Hidden in the depths of London's notoriously quirky and cultural West End, The Vinyl Factory played host to Histoire D'A(r)mour, Manuel Facchini's Spring/Summer presentation. The dimly lit room was void of any decoration, its blackened floors and walls foreshadowing the gothic nature of Manuel's designs.
As the first model strode out into the spotlight it was evident that Manuel had set out to create a feminine and empowering collection. The structural silhouettes and bold geometry alluded to that of a female warrior, shaping the bodices in a way which truly celebrated the female anatomy.
The Central Saint Martins graduate combines two seemingly separate worlds in his latest collection. The Italian-born designer was influenced by Victorian-Gothic architecture and embodies his ideas through techniques used to create sportswear. Given his eclectic and innovative combination of concept and materials, I'm intrigued to ask Manuel more about the thoughts behind this season's creation.
Manuel begins, "My collection has a strong DNA that starts from two totally different stories, or different fields. So the gothic part stems from an eagle's wings, then transforms into cages and skeletons." This is evident in the rib cage like patterns across a number of Manuel's pieces, and in the skeletal body art on the models' legs.
My collection has a strong DNA that starts from two totally different stories
He continues, "They're very geometrically interpreted, they're not photographic as you can see. It's a study of the pattern of the body itself. This is to make sure that the designs are strong, but at the same time feminine.
"So they're very graphic and [have] geometric shapes as you can see, but at the same time there's sportswear which contrasts to the gothic feeling. Gothic and sport are very unusual to see together. So I've tried to create a new DNA that is composed and created from each branch."
He then goes on to explain how the sportswear element is captured using form-fitting technology, seen in sportswear, to create garments which fit like a glove and embrace the female figure. For example mini-dresses with structured shoulders, in the spirit of rugby players, are formed using 3D processes. The result is a glamorous look where skin tight bodices are contrasted with voluminous skirts.
"That's what I want to create: something that has got a really strong atmosphere, but at the same time is wearable and feminine."
Manuel appears incredibly passionate about his designs. During the presentation he thrived among the audience by getting up close to his designs and creating his own film footage.
Upon asking him about his favourite piece he stressed the material work which has gone into the collection. "My favourite piece was the first dress, which has a lot of body work underneath with a piece of leather across the front to constrain the bodice. Everything is placed really nicely."
In his work, the designer juxtaposes the use of thick jacquard in both solid and fluid forms. In keeping with the sportswear element, scuba fabric is used for embellishment to create wings and couture trousers are trimmed with details stolen from sportswear.
The innovative use of textiles is integral to the brand. Manuel explains, "It was a lot of work to create the set because I don't buy fabrics, I create them. There's a lot of study behind the collection. It's a long process: I start from a sketchbook and two totally different ideas and I try to blend them together with a new vision and a new DNA."
Looking back to Manuel's monochrome debut collection at London Fashion Week last season, the Spring/Summer collection is comparably vibrant, with clashes of neon greens and scarlet reds.Manuel explains, "Because of the concept of the collection, American football and Gothic feathers, I felt that some colours could be interesting because of the mood of American football. These lines and these processing techniques would be interesting because we're in summer and it's easier to create with these colours."
Finally I ask Manuel about the most challenging part of creating this collection. "Definitely to create the pattern of the feathers, because to combine the fabric and the idea was very hard. You have a lot of technical limits and you have to play around with graphic design and the possibilities that you have with that exact feather. So you have to play around with it and make sure it's going to be great. It's a lot of work with a lot of attempts to make it happen."
This is only Manuel's second appearance at London Fashion Week yet it appears that his unique and dramatic approach to his collection has captivated the mindset of many fashion followers. Borrowing the colour palette and techniques from the sports world and applying it to his fascination with the Gothic, Manuel has successfully created a wearable collection which empowers the female form.