Walter Chiapponi was appointed the new Creative Director of Tod’s starting with the Fall/Winter 2020 collection. The Spring/Summer 2021 collection, his second season after taking the reins, was presented in a film format in lieu of the traditional runway due to the pandemic restrictions. The moment the presentation titled ‘The Song’ started, the soft singing of birds and the gentle strum of a guitar engulfed the viewers with the feeling that sums up the first five seconds of the video—waking up and stretching on a bright spring morning. As we turn the page on a challenging 2020 and head into the new year, this collection, designed with “love” and “freedom” as its overarching themes, aims to deliver those uplifting feelings to us. We had a chance to talk with him about his emotional designs, his idea of chic, and his love for films.
In the wake of COVID-19, many fashion brands elected to present their pieces on film. It was inevitable that Tod’s also chose to reveal their collection using this format. Tod’s story-driven music video presentation expresses Chiapponi’s true love for film, who claims to watch 15 to 20 films a month. He says it felt like a dream come true when the decision was made to showcase the collection on film. Unlike physical shows, this format allowed him to have complete control over its presentation; not only was he able to select the location of the shoot, but it gave him the freedom to adjust the angles and movements of the camera as well as the color combination of the images.
The film was shot at Villa Necchi Campiglio, a traditional Milanese villa where classical Italian chic can express itself in a modern light just like Chiapponi’s collection. “By filming in a famous Milanese villa, we tried to create an atmosphere of neorealism and Italian cinema. I wanted to create a stark contrast between the clothes and the environment, so we used dramatic lighting,” says Chiapponi. Referencing the works of famous Italian filmmakers such as Pasolini, Visconti, and Michelangelo Antonioni, he created everyday characters in the world of cinema as he imagined it. Top-tier models were hired, but by keeping their hair and makeup natural, he successfully brought out their individuality and gave them a realistic look. He believes that Tod’s is for everyone—in order to create a collection that is accessible, it was important for him to select models people can feel connect to. His aim: to convey our freedom and dreams through his moving images by acutely focusing on all the elements including clothes, hair and makeup, models, music, and lighting.
The collection mixes colorful pop accessories and various styles of jackets with classic menswear and womenswear to achieve an elegant look. This is the new Tod’s under Chiapponi’s direction. While many creative minds struggled to express themselves in the past year as COVID-19 transformed our society, he too had reconsidered various circumstances and necessities—this collection was the result. “It was the first time we combined men’s and women’s show together,” Chiapponi says. “We each spent a lot of time alone with just a few of us meeting online, so the emotions were piling up and tearing me apart. I took a long hard look at myself and reconsidered what I wanted to do with this brand. I took this as an opportunity to experiment rather than create a collection based on a single theme. It was created based on the sensations and emotions that poured out naturally.”
The impression his pieces leave in his customers mind weighs heavily with Chiapponi. This notion is displayed in the current collection through his use of colors and craftsmanship—watch the film presentation in depth and his meticulous attention to detail will surface. From the lime green bag to the lavender pants, the collection is full of lively colors. When I think of previous collections by Tod’s, classic colors of brown, black and white come to mind; but now the brand has evolved by incorporating vivid colors. “The brand’s wish was to ‘give people hopes and dreams’, so I kept the brands classic and chic style but took it as an opportunity to create more playful items. I like tweaking chic pieces and adding playful touches to them,” explains the designer. “As an art collector, I’m always inspired by contemporary artists. I sampled colors from some of my favorite flowers and paints; I focused on adding a lively touch through the use of color.” By changing the color palette of the collection, Tod’s hopes to energize their fans and inspire them to dream new dreams after a difficult year.
When Chiapponi joined Tod’s as Creative Director, he found the tradition of keeping craftsmanship at the heart of the brand appealing and wished to apply it to his own collections. “When I came to this company around two years ago, I felt like I was attending church because all the craftsmen and patternmakers looked like Gods to me. The repeated conversations I had with them led to the craftsmanship you see at Tod’s today. It was a true collaboration, a conversation, and an evolution of experimentation. I have very fond memories of this,” says Chiapponi. The result of their collaboration is clearly visible in their leather bags—ones folded like origami or stitching thread left like fringes. When asked about this design, he answered: “Rather than giving the impression that the shoes and bags were unfinished, I wanted to convey the fact that craftsmen make the bags with their hands and passion. By folding the leather or sewing the bag with thick thread, and not cutting the thread off, the detailed handwork became more visible. To me it was important to convey that they are not simply there for decoration, but that they are carefully handmade one by one.” Ultimately, by utilizing a variety of colors and making clear the proof of craftsmanship, he hopes to provide love and dreams to fans of Tod’s. These sentiments, he says, are what he wants to instill in them—not only through this collection but all future collections that will be created under Chiapponi’s direction. “The most important thing is to be free; the freedom to be yourself and to love freedom. I hope people can feel my love for craftsmanship, materials, the Italian lifestyle, and the people of the world.” Chiapponi’s design philosophy is to design through feelings, to let the fans enjoy it, and to inspire dreams.
|Interview & Text Mikuto Murayama||Translation Akiko Watanabe & Rei Matsuoka|