Building foundations with Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry
Even seasoned travellers welcome the insight of the right sort of local, a gently guiding hand in new territories or a fresh take on the familiar. With this in mind, Wallpaper* in collaboration with Tudor watches has produced a series of Style Files; country-specific, cliché-dodging dossiers and in-the-field notes for the contemporary explorer who really knows where they are going.
‘Made in Italy' is a notion that is dear to Massimo Alba's heart. ‘I'm
revising the concept and its core values,' the knitwear designer says proudly. ‘The roots of Italian style are in the films of Rossellini, De Sica
and Antonioni. Bodies and textures are always soft; everything is smooth, never stiff. The colours of the Renaissance landscape and baroque interiors are deep in our memories, from architecture and fashion. We
rely on a rich heritage which is so pervasive, but also gives us a sense of distance, and a sense of humour; what Renaissance author Baldassarre Castiglione described as “sprezzatura”. That is to say, a certain nonchalance, the subtle skill of making whatever one does or says or wears appear to be effortlessly stylish.'
There's more than a whiff of insouciant sprezzatura in Massimo Alba's clothing. Born in Treviso, home to the headquarters of clothing giant Benetton, the 47-year-old has been rooted in the rag trade for most of his life. He has been creative director for the likes of Malo, Agnona, Piombo and Ballantyne (the heritage knitwear brand he acquired in 2004), and his eponymous label was launched in 2007. Alba now has a stand-alone store in Milan's Brera district.
‘I design starting from the raw material, translating graphic patterns
from old textile archives, mostly British and French,' he says. 'My research focuses on natural elements: colours and textures. All fibres are left natural and never pressed. My cashmere is chemical-free, dyed in natural pigments, exclusive colours. I prefer an informal attitude.‘
'Italian style really hasn't changed that much,' he surmises. ‘It's always recognisable – the same relaxed, elegant gestures with an inner sense