Italian accessory designer Francesca Castagnacci’s latest collection is a mix of traditional craftsmanship techniques and advanced technologies.
Text by Anna Battista
Based in Tuscany and working between Florence and Prato, Francesca Castagnacci, a graduate of the accessory design course at the Polimoda Institute, mainly focuses on a sort of dichotomic exploration, rediscovering traditional craftsmanship techniques and mixing them with advanced technologies. Her latest collection includes shoes and headpieces that feature pleated and draped elements recreated using a light-emitting fabric called Luminex (www.luminex.it). According to Castagnacci researching into new materials and technologies without forgetting the highest traditional standards is the way forward in fashion.
ZOOT : Can you tell us more about your background? Where did you study fashion design?
Francesca Castagnacci : I always had a passion for drawing and I first attended an Art School, getting a diploma in art history and goldsmithing. Then I continued my studies in goldsmithing at the Florence-based Faculty of Architecture. When I finished my course there I went to Ireland for a while since I was fascinated by the Celtic culture. I worked as an au pair girl and collaborated with a jewellery shop. While I was in Ireland I heard about a competition launched by the Salvatore Ferragamo fashion house that asked the participants to draw four pairs of shoes inspired by contemporary art. I took part in it, won the competition and got a grant to attend the Polimoda Institute in Florence where I studied accessory design.
ZOOT : What inspired your latest collection?
Francesca Castagnacci : The main idea for this project came from a basic concept focused on innovative designs and inspired by the universe and the cosmos. I basically wanted to transform passive items into active/reactive objects using light-emitting textiles. In this way the accessories transformed into luminous stars. One of my main aims throughout the entire collections was looking at the future, but keeping an eye on past traditions, getting the knowledge from the past to create futuristic pieces.
ZOOT : For this collection you used an innovative textile called Luminex: what prompted you to use it and did you do a lot of researches about new materials before working on this collection?
Francesca Castagnacci: I looked at different innovative materials, but mainly moved from traditional craftsmanship techniques also bearing in mind that genuine “Made in Italy” products are based on very high standards. I therefore looked at draping and pleating techniques created using special presses, then added to my designs an architectural edge and tried to turn them into wearable sculptures. I analysed in depth the possibilities that new technologies could have offered me, opting for Luminex for what regarded the uppers and micro-fusion for the heels.
ZOOT : Did you find it difficult to use Luminex?
Francesca Castagnacci : Well, first of all this is a rather expensive optical fibre-based fabric, but it’s produced by a Prato-based company that acquired the patent to manufacture it and they agreed to sponsor me, which was great. The hardest part was cutting the material in the right way, because if you cut the fibres in the wrong way you’ll end up severing them and they won’t emit any light, so I had to be extremely careful in my choices of shapes and silhouettes.
ZOOT : What would you prefer for what regards the future, working for a fashion house or developing your own designs and accessory lines?
Francesca Castagnacci: Apart for working for different jewellery companies and goldsmithers, in the past I did a stage at Swarovski in Milan and also worked as a freelancer for Harmont & Blaine. I think what I’d like to do now is collaborating with different companies while focusing also on my own creations. It would be wonderful if one day celebrities or performers like Lady Gaga would wear my designs, but I feel I need to gain more experience and I’m sure that working for other fashion houses will help me developing further inspirations along the “tradition Vs technology” line.
All images courtesy of Francesca Castagnacci.