It’s end of an era at Etro: with a new creative director appointed, the Italian brand is departing from its family roots. Marco De Vincenzo is taking the lead, and will show his first collection in September. Veronica Etro and Kean Etro waved a good-bye with their last collections: women’s resort and men’s spring-summer 2023. These two line-ups were quintessentially Etro, at its best. For menswear, Kean Etro delights in layering multiple references with the ease that comes not only from experience but from true cultural curiosity. His love of literature and poetry are just some of his many interests, and this season, instead of invitations, he had actors phone each of the show’s hundreds of guests to recite a dedicated poem to each one. It was a gesture of exquisite sensitivity. “Poetry and utopia go hand in hand,” he said backstage before the show. “In its etymology, poetry simply means making, composing. I wanted to give value to the idea of creating, which shouldn’t be separated from utopia.” Quoting Oscar Wilde, he added “there’s no progress in society without utopia.” Following circadian rhythms, looks were presented in circular chromatic cadence, from morning whites through sun-at-the-zenith brights to velvety darks dotted with starry figments. Archetypal in shape – kimonos, kaftans, djellabas, wrap jackets closed by obis 0 it was elevated by what the designer called “a florilegium,” that is a plethora of sparse floral images delicately overprinted with the number 432 Hertz. “It’s the number indicating the frequency of the universe’s good vibration,” said Kean. “It’s the frequency of beauty. It’s like when you charge crystals or bio-dynamic particles with energy – I’ve used it to somehow energize the garments.” The energy-charging ritual may have worked: there was a lively feeling to the collection that propelled it forward, despite the stifling heatwave which made the air feel unnaturally still. Billowy see-through chiffon kaftans and elongated shirts and kimonos in liquid satin were worn open to reveal nude skin, as well as boxing shorts exposing bare legs. The body was perceived through mesh textures, broderie Anglaise inserts, and impalpable silks and linens. The breezy, cultivated Bohemian feel which is the Etro siblings’ signature looked vital and delicate in equal measure.
Meanwhile, for resort 2023, Veronica focused on the classic summer-version of the brand. The label’s staples – the glamorous caftan, the dressing gown duster, the flowy dress – were given a fresh interpretation. The paisley motif was blown up into a vibrant abstract rendition, printed on a long chiffon dress with butterfly sleeves, or onto a masculine bermuda suit, or again on a tight body-con number with an asymmetrical ruffled hem. Punctuating the collection with an artisanal feel, a series of crocheted pieces including an elongated mesh cardi, a handknit knotted-fringed miniskirt, and a show stopping robe/poncho exuded the haute hippy vibe that is trademark Etro. Its free spirited attitude will surely transition into Etro’s new direction.
“The question I asked myself is: How can I deal with the prints in a totally new way? I wanted to go out of my body and see things from a completely different angle,” Veronica Etro explained backstage of her autumn-winter 2022 fashion show. “So I imagined aliens coming across our archive in 200 years and looking at them with micro-lenses that are sort of zooming in and blowing everything up. So it’s like zoomed heritage!” With Etro’s heritage looping back via its family-founded roots in Italy during the hippie late 1960s, to a style of shawl named after a Scottish mill town that made a massive 19th-century British Colonial fashion business out of appropriating a precious fabric whose culture belongs to Kashmir, on the border of India and Pakistan – the paisley pattern is always the given medium. Veronica Etro’s conundrum has been to contemporize and reconfigure all of that, expanding the range of what her brand can be without losing its character. “You know, Etro was a lifestyle brand,” she observed backstage. “I think the strength is that it has a strong identity, but at the same time it leaves women open to interpret and to be individual and to personalize. It’s about how we can embrace different personalities – I never wanted to make it homogeneous, to make uniforms.” This time she traveled through boho, arty-crafty knitwear to ’80s puffy-silhouetted patchwork bomber jackets to end up with suave, ’70s crushed-velvet trouser suits and slinky bias-cut black satin dresses. Some of it looked like an Italian version of Isabel Marant – and this isn’t something bad. The paisley registered in various graphic forms – super enlarged to look like an animal-print lining on a shearling aviator jacket, or deconstructed down to its “harlequin” elements, stamped in repeat on a vibrant pink velvet jacket and a semisheer, diaphanous chiffon dress.
