders, which combine perfectly with clinging, leather-against-skin dresses that have echoes of both S&M and punk. Versace's knitwear is accompanied by alpaca and astrakhan fur.
Leather in the Gucci collection is just as dark, but a little less rock 'n' roll. It is ideal for an unquiet muse with overtones reminiscent of the martial arts. Here, leather meets brocade, velvet and silk, as well as dramatic textures of greenish-black rooster feathers. The warm fur is skilfully crafted to generate a dry and slightly mannish effect, blending kid and shearling, and adding segments of mink to the chiffon. The must-haves are the tight-fitting equestrian-style trousers in very dark leather.
The femininity proposed by Etro is carefully constructed and crafted, with leather used to produce a look of luxurious comfort. Wonderfully soft and artfully structured amaranth jackets with deep pleats; discreet overcoats in black leather. Elements that hallmark a collection in which the Etro roots are combined with a contemporary vision of refined sophistication that does not preclude day-long practicality. Because seduction is an everyday affair.