I remember someone once told me that all the best looking, aesthetic concerned, and fashion know-it-all Italians come from the North of Italy. Claudia Ligari is one such person, coming from the north, near Lake Como. When she claims she’s known she was going to be a designer of women’s fashion ‘since she was born’, there isn’t much room for debate. Inherently it seems, she was meant for fashion. “I wouldn’t even let my mum dress me!” she says, remembering her youth. “My favourite game was dressing up in my mum’s clothes and making outfits for my dolls!”
She’s come a way since then, but never straying too far from her love of dressing and dressing up, and eventually designing a life-size wardrobe of her own. From those days as a fussy kid playing dress up and making outfits for dolls, to student life studying art and fashion design at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Claudia has realized five full collections and is creating a signature style along the way, a label she can put her name on.
“My goal,” she says, “is to become my own boss.”
In getting to know Claudia better in asking about her life and work, I feel as though I might very well be talking to myself, if you know, I was ever to become a designer. I mean, the resemblances in our ‘likes’, in terms of fashion, her love of Martin Margiela, Lanvin, Ann Demeulemeester, Hussein Chalayan; an appreciation of Japanese design; her regard for Antwerp as the best city for fashion; and most imperative, her daily uniform of ‘total black’.
Black. Some would say ‘lighten up, will yah?’ But for me, I remember another designer, and yet another of mutual like between Claudia and myself — Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy. “Black” he says, “is always elegant. It is the most complete color in the whole world, made of all the colors in the palette.” For Tisci, a woman wearing black is eternally sexy. “She is aristocratic, dark, sensual and romantic.” Black. It’s the reason why I was drawn to Claudia’s clothes in the first place. Her collection for the Autumn and Winter 2012/13 season is one that uses my favorite color-non color in a seemingly endless range of style variations, the brightest color extending to a shade of grey. Jackets with chunky zippers, interesting rippled textures and perfectly placed pockets, dresses of see-thru layers that don’t so much evoke femininity as they do a sense of mystery, carefully pieced leather-work, simple silhouettes and well-edited accessories, like leather caps and elbow length gloves. Claudia insists she would never be caught wearing a matching bag and shoes. But I wonder maybe she if she would, if they both were black…
“It’s the feeling, the vibrations that (black and white) give me. When I wear black, I feel myself and when I think of white, I feel good, light. They are pure colors. The ‘non-colors’ for excellence.”
There’s lots of places designers these days can ‘steal’ from, so to speak, in terms of ideas for developing their collections. In trying to be more innovative, fresh and new looking, young designers in fashion these days have more references than ever to draw from, and while a full library may seem better than an empty one, you could end up in a slush pile. There needs to be some sort of filter, a sense of cutting out. For Claudia, whose main source of inspiration is the people around her, this could seem like one too many inputs. The designer finds all types of people really fascinating. ‘Often something about the way they move and speak” she says. “I design each of my collections with a person in mind, and I think about what they would wear. Then I think of something that really clashes with this first idea, and I translate it into fabrications. This is the inspiration that drives most of the collections…most of the time there isn’t a story, to me it’s more about what you are in real life, and what you would like to wear to express yourself .” Moreover without looking like you are trying to do so.
“Fashion forms part of people’s everyday life, and everybody is involved, even if not everyone likes to admit it”.
The real test of the designer then, is not only garnering inspiration from all sorts of wonderful places and people, but truly in taking all of this and creating a oneness, a cohesive idea that makes sense, from concept to fabrication. That idea of simplifying things, it’s not so much what you can add to something, but what you can take away. And when you’ve finally taken away everything you can without taking away everything, then you’ve reached its simplest form, then you’ve found the solution. Things that appear simple are simply not, because it is almost always harder to take away, than to add. Claudia sums up “The more simple (the clothing) is, the more difficult it was to get the silhouette right. Less is more…”
“Five words that describe me are: strong, stubborn, fun, messy (in any way you can think), demanding”.
Claudia’s pieces under her eponymous label are ones that we have seen before and yet they are pieces we have never seen before. Her approach to ‘simple’ design is design that intends to create a well-made garment versus a fashion statement. “I think ‘fashion people’ take themselves too seriously” she says. Though she does admit the label does take over her whole life, that her passion and personal life are all melded into one, she does not see the point of pushing creativity. “I like what I do and I work really hard, but I’m not trying to push myself to the point where I start to hate it.”
I think that starts to become the battle with any one who creates, whether it be in fashion, art, music, any artistic endeavors. When the artist feels that he or she isn’t pushing themselves hard enough, or when creating becomes about that intense push all the time. There is a balance to recognize in knowing that there is always room for improvement, there is always a chance to get better, but also knowing when to take a step back and say ok, that’s as far as we can go this time. You may not always love the end result, but you can be sort of satisfied with it. You can only get better the next time around, or at least that’s the motivator to continue creating.
I think maybe Claudia has found her formula that she’s comfortable with, at least for now. I mean, when we ask her what her clothes might say if they could speak, she quips “Don’t I look great?”