Sunday marks the first official day of New York Fashion Week’s spring 2021 season, set to be an unprecedented series of collections shown digitally, physically — socially distanced or without bystanders — or not at all. In the last seven months, the world has experienced global turmoil and hardships; the fashion industry, with its usual hamster wheel of newness, was forced to stop and slow down immensely. For many, the time has been crucial to step back and understand how the industry should move forward, with important conversations about the fashion calendar, the wholesale model, sustainability and equality all at the forefront.
Throughout the resort season and in the weeks following, designers worldwide have made decisions based on what’s important for their businesses. The New York calendar is split — a lineup of new and expected talents is scheduled to show through the 16th while New York’s marquee designers, Michael Kors included, have their sights set on mid-October. Even Council of Fashion Designers of America chairman Tom Ford does not anticipate a traditional runway season returning until at least fall 2021 (for the spring 2022 season).
Regardless of date, time or format, a shared value among designers big and small is a reset to core brand values.
For Marina Moscone, a rising, aspirational designer within the New York lineup, this means unveiling her official “last main collection” via video on the CFDA’s Runway360 platform before moving into a two-collection pre-season model. “It’s time to be more inclusive and offer a special experience to the woman investing in the brand,” she explained.
Founded in 2016 by the designer and her sister, Francesca, the brand has gained momentum for its quality over quantity, slow fashion mentality through fashions that exude minimalist glamour with exquisite tailoring, twisted draping and sophisticated, artisanal details. While small independent designers have been hit especially hard over the last seven months, Moscone is putting her head down, doing what’s best for her brand and welcoming change.
Here, Moscone sits down with WWD to discuss brand evolution, her experiences and the week ahead, with an exclusive look at her spring 2021 line.
WWD: How have you been since we spoke in July for resort?
Marina Moscone: I can’t believe that was two months ago already! Time has been hard to quantify, especially without the usual travel. I have missed it a lot! Staying in New York has been wonderful, though, because I love New York…and this time made me fall back in love with it, especially because it’s just New Yorkers here now. Now we’re in the process of moving to a bigger space and in the meantime we have devoted a lot toward developing our (last) main collection for spring 2021.
WWD: When we spoke in July, in the midst of the pandemic, your mentality going into resort was not only of concern for your team and atelier, but also the idea that the best way to approach what was happening in the world was to play to your teams’ strengths of exploring design from a artisanal hands-on and tactile approach. How has that approach developed for spring?
M.M.: My approach has always been hands-on and that has been no different in the past two months. One could even say that the limitations presented by the current state of things forced us to get more collectively hands-on as a team…and I love that my team is married to hand workmanship and used to thinking outside of limited realms.
There’s something I find extremely cathartic in hands-on work. Whether it’s the hand of the fabric or a gesture in the draping — having my hands in it is the way I connect to the pieces and the wearer. Being fully immersed in the workmanship, from the initial concept to the creation of every piece, is how I build the narrative behind the collection.
This season, for instance, I’ve sculpted the jewelry from clay and have been weaving fabrics on my loom using our beautiful archive of yarns to create new, texturally rich fabrics that are an evolution from resort’s integrally woven pieces — this time things are more patchworked.
I’ve been draping our weighted silks into the twist pieces we’ve become known for. There is so much that comes to me when I’m draping and twisting. This season I’m exploring a very purist twist along the neckline — articulating some tension between the fluidity versus the more sculptural tailoring in the collection.
Every piece — no matter the collection — is made with extreme attention to detail, you know that about me! From the Sixties sheaths made on my loom; the window-paned bias slipdresses with each square precisely cut, sewn and patched all by hand, and the sculptural tailoring which you’ll always find here — the craftsmanship is always purposeful and meticulous.
WWD: When we spoke during the resort review, you mentioned the collection wasn’t a “quarantine collection,” but rather a tighter selection of clothes open to interpretation. Are you approaching spring in the same manner?
M.M.: Most definitely. I really love that everything is edited and intentional, everything has a space and tells the story. I can’t stand waste in any form, and the demands from some of our partners pre-quarantine were simply too over-the-top. Retailers wanted exclusives in multiple colors that weren’t part of my palette; they wanted the top both with a sleeve and without; the dress both short and long…you get the point. It was so far from the narrative I would build into the collection that we said enough is enough. We have generally always said “no” to those requests, not because we don’t want to be accommodating, but simply because a merchant isn’t a designer and they aren’t here to convey the designer’s point of view in a collection. They share it, and they are wonderful and supportive because of that.
As you know, this will also be my last main collection for a while. We are moving to a pre-collection model, which I’m thrilled about. Pre-collections are much more seasonless and open to interpretation, they have an opportunity to be on the floor for longer. The constant turnover and request for new merchandise was the antithesis of our brand. I am about quality. Everything we develop takes a year or more to conceptualize, then it takes months to render and execute — so why should it sit on the sales floor for a time period shy of a month? Why do people want more, more, more when they already have too much? I design for a woman who wants to collect quality pieces over time that fit into the context of her life and evolve with her.
