Monday, September 20, 2010

Walter Albini and His Times: All Power to the Imagination by Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi


Rather than a biography, this volume is about Walter Albini, the seer, the prescient man who foresaw the future of fashion way before his untimely demise. Walter Albini and His Times is a paean to the designer, the creator, who envisioned a total look, who envisioned ready to wear for men and women and who, by all accounts, was as prolific as his contemporary Karl Lagerfeld.

Walter Albini was an artist, an illustrator, a textile designer, a pattern maker, an accessory designer, a photographer—a Renaissance man—who was as involved with his designs as he was with his own persona. He was one of the first, if not the first, to be photographed in his own clothes and with his own clothes in magazine editorials and advertising. He saw the unisex trend and embraced it with his influence, which he wielded via the many collections he designed anonymously.

When reading the book, one is rendered slack jawed by the power and imagination that this man had—and yet he never lived to see the seeds that he had sowed.

Even though he barely lived past the age of 40 and died in 1983, Albini had already become the designer that so many of his colleagues would never approach in scope or comprehensiveness. He enjoyed his travels, his homes, and his passions way before Mr. Armani, Monsieur St. Laurent, or Karl Lagerfeld took advantage of their celebrity. In essence, Albini did it all first, saw it all first, took control first, and laid the groundwork for all those who followed.

What is startling about the history of Mr. Albini is that the details of his death are never referenced nor revealed, which is a credit to all who wrote of him and all who were interviewed. Actually, this speaks volumes about Walter Albini, the creator and the human being. There is obviously a great amount of respect involved, and yet there is not a place devoted to him in the annals of popular fashion history. We are told that if not for Walter Albini, there would be no such thing as ready to wear, no such thing as “mass marketing” of Italian designer merchandise, and that the once flourishing “Alta Moda” would have died a horrible death—pretty much resulting in the end of Italian apparel design.

This reviewer is proud to have never forgotten him, nor the Albini clothes that he owned, nor the legacy that the man left behind. It was a privilege to have grown up in this business reading about him, and to have been exposed to and educated by the likes of Walter Albini