Gilberto Calzolari was born and raised in Milan, where he graduated at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. After an impressive career of 15+ years in the fashion industry working for some of the most prestigious international luxury brands such as Marni, Alberta Ferretti, Valentino, Miu Miu and Giorgio Armani, in 2015 decided it was time to create his own. His first collection, FW 2017-18, entitled “My Arctic Heart”, was an ode to nature and to a world on the verge of extinction and, for the occasion, he partnered with Polar Bears International, the world’s leading non-profit organisation dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat. That was followed by the SS 2018 collection “Exotica”, and the FW 2018-19, entitled “2046”, which was first introduced at the Showcase event during Altaroma and then presented in the official calendar of the Milano Fashion Week in February 2018, and in a special runway show event in Rome. The SS 2019 collection, entitled “Une Partie de Campagne”, earned him the prestigious Franca Sozzani GCC Award for Best Emerging designer at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards Italia 2018, while the FW 2019-2020, entitled “Unnatural” premiered in an event show during the Milano Fashion Week and was also invited to the Monte Carlo Fashion Week, where Calzolari was awarded with the Monte Carlo Fashion Award for best Emerging Designer for his contribution to sustainable fashion. His latest SS2020 collection, “Dune”, was presented in a special event show at the beginning of the Milano Fashion Week in September 2019, with the support of CNMI Fashion Trust. With a runway show of this collection, Gilberto was invited also to the Budapest Central European Fashion Week, as special guest to represent Made in Italy luxury fashion.
Eco-sustainable, eco-friendly, green fashion: words that today represent a truly epochal change. What does sustainable fashion mean for Gilberto Calzolari?
As you said, we are living an epochal, seismic change. Our planet demands for a radical change in our consumption habits and fashion, who is the second cause of pollution in the world after oil, needs to drive this change. Right now sustainability is the new punk, the new revolution, and at the same time, the new luxury. Granted, there is still a way to go in the whole chain (from fabrics that need to have more affordable prices to retail distribution – where department stores, boutiques and e-commerce need to pay a stronger attention to this topic), but I firmly believe that sustainable fashion is the future, and the only way to go.
Fashion communicates to people and has a responsibility on current issues concerning the environment. What is your most important message for young people?
All I can say is: be conscious in the choices you make, starting from your daily habits, and of course from what you wear. Make smarter choices. Reuse and recycle. And when you want to buy new clothes, demand for certificated fabrics with a clear origin that are organic, biodegradable or recycled, and support fashion brands that care for the planet.
Your spring summer 2020 collection shows a primitive minimalist soul, with the colors of the sandy earth, a nomadic and warrior woman. What woman do you imagine for the near future?
You are correct, my SS20 collection has intentionally a primitive minimalist soul. It’s a militant collection, in which I wanted to talk about the increasing threat of desertification in a world that it’s throwing away precious resources. It’s a cry of alarm and a wake-up call, set in a post-technological future. In this context, I think it’s natural to get back to the basics: it is still a glamorous and elegant collection, but very essential, raw, direct, because when life is at risk, we get read of the superfluous and we stick to the essential. Also the choice of the colour palette is intentional. I like to go against the current, and have a counter-intuitive approach that force people to reflect: my last Fall-Winter collection, called “Unnatural”, instead of muted wintery colours, it displayed a strong palette of full, bright, and even acid colors, as I was addressing the concept of natural Vs. artificial. This time, instead of bright summery colours I went for earthy, muted tones. And I erased any presence of natural element, except for the black and white palms print, like a faded postcard, a memory of a natural oasis in the current
desert we are crossing. As for the future, I like to surprise myself as much as other people, so my next collection could bring me to another direction.
Let’s talk about materials: a sustainable choice or a question of sensitivity and identity. How do you select materials for your collections?
It’s both an ethic and an aesthetic choice. And at the same time also a conceptual choice. I spend a lot of time in finding the right materials, in different directions: from brand new, technologically advanced sustainable fabrics ( just to mention the latest ones: semi-gloss satin of polyester created from recycled PET bottles; cork fabric paired with organic cotton; certified organic cotton twill; innovative FSC-certified viscose etc…), to the upcycling of waste materials created for other means (the juta coffee bags I used to create the dress with whom I won the Green carpet; the fruit-wrapping nets I used in my last winter collection, embroidered with scraped material; the exploded airbags and seat belts I used in my latest SS20 collection, in partnership with Volvo), but also the search for beautiful old stock fabrics (sustainability is also avoid waste). This said, every choice is also an aesthetic, creative and conceptual choice, according to the theme I chose from my collection, to the message I want to communicate, and to my personal idea of beauty and glamour. People don’t realise that sustainable fashion can be an incredible opportunity to be creative, beautiful and elegant in a true contemporary way.
Has your life been characterized by events that changed your way of thinking and creating?
Yes, but isn’t it the same for everybody? My father used to be a textile buyer and seller and I remember when he used to bring me to see the fashion shows, or would ask me to help me in creating the display in the windows of a store. That idea of attention to the details and the importance of elegance stayed with me. That’s probably why, after graduating at Brera Academy of Fine Arts, I decided to start a career in fashion, and working for many years for great brands and designers such as Marni, Valentino, Prada, Alberta Ferretti and Giorgio Armani has been an invaluable lesson. When I decided it was time to create my own brand, wanted to pair my idea of elegance and beauty with my love for nature and my strong beliefs on the importance and respecting the planet, and when I won the Green Carpet Award I was surprised to find myself at the forefront of a new wave of fashion. It’s wonderful that now there is so much attention for green issues in our sector, but this cannot and must not be just a trend: sustainability is a serious cause.
The 2018 green carpet award was certainly an important milestone. What will be next?
The Green Carpet Award was not only a great honour but also an indication that I was on the right path. To receive such a passionate support from Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and its President Carlo Capasa, and by Eco-Age and Livia Firth, who is so attentive to green issues, and to receive the award by Sara Maino, who does a lot to support new designers with Vogue Talents, gave me the strength to continue in my direction, although I have to admit that often it’s not easy in this day and age where people keep telling you: “why do you want to stick to Made in Italy craftsmanship and sustainability when there are so many cheaper and easier options?” Well, for me Made in Italy and sustainability are not an option. They are my DNA and my belief.
What shouldn’t you miss in your everyday life?
I need to take my time to think and be creative, although it’s difficult when there are so many things to take care at the same time, which is why I tend to be the most creative late at night, when there are no distractions. I like to surround myself of things that gives me peace and makes me feel well, such as cooking good food, listening to nice music, meditate (I’m Buddhist), take care of my garden, and try to leave each moment to the fullest, without too many distractions. Also, it’s important for me to find time to go to the movie theatre and to art exhibitions, which are a source of inspiration, as well as going to vintage markets for my personal archive. It enhances my creativity. But what I love the most is to soak into Nature. This Summer, for example, I could only take 1 week off but driving around Northern Ireland, on the coast and in
the countryside, was incredible relaxing and energising. It regenerated me!
Words have a meaning: the (key)word of Gilberto Calzolari for 2020?
I’d probably use the motto of this collection and this day and age: #REDUCE, #REUSE, #RECYCLE