If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it, isn’t that the old adage? For Italian knitwear label Fabiana Filippi and its collaboration with the multi-hyphenate Edward Buchanan, it was more a case of there being only one man for the job.
The Umbrian brand’s capsule collection with the Milan-based designer, entitled Highline, launches this month almost a year since founder and CEO Mario Filippi Coccetta and Buchanan hit it off over a spontaneous 45-minute conversation on the evolution of knitwear in the contemporary fashion space during Art Basel. It wasn’t long before the former offered the latter the opportunity to interpret his family brand’s ‘cosy minimalist’ codes.
Fabiana Filippi Highline collection, designed by Edward Buchanan
As one of the busiest men in fashion, Buchanan wasn’t looking to add to his plate. Between heading up his own brand, Sansovino 6, being in-house consultant for luxury fashion houses Off-White and Agnona (among others), and recently taking on the mantle of Perfect magazine’s Milan fashion director, he still finds time to be the head tutor of the Academy of Costume and Fashion’s MA in Creative Knitwear Design. But a trip to the ‘frankly amazing’ Fabiana Filippi factory in Umbria, and encountering a company willing to challenge its more commercial DNA, sealed the deal.
Widely renowned for his prowess with knitwear and for engineering clothes that create abstract forms from natural fibres (which saw him become Bottega Veneta’s first design director in 1995), Ohio-born Buchanan looked to New York’s 2009 landmark the High Line for inspiration for the 40-piece collection. More specifically, the work of Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudouf, who masterminded its biodiverse environment.
‘The High Line is this paradise of vegetation and cement and metal – and those contrasting things are very New York for me,’ says Buchanan. ‘It’s the only place I’ve lived where I’m still nostalgic for it. In New York, I always felt protected within the context of the city, but then at certain points you have these beautiful moments of nature like Central Park… I [liked] the idea of paralleling a collection with that context.’
His stimulus has resulted in clothes that find a symbiosis between a natural softness and structural strength. Cashmere-merino and mohair knitwear takes on structural proportions, complemented by two-tone denim and crisp cotton-poplin shorts, skirts and trousers that introduce a functional ease. Elsewhere, a neutral palette pops with modernity thanks to contrasting orange and olive inserts, and the use of the Vanisé double-faced knitting technique – which sees two different yarns combined to create a multidimensional surface appearance – evokes the changing effect of light on urban structures.
‘It bridges American sportswear with Italian [technique and] luxury,’ he explains of the 100 per cent Italian-made capsule, ‘and that’s the message I wanted to settle into’.
Like the man who masterminded it, the collection is also really, comfortably cool.
‘I’m trying, I’m trying,’ he laughs at the suggestion. ‘This sounds so basic to say, but I’m always looking for something cool and easy. That seems like an easy idea – but it’s not. I like to design pieces and separates that I can imagine existing in the context of the individual’s wardrobe. I’m a big pusher of the idea that the individual wears the clothing, the clothing doesn’t wear the individual.’
It’s an ethos that pays into Buchanan’s insistence and teachings on long-lasting design, not just in this collaboration but with Sansovino 6, for which he adopts a genderless, seasonless model in order to control unnecessary output.
‘The creative process for me is beautiful as well as painful, because a part of my process now is, do we have to do so much? Do we have to do it this way? That’s why I like talking about [ideas of] local and intimacy [with fashion] which doesn’t mean large and obnoxious, it means special and small,’ he says. ‘I like longevity, I like the idea of fashion but I’m more Bauhaus in that sense; I like to build something up strong and hard and so you have it for a long time.’
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Scarlett Conlon a freelance journalist and consultant specialising in fashion, design and lifestyle. Before relocating to Italy, she held roles as deputy fashion editor at The Guardian and Observer and news editor at British Vogue in London. She is currently a regular contributor Wallpaper* Magazine among other prominent international fashion and design titles.
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