The 2018 Rendez-Vous series packed a punch with its final guest, bringing to the stage one of the institute’s most successful former students. On Thursday, December 13th, Italian fashion designer Italo Zucchelli, former Creative Director of Calvin Klein menswear and CFDA Board member since 2015, hosted a lecture probing the shifting roles of designers and creative directors, with a nod to the future of fashion.
Born in La Spezia, the fashion figurehead first moved to Florence in the mid-80s, delving into the study of architecture prior to attending Polimoda. After graduating in 1988, Zucchelli worked for Romeo Gigli and Jil Sander menswear, eventually securing a position at Calvin Klein and leading the men’s collections for over 13 years.
During his tenure at Calvin Klein, Zucchelli designed the men’s luxury line, staged fashion shows worldwide and maintained a leading role is all aspects of the business, from marketing to advertising, public relations and celebrity endorsement. In 2009, the designer won the CFDA Best Menswear Award, recognition spanning the entirety of his career, and was most recently named Menswear Designer of the Year at the first annual Fashion Los Angeles Awards.
Esteemed in the field, he has dressed top cultural icons – from Kanye West to Bradley Cooper and Alexander Skarsgaard – has collaborated with a variety of fine artists and designed the wardrobe for Drake and Sam Smith’s American Tours. Described as ‘sublime futurism’ by Tim Blanks, Zucchelli’s style and work at Calvin Klein was often noted for its clean look and unique materials, and remains critically appraised to this day.
During his Polimoda Rendez-Vous, Zucchelli crafted a dialogue surrounding the history and present of the fashion universe. Using a historical framework and case studies, the long-time creative drew from his decades in fashion to unpack the reality of industry roles today.
I think it’s important to really ask yourself the question of why I’m doing this, what do I want, and work for it. And it’s great that you are at school; it means that you’re serious. Because all this stuff – the ‘Kardashian syndrome’ – would take you to a place where a lot of people believe that if you’re cute, if you take selfies and inform myself, you know everything about a given topic. But it’s really not like that. It’s really an illusion. To be a good designer, to be a good marketer, takes a lot of work, a lot of drive and a lot of educating. Know what you want out of this. Because social media is really a sign of the times; with the selfie, everybody has the illusion of being famous.