By Lucas Pantoja
What makes the city of Milan so alluring? Is it the rich history and culture embedded in the city’s DNA: from the gravitational essence of the Duomo to the glory of Da Vinci’s Last Supper tucked away inside the Santa Maria Delle Grazie? How about the fleet of shops and studios which inhabit all of it’s many narrow streets? Or even the exotic nightlife that takes over regularly after fast-paced citizens clock out and begin to thrive mid-aperitivo? While all of these qualities suffice, for many it’s agreed that the true beauty of the city, similarly to the Last Supper, lay somewhat hidden behind opposing doors and must be searched for.
In the case of Milanese leather goods brand Valextra, the muse of their latest collection was the doorsteps and entryways scattered around the Lombardy capital; as well as the local fashion creatives who flourish here. Precious works of functionality and a crisp aesthetic, the Valextra fall 2020 collection presented was defined by architectural lines and color-blocking that are both elegant and subtle. The refreshing color palette featured some creams, pink, navy, brown, and leaf green. Accompanying the presentation of the collection, were vases done by fellow Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola for Budri and unpublished photos from the Taschen book “Entryways of Milan”, by the photographer Delfino Sisto Legnani.
Still, the highlight of the day was the Extra Milano project, in which Valextra teamed up with a diverse gang of five local talents, all of whom are based in Milan and making waves with their own brands across the fashion scene. In the project, the unique assemblage of talents each used a Valextra bag of their choosing as a canvas to reinterpret within their own brand’s language of design. The list of brands that teamed up for the collaboration were as such: unconventional-insider brand SUNNEI led by Loris Messina and Simone Rizzo, ex-MARNI affiliate Carolina Castiglioni’s PLAN C, Austrian-born Arthur Arbesser and his eclectic self-named brand, California-native JJ Martin’s La DoubleJ, and the latest designer to dress Daniel Craig’s James Bond — Massimo Alba.
What comes as very refreshing to the collaboration was it’s flavor of genuity. As stated in the press release, the project was “A celebration of the community of independent thinkers and creative thinkers who together are shaping Milan,”. While more-so now than ever, collaborations between brands are often nothing more than a lazy effort of selling something which is supposed to be somehow more precious than the work created under the vision of a single brand (Yeah I’m talking about you Prada x Adidas and Jordan x Dior) — the Extra Milan project doesn’t feel as such. Differently, it’s a team made up of insiders, independent, and local-creatives which upholds a kind of integrity that means something. A quality which the fashion industry is so often lacking. When it comes down to it, the works each portray their own deeply personal result of the collaboration: all communicating something different while under the same language of design, and in some way paying a respect to the city of Milan.
Arthur Arbesser accredited his remix of the Brera bag directly to the fascinating Milanese women, while PLAN C’s take on the Iside Crossbody bag features a drawing her daughter drew at the age of 4 years old. The crafty engineers at SUNNEI chose to work on the Passepartout bag turning it into the luxurious-fashion-accessory version of a matryoshka nesting doll. Starting as a weekender, the bag continues to shrink in shape until it reaches the form of a wallet.
In the utmost Massimo Alba fashion, the designer reconstructed Valextra’s Serie S bag — crafting it out of the fabric from his brand’s finest coats and decorating it with many personal messages hidden in and around it’s figure. La DoubleJ with J.J. Martin at the helm, pieced together the Valextra Tric Trac bag decorated with a 1970’s pois-like print. Their presentation was accompanied by patterns and colors inspired by the regional silk tradition which helped make the brand famous as well as glass spheres constructed by Venetian glass maker Salviati.