Her keen eye defies categorization. Italian born designer Claudia Ligari, now based in London, studied Fashion at Instituto Marangoni and graduated in 2004. Having finished her studies, Ligari did her internship at Alexander McQueen's studio working on the menswear collection. Soon after, she showed a fiercely talent by launching her label in Spring Summer 2011. Claudia was selected finalist among the MUUSE x Vogue Talents competition and was featured in Vogue Italia's "Vogue Talents". Her Spring/Summer 2014 collection is an unconventional triumph of feminine sensuality with a peculiar androgyny.
What was your childhood like?
I was born in a small village near Lake Como, in the north of Italy. Life was very simple and slow paced, and even though it was a lovely area to grow up I always felt out of place. I felt uncomfortable with people’s mentality and my thoughts and passions where often quite different from everyone else's, so I found it pretty difficult to accomplish my dreams. I didn’t know much about fashion as no one here was even remotely interested in fashion. My approach to it was progressive and quite “personal”, even when I first moved to Milan to study fashion design I was completely ignorant about the subject! I just trusted my guts and my passions. I knew what I liked and that was enough to get me started.
How did you get into fashion and ultimately become a fashion designer?
As I just mentioned, it was basically a matter of guts and what I felt I was passionate about. When I first started my course in Milan I didn’t know much about the subject so it took me quite sometime to develop my own personality and taste. For the first two years I felt I didn't belong there. Eventually, during my third year there, thanks to a great tutor, I started to mould this passion into something more tangible and began to understand what kind of style was more my cup of tea. But it wasn’t until I moved to London that I’ve unleashed myself and developed my very own taste, personality and most important, my own signature. London has been the key to discover myself. London tickled my imagination and strengthened my skills, I felt free immediately, from the very first minute, and this is the most important thing when you are a creative person. It was this state of mind that helped me become the person and designer I am today.
You live between London and somewhere near Lake Como in Italy...
After 9 years in London I felt it was time for a challenge and decided to move somewhere new. I wanted the brand to progress and move on to a higher level but to do so I needed to be more realistic about the label’s needs. This meant more space, a better manufacture, more sales and more cash flow. Italy seemed like the best decision as here, in my own country, I am able to achieve an outstanding quality manufacture and stay true to the brand’s philosophy of delivering quality timeless garments.
How has your background in fashion informed your design?
More than my background I think it’s my heritage and the life I lived in London that is reflected in my designs, giving my garments that specific look of minimalistic femininity.
A few words around your first and stunning collection.
I drew it all in one night! I had no time as I was running really late for a competition I wanted to enter. I already had some sketches I had done a few weeks before but I hadn't managed to put the whole thing together as I was working full-time for someone else. In the end it all started to come together after having seen some images of the famous “slashed” canvas from Lucio Fontana. I thought it would be a great idea to merge this concept with the body shape and create a rib cage with slashed leather. It was also the first time for me working with leather, but I embraced the challenge as I wanted to use a material that was the closest to skin. I wanted to play with the idea of conceal/reveal and place the cut-outs and slashes in strategic areas of the garments. It turned to be quite a challenge for my pattern cutter!
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
I never really have an specific inspiration. To be honest, I always work the opposite way they taught me at school. I rarely put a mood board together but I always have something in mind each time I start a new collection, a small detail I’ve seen somewhere(in a picture for instance), and I then start sketching quite randomly around it. Soon after, the process evolves into loads of sketches and more random images all scattered around the studio. It's when everything has been skimmed down to a story that it starts making some sense, with a unique concept running through each garment. With this collection I wanted to develop a product that was comfortable and wearable without compromising the brand’s signature: timeless and unisex products. My starting point was sportswear as usual, so all I did was to develop my AW'13 collection into a revised Summer version keeping that “sport/luxe” look that defines Claudia Ligari.
Tell us about the restrained palette.
I love it. I’m completely in love with 'one colour, one fabric' outfits. Colour block outfits stand out from the crowd and talk for themselves. I find them stunning, clean and elegant.
What piece of this SS'14 collection are you most proud of and why?
I’m completely in love with my waxed cotton mac with deep side splits. I have been trying to develop that for three seasons now, but for some reason I never got to the right shape. We had a million fittings before the coat was actually perfect. There are times when you picture something in your head but it doesn't go with the sketch; it’s more a working progress, the real shape only comes out when you work on the toile.
Could the Claudia Ligari collection be qualified as "unisex"?
Definitely. Actually,most of my costumers are male! It makes me very happy to see my product has managed to get to both women and menswear markets, broadening my client base. Personally, when I go shopping myself I tend to find more things at the menswear department.
What does the “fashion industry” mean to you?
To me it's more about what lays behind, the long and laborious process and all the people it involves to make something amazing by hand. I think the "fashion industry" should be more respected but unfortunately today, it's more superficial than ever. It’s not all about what you wear and who you are, it’s about what you deliver and what you create it. I believe it's a form of art although it's ever considered as such.
How does art and music enrich your vision?
I was born in a family of antique dealers so to me, being surrounded by beautiful art and furniture is quite vital. I missed that when I was in London. However, I had other things to look at…the people, the modern and old architecture, even the different situations I was finding myself in fed my creativity! Music is also very important to me, I tend to listen to the same album or same songs throughout the whole season, so often, when I hear a song I link it to a specific collection I was working on.
How would you describe Claudia Ligari in three words?
Stubborn, dreamer and feisty
Which are your goals for the future?
I just moved back to Italy after nine years living in London, so that is a big challenge already. My plan is to finalize the production over here in order to achieve an outstanding product and place the label on a different level, a higher level. I believe we put love in anything we do here, this is why our products always make a difference. It might sound cheesy but it’s the truth. It's beanery refreshing for me to come back here and work with people who pay so much attention to detail and are passionate about everything they do! At the moment I want to focus on establishing the brand in order to gain a higher international recognition.