He’s an intellectual, a lover of good literature, a fan of Goethe, but also of the more contemporary Paul Auster, and it’s not widely known that he has a degree in Philosophy of Communicative Processes from the University of L'Aquila. Not only is Luca Imbimbo one of the most photographed figures at fashion shows, because of his indisputable elegance, but he is also the Italian editor of what is considered one of the new international style bibles, “declined in the masculine” a printed magazine with a very popular online version called “Fucking Young!”. It’s his careful analysis of what’s happening in fashion and how this has a direct correlation to what’s happening in other creative circles that makes Imbimbo the perfect person to continue the research we began with Antonio Mancinelli into the “genderless” style. So here’s our chat with Luca Imbimbo.
The concept of genderless certainly isn’t new, I think back to the arrival of the Japanese in Europe in the eighties and the minimalist aesthetic of certain designers in the nineties. In your opinion, has the concept and how people relate to it changed from then to now?
Well, dear Stefano, the subject would require a deep analysis that would risk boring even the most enthusiastic reader. I’ll try to be brief, very brief. If you focus on the concept of genderless, which is closely linked to fashion, it’s very clear that we aren’t discovering something new. It’s always existed; think of the Greeks or Romans. The “illuminated” theatre danced around the edges of the idea, the 18th century embellished it and delivered it to us in its contingent form. Giorgio Armani communicated the idea strongly by deconstructing the typical male jacket at the end of the ‘70’s and transforming it into an object of desire for the Tess McGill’s of the world (nouveau hippies in control for the first time). In the course of time we’ve often spoken of genderless at various moments. Said simply, this is a case of history repeating itself.
In reality, I don’t believe that its essence has been changed by secular evolution, the change is merely formal. Today for example, it’s strictly connected to the historical moment that we are living. The international economic crisis, whether it’s real or fictional, has sharpened the intelligence of the majority. Some Northern European and Asian countries, Korea and Japan primarily, have started a process of simplification or improvement of items for sale. We are seeing the continual progress of designers capable of creating high quality, entirely unisex, all-weather garments that don’t follow any particular trend. The average consumer finds this attractive, sees the potential of this style and is tempted to try it.
The genderless concept has also received a lot of attention thanks to the success of the designs of the new Gucci designer, Alessandro Michele. In your opinion, why has there been such a huge media and public interest in the new era of Gucci?
The “Michele phenomenon” burst onto the scene at the right time and in the right way for the market. Whether it was a brilliant marketing ploy by the brand or the pure genius of the designer doesn’t matter. The success has been undeniable and in my belief it is deserved. However, I don’t believe that this success is concretely linked to the concept of genderless, even though it does emerge clearly in both men’s collections presented by Michele. I am convinced instead that it’s linked to Michele’s capacity to be evocative and at the same time classically avant-garde. Michele has reinterpreted the brand DNA in an original way, respecting its history and importance. He extolled an Italian sense of luxury that had been buried for some time. He did it lightly, but never frivolously, drawing in a new young audience who is already used to not being hindered by the rigid rules of masculine and feminine.
Assuming that it can really have an impact on the taste of the general public, how does this new “genderless” approach translate itself into our daily life and routine? In that sense, in your opinion, will it be a passing phenomenon?
Society is merging roles, it’s a natural evolution. We are used to it. There isn’t a single predefined approach for the concept. The different cultural organisms have absorbed traces of it; they have chewed and digested it, including fashion. For this reason we can’t define it as a passing phenomenon because it isn’t (a phenomenon I mean). Probably as time passes by we won’t talk about it as much, we will get used to it as it is today, and we will lose interest. Maybe in ten years’ time it will take on a new form and we will talk about it again, precisely as we do now.
Excluding Gucci, who we have already mentioned, what other brands in your opinion are translating this type of transversality in the most interesting manner and why?
As I mentioned before, there is a current, principally north European, that has made conceptual minimalism and its declinations (including genderless) its point of strength. For the most part I’m talking about designers who create basic garments, versatile and adaptable. The high brands of the international fashion system have not been indifferent to this type of tendency: they’ve made it their own, without distorting it. In these cases the process of integration is more subtle and less clear, certainly sophisticated and often unconventional. I’m thinking of Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, J.W. Anderson, Damir Doma, Thom Browne, Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake, Xander Zhou, Katie Eary, Todd Lynn, Siki Im. They are all completely different from one another but all with the same minimum common denominator.