Marco De Vincenzo Image Credit: Supplied

After decades under family leadership, the iconic Italian house known for its kaleidoscopic prints and free-spirited flair embraced a fresh perspective when Marco De Vincenzo, the Messina-born designer, took the helm in 2022. Since then, De Vincenzo has been meticulously injecting new life into the brand's DNA while ensuring its heritage remains vibrantly intact. He has subtly evolved Etro's pattern-saturated aesthetic in his own distinct direction, drawing inspiration from his passion for fabrics and textiles. The Kurator caught up with De Vincenzo to delve into this exciting transition and explore his vision for Etro's evolution, including its continued presence in the Middle East, marked by the remarkable refurbishment of the Dubai Mall boutique earlier this year.

How do you define Etro as a brand and how does it stand out from others?

Etro embodies maximalism; it's a bold brand, and isn’t quite luxury, but rather celebrated for its prints, colors, and textiles, which set it apart in today's market. We're striving to evolve it into a lifestyle brand, capitalising on its strong connection with the textile industry. Textiles are omnipresent; they define our homes and environments. My personal background in textiles and fabrics aligns perfectly with Etro's philosophy. Upon joining the brand, I immediately connected with Mr. Etro, sharing a mutual passion for fabric production and drawing inspiration from textiles. Starting from a piece of fabric rather than a sketch is fundamental to my design process.

Image Credit: Supplied

It's very interesting to know about the creative process. So is it choosing the textile your starting point?

Yes, choosing textiles is indeed my starting point. While sketching used to be my primary method, my perspective shifted about 15 years ago when I visited factories for the first time. I realised that everything originates from an industry and the people involved in production. This realisation transformed my approach, and now I always start with selecting a textile. It opens up a world of possibilities where instinct guides me through a plethora of options, whether it's floral patterns or geometric designs. This moment is magical; it's about creating a unique patchwork that finds balance in combining different elements, echoing Etro's essence of blending patterns and surfaces.

Do you follow trends and how do you balance?

I believe in understanding fashion trends to stay relevant, but I don't base my designs solely on them. Trends have short lifespans, so it's crucial to infuse them with the brand's heritage and personal vision. My aim is to strike a balance between incorporating contemporary touches while respecting Etro's legacy. Achieving this balance was particularly gratifying in a recent collection where I felt a strong alignment between past and future, introducing new elements while staying true to the brand's DNA. This delicate balance continues to shape my design journey, including our latest Autumn/Winter 2024 collection.

Did it take long to know your territories and to define what is “Etro and you”?

It's been a journey to understand my role within Etro while preserving my identity. Integrating personal elements into the brand's narrative is essential to maintain authenticity. My experiences, such as working with Fendi, taught me to navigate the delicate balance between tradition and transformation within a family-owned brand undergoing change. This balance is crucial as a creative director; it's about respecting the brand's heritage while infusing it with fresh perspectives. Over time, I've found comfort in this equilibrium, allowing me to contribute to Etro's evolution while staying true to myself.

What do you find in common between the aesthetics of Etro and those of this region?

Etro's aesthetic resonates with this region's vibrant culture, rooted in a diverse tapestry of global influences. The brand's penchant for incorporating prints, decorations, and textiles from various cultures mirrors the rich cultural tapestry found in this region. This connection is deeply ingrained in Etro's history, stemming from Mr. Etro's fascination with collecting artifacts from around the world. Each Etro collection embodies a multicultural narrative, drawing inspiration from distant lands and infusing them with a contemporary twist. This fusion of global influences creates a unique aesthetic that transcends borders, resonating with audiences worldwide.

Can you share your experience with the virtual world and the new campaign, particularly your role in the creative direction?

It was a significant experience for me, particularly because it involved venturing into unfamiliar territory with AI. As someone rooted in traditional methods, delving into this realm was quite a departure. I typically prefer tangible tools like pencils in my work. However, collaborating with Sylvia, who brings her perspective as a painter and photographer, was enlightening. Working closely with her every 15 days ensured that our vision aligned with the direction the machine was taking. Sylvia had the autonomy to make adjustments, redo aspects, or refine elements as needed. What stood out most was the human touch in our collaboration and in the campaign itself. Despite the involvement of AI, our conversations, ideas, and shared keywords were crucial. Initially, we fed the machine words derived from our discussions and inspirations. The machine then attempted to interpret this mix of language. Sometimes, it hit the mark, other times not. Ultimately, it was up to us to discern which direction to pursue. Sylvia referred to these directions as "rooms," the starting points for our creative process. Once we found a direction we liked, we would incorporate real clothing into these virtual environments to bring them to life. So, in essence, the campaign was about merging the virtual with reality. It was a collaborative effort where human interaction, conversation, and genuine connection played a pivotal role in shaping the final outcome.

Image Credit: Supplied

What is different between such a campaign using AI and then like previous campaigns that you are doing?

Working on a campaign with AI introduced a novel approach to creativity, emphasizing collaboration between technology and human touch. Unlike traditional shoots, which can be fast-paced and impersonal, collaborating with Sylvia, the AI artist, was a more immersive experience. Spending quality time together allowed for deeper conversations about fashion, inspiration, and artistry. Despite the technological aspect, the campaign retained a human element, with Sylvia acting as an artist using AI tools to create her vision. This blend of technology and human creativity resulted in a campaign that felt authentic and innovative, showcasing the limitless possibilities of modern storytelling.

You work across different categories. First, which is your favorite?

My favorite category to work on is bags, given my extensive experience in leather goods. After spending 25 years crafting bags, it's become my comfort zone and a significant part of my life. However, what I particularly enjoy at Etro is working on the home collection. Personally, I have a passion for interior decoration, spending much of my free time curating items for my home. Working on the home collection is incredibly inspiring for me. What I find fascinating about Etro is that every category is interconnected. Whether it's textiles for home decor or fashion, there's fluidity in the creative process. Patterns from one collection can seamlessly transition into another, blurring the lines between categories. This interconnectedness allows for limitless creativity and is something I find truly amazing.