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‘Dress how you want, not how you should:’ Adrian Appiolaza takes the helm at Moschino

By Scarlett Conlon, CNN

Milan (CNN) — Trompe ‘l’oeil suspenders, resplendent ruffles, and polka dots aplenty: the 1980s Moschino archive was out in force to mark Adrian Appiolaza’s debut as creative director at the house on Thursday evening in Milan, albeit filtered through a fresh perspective.

“It was about taking Franco Moschino’s masterpieces and bringing them back to life while balancing the theatricality that he was known for,” said Appiolaza at a preview of the pieces before the show. “Today, it’s important for people to feel related to the collection.”

The designer, who joins the house from a 10-year stint as womenswear design director at Loewe (preceded by design roles at Alexander McQueen, Miguel Andover and Chloé under Phoebe Philo), only had a matter of weeks to prepare this collection. His predecessor, Davide Renne, who took the reins from long-term designer Jeremy Scott last year, suddenly passed away in November just days into his role.

As an avid collector and self-proclaimed archivist, Appiolaza’s instinct took him straight to the founder Franco Moschino’s back catalogue. “Knowing the time I had, it was the most intelligent thing to do,” he said. “I think the fact that there was not a lot of time also helped me to be decisive and not to overthink things which was a good recipe for something that didn’t feel like too overthought.”

From ties that came as prints on silk tunics and folded into headwear and the trademark curly question mark emblazoned on tops and tailoring, to cowboy double denim, spliced Stetsons and the iconic Smiley face, the references rolled out in a refreshingly wardrobe-relevant way. Elsewhere, the LOVE lettering and peace symbols that Moschino – a trained artist – painted but never translated into clothes were splashed across the majority of looks.

“Peace is one of his most iconic symbols of Franco and I saw that it was natural that this needed to come out for my first show,” said Appiolazza. “As a general thing when I’m talking about the message (I want) to send it’s a universal message of peace and unity. (Franco) was very known and very strong in this in this matter.”

The 51-year-old designer has taken a similar overarching approach to Moschino in his direction for the house. The late designer was famous for taking the fashion industry with a healthy pinch of salt. As one of the original power-players-cum-disruptors, his relationship with the industry that made him famous was famously love-hate, as he detailed in an interview with GQ shortly before his death in 1994 in which he said “the ones who really understand (my work) are the ones who can’t afford it, the people out there on the street” and “a Moschino design must look and feel like the kind of Moschino design the public understand”.

At a preview with CNN before the show, Appiolaza said that for him, “fashion and getting dressed in clothing is about not taking yourself too seriously and to have fun with it. Dress how you want, not how you should, that’s something Franco used to say and I believe in.”

“For me, creativity doesn’t need to be taking an idea in a very abstract conceptual way,” he continued. “This is interesting, and it’s important, but you can also be very creative by just playing with real clothes, and then just push them somewhere where they still can be exciting and unique.”

Comparisons with Jeremy Scott, whose 10-year tenure provided iconic pop-culture moments including Katy Perry dressed as a chandelier for the 2019 Met Gala and motifs drawn from  McDonalds, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Tweety Bird, are inevitable but moot given the two designers’ very different experience, aesthetic and approaches.

Having been building up to the top-billing for the last three decades, Appiolaza said he feels ready for the responsibility a creative director role brings: “It feels like it was due to come to this point and it’s amazing to have this opportunity to finally be able to express what I feel about fashion and take my creativity to the level where I can be proud of it — and have the credit.”

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