Erika Cavallini might still be an under the radar fashion designer in France, but over the past few years in Italy she has become something of a household name. Worn by Kendall Jenner, amongst many others, the clothing created by Cavallini, has a unique mix of Italian classicism and refined sportswear. Its a style that has more and more women around the world flocking to her brand. We had an exclusive chat with the designer.
Designer Erika Cavallini is one of those chic Italian women who always knows how to make you feel welcome. Meaning the pieces in her collection not only look great, they fit even better. Her “Made in Italy” brand has found a way to create modern, wearable clothing that have just the right amount of designer edge while never sacrificing style.
Tall and striking with flowing light brown hair Cavallini is the perfect embodiment of the kind of woman her brand caters too. She launched her label in 2009 with a semi couture collection, which had an eye towards creating a niche brand for a discerning clientele. That concept evolved into one where her signature label would fill the fashion needs of women who want to look good, but are also smart enough to know that a beautifully cut coat, or a well tailored pair of pants speaks for themselves – and don’t need to break the bank.
For Cavallini this strategy has been a receipt for success. In 2014 she opened her first flagship store in Milan, on the prestigious via Sant’Andrea, and her line is carried in over 250 stores in Italy, making up 60% of her totally turnover. The other 40% coming from international sales points in places like France, the Far East, Russia, and the Middle East.
The perfect example of how Cavallini has come up with a compelling sartorial universe is her fall/winter 2016 collection. At her presentation in Milan, where tasty food and drink were on hand for guests (instantly making everyone feel right at home), she created a tableau vivant presentation that saw her models standing in static central scenes in a series of rooms inside a grand Milanese home.
“The idea behind this collection was not one particular inspiration. Instead I wanted to create this feeling of opening an armoire and finding in it a real wardrobe of clothing,” said Cavallini at the presentation. “I wanted something simple, very simple, that could be easily mixed together. I did this via the fabrics that I chose and the restrained color palette. It is through the strong accessories that the clothing gets its dynamism,” she added.
But what was most interesting about this presentation, filled with asymmetrical pleated skirts, paper bag waistline trousers and deconstructed sweaters with cut away shoulders, was how effortlessly the models mingled with the fashion crowd as they moved about the rooms to take up residence in the different tableau vivant. The ensembles looked both relevant and elegant, as if the line up was a glimpse into the not so distant future of fashion.
Designer Erika Cavallini launched in 2009 her eponymous label which debuted with a semi couture collection.
Even if this collection did not have one distinctive starting point, Cavallini admitted that it did have a common thread- Literally. “I used the idea of a strip of red, sometimes as stitching on a skirt, or as the collar on a sweater, or even as ribbon around the waist, to link the collection together,” explained the designer. “It’s the first time I use red like this, but it, who knows, it might become a signature.”
In just seven years Cavallini has come a very long way. And even if she ends up not using that bold line of red as a signature in the future for her label, the house has already found a way to stand out from the fashion pack. A fact that has already made this womenswear brand a winner.
After her presentation Antidote spoke with the designer about her views on her place in the fashion filament, her view on the current state of the industry as a whole and the surprising success of her brand outside her home country of Italy.
Erika Cavallini fall-winter 2016
Antidote: In 2009 the collection was semi couture and now it has evolved into a brand that is more democratic and has a wider reach. What was the thinking behind that shift?
Erika Cavallini: Basically I wanted to create a stronger identity internationally defending the brand name and giving more importance to the fact that I personally take part to the creative process.
How do you like to design? What is your creative process?
I always start from a suggestion that comes from a movie, a book, a trip or an exhibition. This gives me the intuition to think about my woman and her wardrobe for the season. It’s a very exciting moment but also full of stress, because the starting point is always the most risky part of our job.
What do you think of the current state of the fashion industry?
It’s a very changing moment. But, on the other hand, it’s difficult to find something that is really new. Nowadays the fashion industry is more and more demanding, distracting the creativity. What I feel is that we need to focus 100% on the creative process, which is essential for a designer.
Polina Oganicheva @ Supreme Management
Top et pantalon en soie grise chinée, Erika Cavallini. Veste en PVC transparent, Norma Kamali pour The Outnet.
Réalisation : Yann Weber. Casting : Beth Dubin. Coiffure: Gilles Degivry. Maquillage: Satoko Watanabe
How do you try and make your brand stand out from the hundreds of other labels?
Sometimes trends run the risk of smoothing over the creativity, this is the reason why I try to let my personality, “my personal truth”, come out through my job, without ignoring what is happening in the world. I just try not to be too much influenced by fashion. In this historical moment, where there is strong gender confusion, I’d like to put the attention on the feminine side of my woman. This is my way to stand out from the hundreds of other labels.
I know that Italy is still your biggest market but is there anywhere else in the world that you have found a surprising amount of success?
To tell you the truth the trend is now changing. Our international network is going through a strong growth period. But I’m also happy about still having a positive feedback in the Italian market. Italy is still a special place where you can “breath” fashion, where it’s possible to reach unique manufacturer options.
Regarding the international market, I’m still very surprised about the success I’ve reached in Russia and Arabian countries, if I think how different these markets are compared to each other. Furthermore, it is not our strategy to specifically conceive any part of my collection for a unique market area. My job is authentic and univocally directed. For these reasons, the positive results in these different countries are even more surprising.
Erika Cavallini fall-winter 2016 campaign
Do you think it is still important to have physical flagship stores?
I think the physical flagship store is losing its importance because online purchases are faster and easier. But the flagships are still important for the image of a brand. What is still interesting is the multi brand Department and Concept stores, where many ideas and brands mixed together can offer a different vision of the products.
Do you think consumers are as brand obsessed as always or are they more interested in following a designer, rather than a label?
I think it depends from the fashion historical moment. Nowadays consumers are brand obsessed especially when it comes to accessories. On the other hand, there is so much curiosity on the clothing side and this make it possible for new designer to emerge even if consumers pay attention to the positioning of the brand and to the price. I think that there is space for everyone in the market.
Anything else I should know about you or your brand?
I always like to draw attention to the fact that behind my label there are hard working young men and women that every day make my job possible. My gratitude goes to them and to my country as well, that still conserves the genuine humus and the best historical manufacturer talents in the whole world. My country has given so much to me professionally speaking, so I’m very proud to be Italian.