CALUGI E GIANNELLI
Italian design house
Founded: in Florence, 1982, by Mauro Calugi (born 1941) and Danilo Giannelli (1957-1987). Company History: Incorporated, 1984; renamed Danilo Giannelli, SpA, circa 1987; principal designer, Mauro Calugi. Exhibitions: Pitti Immagine Uoma, Fortezza da Basso, Florence, 1985; A Dress Beyond Fashion, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, 1991. Awards: Ecco L'Italia (New York), 1985. Company Address: Via Catalani 28—Zona Industriale Bassa, 50050 Cerreto Guidi, Florence, Italy.
On CALUGI E GIANNELLI:
Macchia, Susanna, "Calugi e Giannelli—Look Lunare All'insegna della Comodita,"available online at Moda Online, www.modaonline.it , November 2001.
Since beginning in 1982, Calugi e Giannelli has invented and reinvented clothing—menswear in particular—as if it were conceptual art. Arguably, Calugi e Giannelli clothing is an advanced art of the idea, often conveying avant-garde principles, frequently invoking and investing language and word play, and always bringing an edge to clothing. Formal properties matter, especially as they are developed from the properties of fabrics and fabric technology, most notably stretch, but the essence of a Calugi e Giannelli garment is its idea, or what 1993 press materials described as "ironic temperament, a strong core and decisive taste."
As playful as the Milanese Franco Moschino and as avant-gardist at the Parisian Jean-Paul Gaultier, Calugi e Giannelli's erudite conceptualism is accompanied by an equally strong sense of sensuality. Transparency applied to textiles and the body becomes a tour de force of ideas, but it also serves as a grand tour of erogenous zones. Pop Art is remembered, especially in the spring/summer 1991 collection, but when labels end up on tight swimwear and biker shorts, the equation of sex and consumption is only heightened. Both the Church and masculinity are special targets of Calugi e Giannelli satire and wit. A leitmotif of the collections is an interest in clerical dress subverted to secular clothing, with crosses and vestment details appearing again and again with schoolboy irreverence. Studded leather jackets are an over-the-top machismo that can only be interpreted as tongue-in-cheek. Calugi e Giannelli's work is always winning and not subject to the tiresome jokes of some sportswear—it is a fashion animated by fresh ideas and interpretive energy.
Learned and yet fun referencing to both dollar signs and the hammer and sickle (spring/summer 1989), Arab motifs and script (spring/summer 1991), mocking motifs of ecclesiastical hats (fall/winter 1988-89), Tahiti and tattoos (spring/summer 1993), and tough biker leathers (fall/winter 1993-94) establish clothing as a widely referential, all-encompassing art. Singularly characteristic of the design's sartorial surrealism is the fall/winter 1988-89 anamorphic jacket with two lapels in which the exterior and interior, jacket and waistcoat, shell and marrow are purposely confused with resulting asymmetry and winsome disorder. A spring/summer 1988 double-collared shirt plays with the same uncertainties of the doppelganger. Art-like in its proposition, knowledgeable in its deliberate discords (snakeskin and lace together in spring/summer 1989), supremely sexy in its orientation, Calugi e Giannelli clothing sets a distinctive style in menswear.
While partner Danilo Giannelli died in 1987, the sensibility continued by Mauro Calugi was seamless with the design duo's original objectives. Clothing is subject to aesthetic consideration. The fall/winter 1988-89 collection included a series of jackets with barbed wire motifs, introducing faux barbed wire at the shoulders or around the waist. In the seeming disparity of soft clothing and the fictive brutalism of barbed wire, Calugi e Giannelli displayed characteristic wit and irrepressible irony. In the same season, the "Violent Angels" leather jacket set metal plates with letters in continuous reading on a leather jacket: its diction is the continuous language of computer input; its effect is to put language onto the supposedly inarticulate form of the leather jacket. By such paradox, Calugi e Giannelli offers contradiction and incongruity about clothing, but also with an ideal of harmony and reconciliation. Even the language of the "Violent Angels" title, suggests the combination of the ferocious and the chaste.
Despite heady artistic purpose, Calugi e Giannelli clothing is well made and is never wearable art or craft. The interest in the basic templates of clothing arises in part from the preference in silhouettes for standard types, perfectly executed, and the knits and performance sportswear have the integrity of quality clothing. Detailing of embroidered suits, knit jackets with representational scenes, and sweaters with a range of illustration and image are consummately made; the lace t-shirts and jackets, and the tailored clothing with sudden apertures, have been copied in expensive and inferior versions, but the Calugi e Giannelli originals are beautifully made. The spring/summer 1988 block cutouts with sheer panels are a body peek-a-boo inflected with the design language of Piet Mondrian or Mark Rothko.
Menswear is the forum for Calugi e Giannelli ideas, though womenswear has also been produced. In the later 1990s the firm produced collections harking back to the 1970s with long woolen coats, funky midriff-baring tees, mohair or black acetate shirts, and long jackets. The style was at once derivative and new, mod and hip yet only for a particularly daring male. Perhaps menswear's accustomed reserve from fashion controversy and aggressive aesthetics lends itself to Calugi e Giannelli's definitive work. Mauro Calugi's insistence that fashion is an art of compelling dissent and dissonance is a significant social and personal statement.