MILAN — Designer, DJ, Alien.
In the slash generation to which he belongs, GCDS co-founder Giuliano Calza makes a case of his own when he identified with those three terms during a lengthy chat with WWD before unveiling his new collection on Thursday night.
Between show preparations and set-ups, Calza opened the doors of the brand’s new offices in Milan – a larger and quite iconic location for the hip Italian company, given that the previous tenant was Prada. Calza previewed another eccentric, lively GCDS show, but one that will also mark a step forward in terms of the designer’s stylistic direction and awareness of his tools and skills.
For the occasion, Calza is counting on a little help from outer space as he entrusts “Wirdo”, a pink alien mascot who makes up GCDS show invitations and appears on his social media channels to best embody his feelings and the feelings of his generation.
“It’s a symbolic character and invites you to celebrate who you are,” said the millennial designer. “I’ve become fashionable [and was perceived] as an alien. I was the one making ugly clothes and stuff, but that worked out in the end. And I think the same goes for my generation and younger who also feel like aliens. But the thing is, we are not passing through here, we have to live in this world.”
So, in keeping with the metaphor, Calza said he wanted to reverse the stereotype that views extraterrestrials as hostile. “The media always conveys the idea that whatever comes from the outside is bad. So I said, ‘Can we just think the opposite for once and believe that these aliens can be hot, beautiful, funny and just what we need right now?’” said the designer.
Adding his personal touch to Matt Haig’s 2013 book The Humans, Calza tapped into a concept that’s in keeping with his brand’s tongue-in-cheek and pop ethos, but his words win in the context of Italy’s current social and political debate with national elections gaining momentum on Sunday marks a pivotal moment for the country.
The designer feels a responsibility to stand up for his peers, sending messages even through “this fun, colourful, often sexy and useless world” of clothing, and opening doors for local youth “who are treated as a fifth wheel of the wagon.” , especially now.”
“Coming from southern Italy, I know exactly what it feels like to graduate and not find a job. The problem is that we live in a reality based on an opposite law, a place where you can become [a government] Minister without having a degree. So I understand that the idea of culture is disillusioned,” said Calza, who emphasized the importance of education multiple times throughout the interview.
To do his part in inspiring and involving younger generations in his universe, Calza decided to invite students from five universities and fashion schools outside the venue on Thursday night, where a large screen will share his point of view and perspective of the show.
“I remember when I used to sneak into shows when I was younger. Those were really the moments that fire the creative imagination,” he recalled, citing shows from brands like Dsquared2, Roberto Cavalli and “Dolce & Gabbana, which I only snuck into once, but it really was the dream.”
The anecdote struck a nostalgic chord, as Calza wants to recreate the panache of ’90s Italian fashion and that “creation of fantasies now lost.”
“If you think about it, it’s all merchandising now. So I’m trying to do what would have excited the Giuliano of 20 years ago,” the designer said of his approach to fashion.
To achieve this goal he goes through synthesis, as he called the time we live in “the remix era”. “Everything is a remix: from music to films to TV series. Take Stranger Things, it’s the combination of all our dreams, from The Goonies to monsters. And I’m kind of a DJ of this generation. I look at the past as I learned [this job] from seamstresses and not from YouTube, but at the same time I like to embrace trends of newer generations without inhibitions,” said Calza.
It is not for nothing that the show location, the historic Rotonda della Besana, is being transformed into an “alien disco” club with a pulsating disco ball and a soundtrack selected by the designer himself. The dual purpose of the facility is to channel a youthful energy and invite people to repeat an IRL social.
At the pace of dance hits, Calza presents a collection that represents an evolution of its Fall 2022 effort. The mesh catsuits developed with Wolford are offered in a larger range of colors and the shoe sensation of the autumn, the “Morso” fanged heel, is celebrating a comeback in new versions.
Consistent with the aquatic reference, Calza identified his second hero of the season in his favorite cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants. “That’s the symbol of weirdness, it’s so above the lines you can accept anything that sponge says,” Calza said with a smile. “Also, this character is neither gay nor straight, it knows no boundaries.”
The cartoon will get a couture-like treatment, Calza teased. Pointing to a more elevated aesthetic, the designer increasingly works with beads, embroidery, crystals and intricate techniques, also entering eveningwear territory but always filtered through his colorful and carefree lens.
Streetwear staples will remain in the collection but tweaked with sequins and sparkly details, while disco glam outfits, towering platforms and dazzling accessories will also parade down the runway.
A closer connection to celebrities — from bestie Dua Lipa to Beyoncé and Anitta — has fueled this change of pace. “It was natural to think, ‘What’s next? What do I want to offer to those watching this entertainment show that’s trending right now?’” the designer said.
“I feel like I graduated from streetwear academy,” he continued. Founded in 2015 by Calza and his brother Giordano with an acronym for “God Can’t Destroy Streetwear”, GCDS has also referenced “Giuliano Calza Design Studio” which will now be dominant.
Still, Calza praised all the lessons learned so far, including “always believe in what you’re doing,” regardless of external validation and consistency.
“Streetwear can be a limited reality, but you have to see this dimension as a lever. Hoodies and Socks: That was the box they used to put me in. But then I learned everything there was to learn about hoodies and applied those skills to other categories. So even what looks like a constraint in a box can become a key that unlocks something else,” the designer said, emphasizing that “even what sometimes feels like a stalemate grows.”
As the company and its offering expanded and matured to the point where, in late 2020, an investment was secured by Italian private equity firm Made in Italy Fund, managed by Quadrivio and Pambianco, in a deal that Calza immediately shook his head.
“I never feel any pressure because I’ve matured this inner strength and awareness by coming late into this design phase. I had had many other experiences before, from working in China to elsewhere, that I can’t feel anyone’s psychological pressure. I know what I’m doing and having a clear creative vision is an anchor,” he said.
The son of a psychologist and an engineer, Calza dreamed of becoming an architect or Disney illustrator as a child before developing a passion for fashion. “But my parents told me to go to college and work… that both my personality and my outlook on life were shaped by work,” he recalls, listing studies ranging from political science and economics to Chinese, and various Work experiences that are piling up the world.
“It was a decision that was forced upon me and I suffered from it, but I recognize that if I hadn’t done those things, I couldn’t have done everything that came after,” said Calza, whose personal advice he gave him gilt peers is simply “study, work and be in situations where you have to deal with something bigger than yourself”.
This way of thinking and his cosmopolitan experiences have helped the designer and his brand to be particularly popular with younger generations here.
“I believe there are historical moments where things make sense and I feel that in terms of messages and ways of communicating, in terms of who I am and what I bring, this is mine [to the table]’ Calza said.
“In a way, I represent the Italian dream for them. I started from scratch with no connections and no money….And then maybe I represent a bit of hope because Italy doesn’t breed ambition. It’s become a producer of deficit or GDP, stuff that creates fear. But the truth is that we were the greatest writers, sculptors and painters and we have forgotten it because we have prioritized things that are not important. Even showing something so crazy [he pointed to clothes]make [younger generations] I wonder, ‘What is this guy doing?’ and prove that if you have an idea and authentic branding, you can do it,” he said.
“I am proof that change is possible. I am a person who entered this industry through the window and is now walking through the Prada door [same] building,” Calza concluded with a laugh.