An Interview With Giada's Gabriele Colangelo Featured

Gabriele Colangelo, Creative Director of Giada, talks about the fall/winter 2017 collection, his twenty-year career, and the agony and ecstasy of work in the fashion business. The interview provides a fascinating portrait of a contemporary designer.


The Giada fall/winter 2017 collection is about wearing art. At first sight the garments are simple and minimalist, but on closer examination they reveal layers of meaning: complex, prestigious materials such as cashmere and mohair blends, dropping from tautly-tailored shoulders into looser, flowing, sculptural shapes further down. Pleated fabrics reveal an incredible attention to detail, with suede strips applied to a georgette base of a different hue, so that dresses and skirts become works of Op-Art, revealing glimpses of blue with every sway of the cloth. Earrings and bags are like miniature sculptures. The colours are unique, based on whites, neutrals, a thousand shades of grey, Giada’s classic blue, and in this collection, accents of green, red and rusty orange. We interviewed Gabriele Colangelo, Creative Director of Giada, in the brand’s boutique on Via Montenapoleone in Milan. The first question was about the fall/winter 2017 collection and its powerful artistic references.

“Every Giada collection has an artistic reference,” said Gabriele Colangelo, “and in this case, it is the German contemporary artist Katrin Bremermann, whose geometric forms on white shaped canvases I particularly like. I also like works by British sculptress Barbara Hepworth, with her substantially abstract, curving forms. Both these elements were developed within the collection, in the shapes of the garments, but also in accessories, such as the sculptural heels of the shoes, the micro-clutch, and the jewellery.”

 Giada fall/winter 2017The heel is inspired by the work of artist Katrin Bremermann

Gabriele Colangelo is Milanese born and bred, and his affection for the city can be gauged from his pride in having been able to present collections at Milan’s most important art museum, Pinacoteca di Brera, and the sumptuous library in the same building, Biblioteca Braidense. Even though he comes from a family of furriers, he reached the profession of designer by a roundabout route.

“I had a classical education and studied ancient literature at Milan University. Initially I wanted to become a professor of Greek and Latin! But my natural artistic inclinations and my family background took me towards the art of fashion.”

FINALE GIADA FW 17 18Finale of the Giada fall/winter2017 show, at Biblioteca Braidense in Milan

When you are creating a new collection, do you think with your pencil, or is it more of an intellectual approach?

“It is definitely a mental process, because I always start from a concept. The iconographic elements forming the basis for the collection are then transposed to textiles and materials, and only then does drawing begin. This is just the start: later there is the fitting stage at which we review the garments and make all the changes necessary. There is another important factor: I am Creative Director at Giada, a house that has its own history, and my work has to graft smoothly into this tradition. The individuals working with me all make their own contributions. I have always been convinced that the success of a collection doesn’t depend purely on the designer, but on the work of the entire team.”

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For a fashion designer, the textiles are the brush and paint. Do you design according to the fabrics available, or are fabrics commissioned according to your design ideas?

“The fabrics that we use are exclusive to Giada because they are based on our ideas. We view the samples, but I like developing the textiles further, working on their structure and decorative elements. At Giada we prefer noble fibres such as silk, cotton and cashmere. We don’t work with synthetic fibres, partly through respect for our customers, but also as part of a concept of intrinsic luxury. I work on classical textiles in order to make them more contemporary, and so we experiment a lot with finish. Then there is the series of jacquard textiles that are manufactured according to our designs. Quality is a prime concern, and we work uniquely with Italian suppliers.”

Giada fall/winter 2017 collectionThe earrings are a reference to sculpture by Barbara Hepworth

When you are designing your collections, do you give specific consideration to the Asian market?

Of course. I try to think of the woman in general, and Giada’s mission is to dress an international woman, so I think about the market’s direction in different countries, where fit and other factors may differ according to the nation. But these are things that I consider later, not at the start of the design process, because I prefer to start with a pure idea. Only after the idea has arrived and taken form in a product do I begin thinking about the market.

To return to the artistic inspirations, where do they come from? Your journeys, or visits to exhibitions, or is there a degree of randomness?

“Yes, definitely. Luckily I have a good photographic memory, and so when an image strikes my imagination, it stays in my mind for quite a time ready to be used later on. I see exhibitions and look at books, and the internet is very useful. I am always interested in artists that have a sense of organic minimalism, which in my collections becomes something three-dimensional that goes beyond just the textile or structure. Once I have identified the artistic reference and the trend reports, these various inputs are combined and developed to create something new.”

Giada fall/winter 2017 collectionThe skirt's pleating reveals a second contrasting colour, creating a kinetic op-art effect

What did your previous experiences at Versace and Roberto Cavalli give you in terms of experience?

“Next year (2018) I will celebrate 20 years’ career in fashion, and certainly all the houses where I worked have helped refine my taste and develop my aesthetics, also providing a range of expertise. I worked at Versace in the early 2000s and so I was able to take part in some splendid projects. At Cavalli I acquired knowledge above all on print techniques.”

Looking back over these 20 years, has it been tough?

“Frankly, yes! Of those 20 years of work, 10 were apprenticeship, before beginning my own career as a designer creating a collection bearing my name. All that work contributed to experience, and it required a lot of perseverance. Even in the most difficult moments I have always believed in the profession, never considering it as simply a job, but above all an artistic activity. I like the fact that in the morning I don’t go to work, but I recommence my passion. This helps when you have to deal with a whole series of personal sacrifices.”

Could you give us an idea of the typical day for a Creative Director of a brand such as Giada?

“I generally start work at about 9 and finish at 8 in the evening. Every day is different, partly because I work on two fronts, Giada and my own collection, and so there are lots of meetings every day. At present I am working a lot on Giada, a large project because I am involved in everything, not just garments but also accessories, jewellery, scarves, and overall product image. In addition I work on the production of the advertising campaign, and next week I will be leaving for New York for the Giada shoot. Giada is an interesting environment because of the international nature of the people with whom we work, such as stylists, photographers, artistic directors and so forth. All this enriches my own experience and thus becomes part of my collections.”

Giada fall/winter 2017 collectionWhite is Gabriele Colangelo's favourite colour...

Are there some cities abroad that you particularly like?

Yes, definitely. In past years I liked travelling in Europe, and I have always found London inspiring. I am frequently in New York for advertising campaigns, but now thanks to Giada I have discovered the East. I find China very interesting, in part for its millennial traditions, and for its culture of which we have a vision that doesn’t always correspond to reality. It’s great to be able to gain direct experience of these emerging cultures.”

Do you have any recommendations for Milan nightlife?

“I don’t go out much. The long and intense hours of work mean that I’m fairly tired when I get home. I reserved myself some personal time with yoga, but that’s the only divertissement that I have at the moment!”

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