Act No. 1, the brand creating dramatic hybrids inspired by its founders’ cross-cultural roots

At Act No. 1, Milan-based designers Galib Gassanoff and Luca Lin create dramatic hybrid designs inspired by their respect Azerbaijani and Chinese heritages

Two people embracing wearing sheer clothing by Act No 1
Alexander wears jacket, €680; trousers, €475, both by Act No. 1. Katie wears top, €325; skirt, €520, both by Act No. 1. Earrings, £2,900, by Tabayer. Rings, £425, by Completedworks
(Image credit: Photography by Grace Difford, fashion by Nicola Neri)

As seen in the March 2023 Style Issue of Wallpaper*, we meet six rising stars – including Act No. 1, featured here – tearing up the catwalks of the Milan fashion scene with a fresh energy and creative spirit. 

The creative coupling of fashion designers Galib Gassanoff and Luca Lin might seem unexpected on surface level, given their respective Azerbaijani and Chinese heritages, but their shared values and natural affinities have birthed one of the most hotly watched Italian fashion labels of S/S 2023. Act No.1 nods to its founders’ formative years and childhoods, drawing from each designer’s multicultural background and personal history. Focused on highlighting inclusivity, social issues and human rights all over the world, the label has become known for its love of historical motifs as well as its dramatic hybrids, which often sees two different pieces patched into one, or tailored suiting festooned with extravagant swaths of tulle. 

‘The Act No. 1 aesthetic is about merging elements taken from art, craft, printed patterns, antiques, with a new attitude and a way of dressing,’ says Lin, who was born and raised in Italy’s Reggio Emilia to Chinese immigrants. ‘It mixes memories and new techniques for new creative codes. Returning themes are the big ruffles creating big volumes, traditional Chinese prints, flower patterns taken from ancient paintings and see-through tulle to create layering.’

‘We believe being truthful to your roots and upbringing means you can produce soulful items in an industry full of beautiful, but oftentimes empty stuff’

Galib Gassanoff and Luca Lin, Act No. 1

Lin met Gassanoff while they both were fashion students in Milan. ‘I believe we had the same ideas about fashion and style and the same core values,’ he says of their decision to join forces in 2016. ‘The fashion industry is filled with too many things [and] missing authentic values. We believe being truthful to your roots and upbringing means you can produce soulful items in an industry full of beautiful, but oftentimes empty stuff.’

For their recent S/S23 collection, Lin and Gassanoff used the dramatic masks and motifs of traditional Chinese opera to contemplate a search for the inner self. Presented alongside corseted denim pieces, sheer tulle bomber jackets, and fluid silk separates painted with swirling opera motifs and delicate landscapes that transcend gender norms, the dynamic collection made a compelling case for bridging the ancient and new.

Like the sartorial hybrids it creates, Act No. 1 doesn’t seek to resolve its elemental differences seamlessly, but rather enables its various aspects to coexist in juxtaposition. Lin asserts, ‘we embrace differences and push them to the limit to enhance their limits. The world is a big family and inclusion is something we will never miss in the spirit of the brand.’

Models: Katie Johnson at Models 1, Wilfried and Adeline at Xdirectn, Alexander Carey-Morgan at Tomorrow Is Another Day. Casting: Svea Casting Hair: Tosh at Streeters. Make-up: Jimmy Owen Jones at Julian Watson Agency using Dior Forever Foundation and Capture Totale Super Potent Serum. Manicure: Cherrie Snow Set design: Lizzy Gilbert. Photography assistants: Max Glatzhofer, Benedict Moore. Fashion assistant: Stoyan Chuchuranov. Set assistant: Aliou Janha Hair assistant: Leanne Millar.

A version of this story appears in the March 2023 Style Issue of Wallpaper*(opens in new tab), available now in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.

With contributions from