Paolo Carzana Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear Collection

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He described the collection as “A 24-hour journey from dark to light,” an odyssey which obviously symbolizes something of the feeling of exhilaration of coming out of the pandemic. There are more layers to it, though: an offering of hope for a generation battling against anxiety, and a practice he’s dedicated to sustainable, vegan, organic and expanding exploratory research into non-harmful processes since he was a BA student at Westminster University. Already a pioneer outlier of his generation in 2018, Carzana’s graduate show had vast, monstrous patriarchal beings sitting on the models’ shoulders which were dangling gross, manipulating, gloved hands over them.

Five years on, that controlling terror is exorcised and purified and put into the hands of Carzana’s care-taking angels.

The title of that graduate debut, “The Boy You Stole” ominously spoke of a trauma, (which Carzana has never spoken of directly) as well as embodying a larger generational fear and furious helplessness. But over years—through his Masters at CSM—that extraordinary chemistry of personal feeling and larger social vision fixed within him a messianic desire to make work which harms nobody and nothing.

That is Carzana now: heralding progress by being it. “In the beginning, people would always question me, as though using fabrics and dyes that don’t damage the environment was going to be some kind of deterrence,” he remembered. “But I think it makes it so much easier. Because as soon as you create something, it feels like it’s yours completely.”

The ecru looks, he pointed out, “have been dyed with X-amount of tea bags, and orange spice. The midnight gray on the coats and knitwear took hours and hours of dyeing with acorn or logwood.” The silk-look fabrics are Tencel, or eucalyptus—renewably grown and cruelty-free. The squashy, organic-form bags are Pinatex, made from waste from pineapple crops. Another luxurious black coating material was donated by Sarah Burton, part of her Alexander McQueen initiative to redistribute deadstock to young designers and students.

Paolo Carzana’s talent has already attracted its own choir of guardian angels. He is a resident of the Sarabande foundation, where he teamed up with fabric artist Semin Hong and jewelry designer Mairi Miller. Nasir Mazhar, the multi-talented London milliner, helped Carzana bring his gravity-defying angel wings and tiny spiraled-tulle caps to reality. Behind him, too, are the art teachers and other educators who supported the working-class boy who was bullied at school for his differences, but has turned out to be a brilliant creative force of his generation.

That, in a way, is an old, old story in fashion. The connection that Paolo Carzana feels most deeply is with Alexander McQueen himself, whose legacy is the Sarabande Foundation. Carzana dedicated the show to him. He knows how lucky he is to find likeminded people to collaborate with, to be able to chorus something collective. “It’s really saved my life,” he concluded. “I don’t think I could live if I didn’t create.”

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