When you think of Etro, you’ve got an instant image in your head: a boheme free-spirit, wearing layers of paisley-printed chiffon and embroidered suede. She’s a global citizen, but as well quintessentially Italian. Looking at the pre-fall 2022 collection, which oozes with that distinct Etro DNA, the brand’s new investor (LVMH-backed private equity giant L Catterton) is certainly into embracing what the brand stands for. On the creative side, Veronica Etro and brother Kean seem to be energized by the change, working together on updating collections with a younger, gender fluid flavor – a move which has recently led to artistic collaborations with unconventional talents, like the Italian rock band Måneskin and British designer Harris Reed. “It’s about constantly elaborating and expanding our lexicon of wanderlust and bohemia with newness and a fresh ésprit,” Veronica summed up. To boost visual appeal of the signature Etro prints, the designers gave them a lighter spin, making the motifs more rarefied and luminous, “almost if they were floating on a white background”. Oversized intarsia’d and crocheted knitwear was proposed in lieu of outerwear; ponchos, capes and blankets featured in abundance; and piuminos were knitted and textural, quilted with pretty floral-printed linings. Languid loungewear-inspired robes, loose-fitting pajama suits, chic caftan dresses, and kimono jackets were offered in sumptuous printed velvet or elaborate jacquards with a silver sheen. The Etro client – both the one that shopped there 30 years ago and the one that is just starting to invest in a timeless wardrobe – will be happy.
Etro‘s resort 2022 has that solar power (yes, I love the new Lorde song). If you’re looking for the summer-perfect wardrobe for post-confinement life full of sunny adventures with friends, breezy beach walks and getting in the groove at concert festivals, this collection is it. “My father Gimmo founded the house of Etro in 1968, so we as a company were born at a time of barricades and youth revolution,” Veronica Etro told Vogue. “As much as we value tradition, there’s a rebellious spirit which runs in our family, a flair for adventure, open-mindedness, and eccentricity.” It’s a mindset she’s been making good use of lately, steering the label on a stronger, younger course. And it works. Special stand-alone items like intarsia-ed ponchos, embellished waistcoats, richly embroidered miniskirts, and fringed blanket skirts were combined with easy wardrobe staples rendered à la Etro. Less bohemian and more concise than usual, the everyday offer comprised a series of gender-fluid shirts, tunics, oversized blazers, and pajama suits that emphasize the masculine/feminine synergy and code-swapping going on between the Etro siblings. Paisley patterns got a punk-ish treatment with skulls, snakes, and safety pins; prints were bolder and used in patches on nylon anoraks and quilted indigo denim sets; and skintight black leather pants and zippered jackets were intended as a nod to biker subcultures. “After celebrating Etro’s 50th birthday in 2018 I wanted to turn the page,” said Veronica. “We’re building a new following of young customers who are asking for a stronger twist on our traditional style. The pandemic has taught us to not be afraid, to enjoy taking risks and to embrace change. It isn’t time to hold on to our comfort zone.”
For the past few seasons, I take peeks at Etro and I must admit that something good is going on there. Comparing to the pretentious dustiness I always had in mind when thinking of the Italian brand, now I’m really intrigued with its fresh, revived care-freeness. And guess what – it’s not about a new creative director, since Veronica Etro designs womenswear since 2000. “I’m a natural-born optimist, I always try to see the glass half full,” said Veronica to Vogue during a Zoom review of Etro’s pre-fall 2021 collection. Italy is still in its second lockdown with no sign that Christmas travels will be possible, but Etro nevertheless sounded positive. “When we finally get out of this – and we will get out of it sooner or later – we’ll be ready to enjoy life to the full again. To travel, to party, to meet with friends, to get our freedom back,” she said. With her hopeful disposition, Etro hasn’t been tempted in the least to propose the elevated version of the stay-at-home loungewear that many designers have turned to for their post-pandemic collections. She believes that fashion should help women to be better versions of themselves, no matter the circumstances. A need for comfort is an inevitable byproduct of our present WFH limitations; it can’t be ignored. However, she said, “Etro has always been about a natural sense of ease, so I didn’t have to change my perspective much. It’s more about celebrating the freedom we’re craving to go back to. I thought about the future, about the clothes we’ll feel good in, and how we’ll enjoy getting dressed.” The collection reads as a free-spirited round-up of the best of the label, individual pieces as imaginative and romantic as they are effortless to wear, spiced up with a dash of Etro’s haute-bohemian flair, and all worn by a community of diverse characters. Paisley-printed garden party dresses alternated with soft tailored pantsuits in plush velvet, while languid tapestry dressing gowns, richly printed kimonos, and jacquard-knitted cozy wool cardis looked versatile enough to sit comfortably in a masculine/feminine wardrobe. “Traveling is always a learning experience and I miss it terribly,” said Etro. So much so that in the look book a model carries an amusing XXXL paisley-printed shopper, big enough to hold the entire collection. A true voyager’s dream!