Having done the rounds at The Row, Loewe, and Alighieri, Niccoló Pasqualetti decided to step off of the carousel of fashion for a while. The designer spent the lockdowns back home in rural Tuscany. There, working with local artisans, Pasqualetti launched their own line of jewelry, featuring biomorphic shapes made using leftover stone from the interiors industry and found objects. Things moved fast, this spring the designer took home Who Is On Next’s Franca Sozzani award.

Months later, Pasqualetti has returned to fashion with a deeply personal and triumphant debut collection for spring 2022, a hybrid of clothing, jewelry, and art. “For me it was really about having a whole vision, that it wasn’t just one thing, it was really about the integration of difference, the jewelry with the clothes,” said Pasqualetti on a call after showing their lineup by appointment at The Broken Arm in Paris.

Pasqualetti’s approach to design might be described as autobiographical. “Clothes are what we wear most close to us, and what represents us to the world, and [how] we want us to be seen by the world, so how can it not be personal?” the designer asks rhetorically. This collection was inspired by their childhood memories of dressing up in pieces from both their mother and father’s closets, looking at the results in the mirror, and wanting
to escape—from the countryside, and also, as it’s put in the collection notes, from “the division that I was forced to belong to.” Pasqualetti uses the non-binary pronouns they/them.

In addition, the designer was also thinking about the Surrealist icon Claude Cahun, with whom they feel a kinship, as she too, used a mirror to explore identity. “You know, I try everything on,” notes the designer, who also enlisted their mother as a fitting model.

For spring, Pasqualetti added an element of spontaneity to their signature, self-described, “ambivalent androgyny,” though the use of unexpected materials, like cork and wood, and textures that play off of contrasts. Plus many of the pieces can be worn in different ways. Is a macramé piece a top or a necklace? Will you style crotchless trousers as pants or a skirt? The choice is yours, both in terms of clothing and identity.

Pasqualetti is a designer who is comfortable in “in between spaces,” but they were uncompromising when it came to this collection. Having left the relative security of working for big brands, going solo meant doing things their way. That meant taking the time to consider all aspects of a piece: “People call it luxury,” says Pasqualetti, “but I call it design, taking care of all these details.... It’s important for me that [my work] is something that is considered and is authentic and honest.”

The integrity of these pieces comes from their craftsmanship (note the scrap leather woven like basketry, and the macramé pieces) and also from their focus on form. Pasqualetti works primarily in 3D, considering each garment as they would a hand-held piece of jewelry, thinking about it inside and out. The designer employs rawness and deconstruction as a sort of language of ambiguity; it has resonance because of the structure and references to traditional wardrobe staples in the collection.

It’s not by accident that these innovative pieces contain evidence of the classics, like a button-down or a pleated skirt, on which they were based. The designer brings a strong point of view to a collection that feels like it is in the process of becoming. “Everything is in movement,” said Pasqualetti about identity, and that condition is also present in these clothes, which are to a great extent a mirror of their maker, who is starting to find sure footing on their own turf. As Pasqualetti wrote in the show notes: “Now I wear heels at home in the garden, I fall, I get up, and I smile.”