Subtle Subversiveness Alessandro Dell’Acqua of N°21 encourages women to break the rules and find their freedom of expression
Alessandro Dell’Acqua delivered a masterful collection for the tenth anniversary of N°21. This was a clear crowd-pleaser, and not just because of the dynamic remix of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” that it was set to. The starting point was a men’s pinstripe shirt, but he took it to a whole other level in formulating this tight, coherent body of work. In fact, when he speaks of designing for a woman who “lives on her own terms, adopts an exquisitely personal viewpoint,” he is recognizing a kindred spirit, for he himself breaks the rules of conventional dimensions and combines improbable elements to proffer a unique vision.
What he calls an “out of scale” design method entails “accentuating and underscoring differences, so as to come up with surprising and often improbable combinations.” This can be seen, for example, in the sweater set with a set of sleeves dangling in the back, worn over a sweater dress. It might sound kind of strange, but it strangely works! Or a pinstripe shirt worn under a sheer chiffon shirt with an ostrich feather hem. In fact, pinstripe shirts in different cuts and patterns and shapes worn under everything, from sweaters in different lengths to coats or other button-down shirts. The juxtaposition between chunky chains and micro-holographic-sequin dresses or ostrich and grouse feather tops was fun, not to mention the punk safety pins all over.
Regarding this anniversary collection, Dell’Acqua said, “It’s a celebration but not nostalgic. It’s my obsession in these 10 years, the clothes I like a lot. It’s the punk, mix and match of masculinity and femininity, feathers, paillettes, all of my obsessions in one collection.” For example, one idea that he had explored in the F/W 2019 collection was presenting a look from the front that was subverted in the back. He certainly perfected that concept of duality in this new iteration, with cutouts in the back, or cuts that make the garment sit a certain way. “I love the situation in the back, the surprise,” he intones. We love it, too, and the wearability of the clothes. There are some designers doing super interesting and artful things, though sometimes at the cost of wearability. Dell’Acqua is appealing to the mind and appealing on the body.