WWD: How has the relationship between weaving and tailoring — a main focus for resort — worked its way into this collection?
M.M.: Sculptural yet abstract shapes from various art references are always a starting point for me. Then of course I love the hand of something very humble and earth-like, something intricate but not precious. I wanted to marry those two ideas. You have this extremely sculptural tailoring rendered in a beautiful silk wool, for instance, with these slightly less “finished” and patched handwoven pieces. I love that the whole collection works together and is unified no matter the piece or technique — whether it’s architectural tailoring, a bias-cut twist tunic, a hand-embroidered woven piece or a relaxed knit. It’s the relationship between the artistry, the material and the silhouette that ties it all together. That’s how you build the story and the tension between things.
WWD: Tell me about this collection. Where did it all begin?
M.M.: A starting point to all of my collections is the women around me — modern, progressive women. At the start of every collection I ask myself, “What is she doing? Where is she going? And how does she want to feel?” From that moment I spend a lot of time thinking, sketching and draping alone. I like that stillness of being alone, I can discover things around me that I normally wouldn’t when there’s too much chaos.
As you know, I always look to art for influence. I love the Arte Povera movement; I love the silhouettes of the Sixties, too. I look to the naiveté of nature. I used to love sketching at my home in Italy, but since being stuck in New York, I’ve been spending as much time as I can in nature around here. I love the silence, the layers to it all and the fact that you don’t quite know what you’ll come across on a given day.
I am able to make instinctual decisions about the collection from there — mostly because I know this woman, she’s you and I. I know exactly how she wants to feel and that’s how I know something is right.
WWD: I know you are planning on unveiling a collection video on Runway360 this season; how has that process been in comparison to prior shows and presentations?
M.M.: I welcome change always. I think in order to grow and in order to be better, things must always evolve. It was very clear to Francesca and me that we weren’t going to just film a digital show. Instead, we wanted to share something that shows the community behind the collection. We got a great team of friends together to film our spring 2021 process, which will be a refreshing experience compared to the past model of runway shows. I know people are still mourning the “old way,” but Francesca and I believe that pivoting in order to be sustainable is a step forward for us.
WWD: Do you still believe in live shows after you see that there are other ways of doing things?
M.M.: There is an Italian quote from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s “Il Gattopardo” (an important piece of Italian literature), “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com’è bisogna che tutto cambi” (“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”).
I believe every show that we’ve done has been articulate and beautiful and afforded us the steps forward to what we’ve become today. We built a brand and a community from all of those shows and the results have been enriching.
When I stopped traveling in March, things became quite clear to me. Beforehand, I was just going through motions from day to day on the forever-turning hamster wheel. Now, I’m working on my brand without being a slave to it or the system. I was able to take a moment to ask myself if doing a show was a special experience for this very little elite group of press and buyers attending upward of 150 of them in a month. I think the answer there is quite obvious. How can a special experience be one that’s been repeated for the same small group of insiders as always? It just feels like now isn’t the time to pour never-ending resources into a spectacle. It feels gluttonous and insensitive for the time being. It’s time to be more inclusive and offer a special experience to the woman investing in the brand. I have been connecting directly with many private clients over the past several months. And our goal, when we can get physically closer again, is to offer her more special in-person experiences. She deserves it just as much as the “insiders” do.
WWD: I know that you called resort “spring 1” and pushed the fall collection to hit stores a bit later than usual. How do you feel about the ongoing conversation of shifting the calendar?
M.M.: I can’t speak to what others are doing — because I really have no idea what’s going on out there, almost to a fault! I keep my head down and Francesca and I do what’s best for us. I really believe everyone should feel that they can do what’s best for their brand in a way that shares their point of view authentically. For us, that’s shifting to a pre-collection model. I have always understood that not being a follower shows authenticity and integrity — and we probably could do with more of that around us!
WWD: What changes are you looking forward to seeing, or what changes do you hope to see, the industry instill in the coming months?
M.M.: I hope the organizations that are meant to be the thought leaders in our industry are supportive, inclusive and nurturing of independent designers. Independent and emerging designers can often feel like their relationship with the “system” is based on condition, and that’s inauthentic if you ask me. The future is this all around us right now, so it may as well be nurtured and cultivated because that’s what lies ahead for our industry in New York City. We can’t lose that. Saying that, I also hope to see less excess — more edited and purposeful storytelling, which I think comes from that space of authenticity and designing with integrity.
WWD: What do you think the role of a designer is at a time like this?
M.M.: A designer should be devoted to the artistry and not the celebrity.