MILAN — Valentino’s size and reputation is backed by an established fashion house and comes with a generous dose of pressure.
But speaking to Galib Gassanoff and Luca Lin – whose Act N.1 label was chosen by the Roman firm as the up-and-coming brand to support this season – it becomes clear that what could be a source of fear is more like a healthy adrenaline rush is. Valentino will offer designers its Instagram platform for a live stream of the spring show, which takes place in Milan on Thursday.
The design duo, reached by phone three days before the event, rushed to the fitting but maintained their characteristic aplomb when discussing what the initiative means for the brand and what to expect from the upcoming collection.
“Compared to previous times, there is certainly more pressure, but one that encourages us to do even better and push ourselves even further by presenting a stronger collection,” Lin said.
As reported, Act N.1 will follow Marco Rambaldi to capture the social media spotlight and attention of Valentino’s 17.2 million followers during this edition of Milan Fashion Week. The Roman brand’s initiative with Italy’s fashion chamber originally started in February, when the first contact between Maison Valentino and Act N.1 was also made.
“They got in touch three days before our last show when we were doing auditions. So that was an energy boost for this show too, because in our busiest time, in the midst of work and sleepless nights, we received such news and were very happy,” Lin recalls.
Introducing the initiative last year, Maison Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli said the goal was to offer young designers the opportunity to use the brand’s social platform “as a stage to expand their work and message” and Finding talent “whose sensibilities align with our core identity values” are addressed.
Founded in 2016, Act N.1 stands for inclusivity and a personal, multicultural approach to fashion. His collections combine a flair for deconstructed tailoring, theatricality and stylistic influences drawn from the founders’ own origins, as Lin is half Chinese and Gassanoff was born in Azerbaijan but raised in Georgia.
The Spring 2023 collection will continue to build on these pillars, with Gassanoff stressing that the creative process has been business as usual. The House of Valentino “gave us total freedom to express ourselves and no limits,” he explained.
“Because that’s the whole point: Pierpaolo chose us because of the work we do and what we present, so it was important to keep that freedom,” Lin reiterated.
At the time of the announcement, Piccioli described the duo’s work as “light and deep, which is how every young designer’s gaze should be and perhaps all of us.”
Freedom and self-expression are at the heart of the message Act N.1 wants to spread. The brand has explored various social themes in its collections over the years, from raising awareness of women’s rights to highlighting minorities and subcultures.
“Initially, we were a bit afraid to address these issues the way we’re doing now because we were concerned about how they would have been perceived,” Lin said. “But now we are pursuing our path much more confidently.”
For Spring 2023, the duo will explore the different characters in each person, “because everyone wears a kind of mask depending on the occasion,” Lin said, adding that in this exploration reference is made to the historical tradition of Chinese opera and, more pragmatically , she is hinted at in key prints and cuts that will appear on clothing.
Her experimental approach often results in hybrid styles, merging different pieces into one, a juxtaposition of masculine and feminine elements and a play on deconstructed silhouettes.
“There will also be patchwork and styling gimmicks in this collection, via frayed denim patches and an exaggeration of the military theme on denim and tulle, one of our core fabrics,” Gassanoff said.
In fact, the brand is best known for its dramatic, maximalist tulle pieces and cross-pollination with tailoring, and Gassanoff assured that this collection will have its fair share of that, as the designers put the finishing touches on “structural pieces and looks in varying volumes”. to put their skills to the test.
This season, after some co-branding experiments, the duo will launch their first collection of women’s shoes. These include flats and mainly heels “with a particular, very graphic shape” and repeats “of some elements that we use a lot in our collections,” said Lin, who declined to reveal more.
A collaboration with Casio will also debut on the catwalk, with the Japanese brand’s timepieces appearing on a few pieces. Along with the rest of the looks, these are performed in a simple setup designed to make the clothes glow, while popping up a few props here and there to mimic the feeling of being backstage.
In terms of casting, Gassanoff and Lin have been promoting inclusivity since the beginning of their fashion journey, sending a variety of body types and models, from mature women to young children, down the runway. This approach represents another value shared with Maison Valentino.
“We’ve formed connections with various people who were also connected to the Valentino story over the past few years,” observes Gassanoff, citing model Elisabetta Dessy as an example.
“She was a Valentino model in the 1970s and we worked with her for the last three years when she was no longer modeling,” Gassanoff recalled. “We loved the idea of having her in our cast and we really like her personality, the character she brings to our shows and videos. It was like a rediscovery for us. And then, just recently, after the brand’s last couture show in Rome, we found out about the historical bond she has with Valentino and the personal one with Pierpaolo.”
Act N.1, which debuted at Milan Fashion Week in 2018 with the Spring 2019 collection, has since been part of the city’s schedule, presenting collections through both physical catwalk shows and conceptual digital formats during the pandemic.
The Italian Fashion Federation also supports the brand, which for two years in a row has received grants from the Camera Moda Fashion Trust, the non-profit organization founded in 2017 that helps young Italian talents develop their business with financial support as well as business mentoring programs and tutoring.
Act N.1 is available through international stockists including Selfridges in London, Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and Sita 1910, Ant/Dote and Forty Five Ten in the US. Asia is a strong market with more than 20 retailers in mainland China.