Sara Lanzi, the Designer Approved by Rei Kawakubo

Sara Lanzi, the Designer Approved by Rei Kawakubo

Get to know the Italian designer rising up in the ranks.

Get to know the Italian designer rising up in the ranks.

Text: Danielle Combs

Most burgeoning designers dream of a mentorship with the revolutionary Rei Kawakubo, and for Sara Lanzi, the experience has helped to catapult her into the limelight. Since showing her first collection during Paris Fashion Week in 2007, Kawakubo has been a silent figure, popping into Lanzi’s studio each season to view her collections composed of subtle serene colors, voluminous silhouettes, and whimsical designs.

Today, the self-taught designer heralding from Perugia, Italy is well on her way to establishing her eponymous line, now stocked at Dover Street Market in New York and London. In an exclusive interview with V, Sara Lanzi sits down to discuss her mentorship with the legendary designer, how subtle types of femininity influence her designs, and her harmonious approach to crafting clothes.

At what moment, did you decide you wanted to work in fashion or become a fashion designer? 

It happened by chance. Since I remember, I was always drawing clothes, but I never took it seriously. I started with fashion when I was still attending university. I had my own style, someone noticed it, and directed me to a fashion company. At first I worked on the images, then I was asked to make a small sequence of geometric pieces. After a while, I started working on my personal project.

How did growing up in Italy enhance or change the way you perceive fashion? 

I was a child and a teenager in the ‘80s, and I was completely fascinated by fashion. After all, it seemed like a very distant world, unattainable with its golden shining of magic and power. The word stilista, used in Italy well before the birth of the stylist, inspired reverence and also a certain subjection. Growing up during those years has certainly influenced my sensitivity—perhaps this is why I loved Romeo Gigli above all, who marked a step forward compared to the assertiveness of that time.

How did being a self-taught designer allow you to grow or experiment with new designs? 

The most difficult part was not the invention but rather the production of a piece of clothing, and therefore the construction of a collection. For me it was essential to know and try to master all the phases of the work, including the production process. Precisely because I was not a fashion designer, I needed to create a personal and intimate context in which I could experiment and grow.

Rei Kawakubo has been one of your mentors. How did having her guidance along the way help you to find your voice or aesthetic as a designer? And how did the two of you meet? 

We met in my showroom during Paris Fashion Week, years ago. She came for a buying appointment and it was an incredibly emotional experience for me. Rei is apart of every designer's heritage due to the enormous cultural impact of her research and work. Comme des Garçons is an indispensable reference; a statement, for girls who do not want to feel trapped in the imposition of cuteness. She possessed all the characteristics one can hope for from a mentor—strength, courage, and generosity.

Your collections possess a certain air of whimsy mixed with serene colors. How would you describe your aesthetic as a designer? What are the materials and silhouettes you’re typically drawn to? 

I'm looking for a balance, maybe because I'm a Libra. I like to play with tensions, lines of opposing force to be composed in a harmonious picture. They can be colors, fabrics, or proportions. I need to have a contrast, however it must be subtle and discreet.

Your black vinyl-coated ruffled coat and dress are some of my favorite pieces from your line. What inspired you to craft such awe-inducing garments? 

The coat was something that I wanted to keep clean and liquid. Because the material is light and flat, even if the shininess gives it a 3D depth, I added movement with maxi ruffles and adjustable flounces. This is the part of the collection that speaks a little louder. The collection is like a song: you need to have different tones to make it sound.

What is your creative design process like? Where do you look for inspiration? 

I am always inspired by materials that I match with the sort of femininity I am interested in. So fabrics are the first input. Also, I have my archetypes that make up my vocabulary or the dialogue between femininity and masculinity, the balance between rigour and lightness, poetry and strength. These are topics that I face in each collection.

How did it feel when you heard that Dover Street Market in New York and London would be selling your pieces? 

I was ecstatic and it was a very important moment for my work. In addition to being part of one of the most contemporary concept stores in the world, it meant starting to deal with great professionals, a contingency that ushered in a period of growth, for myself and for my brand.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career thus far? 

Someone once told me that clothes must be real, and I always keep it in my mind when I’m designing.

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