From founder Diletta Cancellato comes Cancellato, a brand committed to learn from the good and bad of our present, in order to design for a better future. With a strongly affirmed embrace of sustainability, the brand proposes a “reinvention of expressionism” in their debut collection, #BLACKandWHITE, equally driven by a firm concept and by an organic engagement and somatic experiences of the human body.
The collection is not, as the title might indicate, all black and white. Earthly tones and, at times, ambiguous shapes, cover and uncover the body, in a search for harmony between body and garment – a commentary on the current state of fashion industries, where designers and consumers alike fall prey to a type of blind consumerism, in which the garment, the environment, and very often the human body are being abused.
We spoke with designer Diletta Cancellato, to find out more about the direction of the brand, the vision for this collection, and the role of fashion design in reinventing and reimagining a more sustainable world.
Elena Stanciu: Tell me a bit about your creative ethos and what role does this new collection play in it?
Diletta Cancellato: Creativity to me is about having something to say and finding the best way to communicate it through a physical object, which is not enough by itself, but which has to be produced and used. I usually search for a certain tactile feeling, which, when touched with eyes closed, it gives you something. In this collection I was particularly trying to find that tactile feeling of the body when it is manipulated, squeezed, and twisted, but also certain skin textures and feelings, such as goose bumps. The garments are a part of this process of research, not the arrival point, because there is no limit, but a step forward.
E.S: Expressionism as a movement opposes affect to objective reality – is this something you explore with this collection? What can you tell me about the balance between subjectivity and emotion on the one hand, and objectivity, realism and functionality, on the other, relative to your inspiration and creative expression?
D.C: That is the real challenge: to be able to push a concept, an atmosphere, and a personal emotion without getting lost into it, while making garments than can also stand by themselves. I think it is crucial to find an overall balance. Expressionism and functionality in fashion design are equally important and they shouldn’t just proceed independently, in parallel. It is an organic process in which they must challenge and enrich one another, without one prevailing. A dualistic approach that starts all the way from the inspiration.
E.S: You mark this collection as an exercise of “reinvention” – what drove you to this approach to design? Do you find that innovation is something that the fashion world lacks today? Could it be done better/more?
D.C: Reinvention, evolution, questioning oneself and what has been done to find new and better solutions should be the driving force of fashion. However, the fashion industry is a very contradictory space. It has so much potential that it could be, and it was supposed to be, one of the most advanced and innovative industries of all, but instead it is very reluctant to change. There are techniques that are used today almost as they were thousands of years ago and so many new ones being developed, of which no one takes advantage.
The run for chasing seasons, which in a globalised, online, and globetrotter world don’t make sense anymore, and the demand to always produce something new has led to a situation in which nothing really new is made: mostly a lot of repetitions and self-copies. Something is happening, finally, from a structural point of view, especially in regard of sustainability, human rights, and animal welfare, which is amazing, but not enough, still. On our side, we are now just at the starting point, but I feel this subject as an entrepreneurial as well as personal mission.
E.S: What role does technological research play for you?
D.C: Technological research is one of the core values of the brand. I have recently attended a talk in Milan of Annie Warburton (UK Crafts Council Creative Director) on “the new making” through Technological Craft as the real tool for innovation and it has been extremely inspiring. Even though knitwear is still highly linked to artisanal hand-made processes, it is also the field in which the most advanced machines are developed. What can be done with them is extraordinary and I want to explore it as much as possible to reach their full potential. I strongly believe that the union between technological opportunities and the knowledge of the hands can produce amazing results.
E.S: I can see you are very inclined towards activism and social responsibility – how do you integrate sustainability in your design work, execution, and market distribution of your creations?
D.C: Sustainability to me is more of a driver than a final goal. It is too often related only to the final product, while to me it has to be developed on different levels and integrated from day one of the design process. Not wasting paper or energy every day is as important to me as choosing the right materials for the final product. The collection is designed to be all fully-fashioned knitwear, which means there is no waste of materials from cutting, as well as being made to last. To sensitise the final costumers to a long-term attitude, all of the garments will carry with their labels the yarns they are made of, in order to encourage fixing instead of just throwing away.
For the launch of the collection we presented a collaboration with Wolford, who sent us a huge amount of nude colours “pre-consumption waste” tights, which I used to create two unique handmade garments: a coat and a pair of pants, which, other than representing conceptually the archetype of the diversity of the human body (another subject very important to us), they were aimed at drawing attention to a culture of re-use – your waste, my treasure.
E.S: Knitwear presupposes both organic elements, very close to nature, as well as technical, mechanic ones – can you speak a bit about your own “twist on knitwear”?
D.C: I don’t see knitwear as sweaters. I see knitwear as the most futuristic technique in terms of possibilities, not only in fashion but in so many different fields, from science, to construction and engineering, thanks to the structures and properties it allows, its versatility and the sustainable quality of fully-fashioning. The difference to me lies in the approach. That is why I use only knitwear to build a collection, I don’t feel the necessity of using fabric because I can create any textile I want through knitwear and the possibilities are endless. If most people look at knitwear as sweaters, I look at it as an opportunity.
E.S: The body as a point of inspiration is central to this collection – if we define the body as “situation” rather than “object” (via Simone de Beauvoir), what “situations” would you say moved/inspired you most in developing these pieces?
D.C: I’ve always been attracted by the natural body in its everyday intimacy, that situation of being with yourself, and those little moments of accidental poetry that usually lie there, unrecognised. Recently I started to question the meaning of the body in our contemporary social media driven society. The continuous flow of voyeurism and exhibitionism from one screen to another has brought to a new exploration of the self, a new liberation of the naked body and together with it a new form of “social standards of decency,” (e.g. the Instagram control over women’s nipples) which develops into personal censorship in order to be accepted. In this collection, there are no judgments, it’s just my response to a cultural phenomenon of which I am fully part of.
E.S: What should we expect from Cancellato in the future?
D.C: Lots of knitwear.
Words: Elena Stanciu