We should all be dreamers like Manuel Calabrese

The fashion designer and alumnus talks life after Polimoda

As real life becomes progressively harder to digest, fashion designer and alumnus Manuel Calabrese is the colorful escape from social distancing we all need right now. Polimoda caught up with the young talent to find out what he's been working on since graduating in 2019.

Manuel Calabrese is a dreamer and he might just make you want to be one too. After completing his Fashion Design studies at Polimoda, the young talent jumped headfirst into the industry without looking back.

From working as a guest designer at Osaka's Bunka College in Japan to dressing famous Italian celebrities, Calabrese is already dominating 2020 — and his long list of collaborations and projects is the well-deserved result of consistent hard work and dedication to this craft. 

Ciao, Manuel! What have you been up to since graduating from Polimoda last year?

It's been a very intense period of my life since graduating from Polimoda. I've had the chance to collaborate with many artists and interesting personalities in the fashion and art industry. It's been very touching and motivating to see how people react and reinterpret my own visions to create completely new languages and sensational projects.

I received an amazing gift from Polimoda; I traveled to Japan for my last project in collaboration with Osaka's Bunka College. In December 2019, I won "Best Italian Designer" at ModaPortugal and right now, I'm having my first real experiences in the fashion industry at Bottega Veneta — a big fashion company in Milan.

Manuel Calabrese's designs featured backstage at the 2019 Supernature Fashion Show

My graduation Collection GENTLEMAN was selected by a very interesting and up-and-coming director for one of his new projects — and will probably be screened at Cannes Film Festival. They've already finished the short, and we're waiting on the final edit!

I am also going to be displaying some of my creations at the very interesting Grassi Museum during an Art and Fashion exhibition in Leipzig, Germany. Right now, I have a big scale project in mind — and the first step of the challenge is analyzing how fashion works outside of academic perception. I'm preparing to channel my knowledge in a very personal embryo. Stay tuned! 

You were given the opportunity to participate in an exchange with 0saka's Bunka College through Polimoda and participated in a specialized course. How was your experience in Japan?

I went to Japan for approximately 6 months and was given the possibility to experience a completely new side of the world, different points of view, cultures and many sensations that opened my mind beyond new visions!

To be honest, it was not as easy and smooth as everybody might think — finding yourself in a completely new habitat and focusing on a project with the combination of expectations and timing was a rough challenge, but I am so glad I did it. It made me become a stronger artist and I feel more confident about my persona and facing new obstacles!

Thank you so much for the experience, it was magical! 

Details from Manuel Calabrese's "GENTLEMAN" collection at the 2019 Supernature Fashion Show

How have you changed and grown as a designer over the past few years? 

I feel I've become more "realistic." I learned about stepping outside of the comfort zone of a school — a place that gives you strong supporters and possibilities to be brave — and understand how the system is way more complex and, in a way, fascinating. You need to be ready to face new challenges — they're unavoidable — to sculpt your personality with a stronger and more concrete point of view. My experience at Bottega Veneta is challenging my ability to create and build a well-made product so I can be prepared in the future to give my future customers a next-level product!

I love the dream of spontaneously expressing your talent and vision, but what is also really needed is the ability to concretely direct energy and design towards a visceral yet clear language so people around the world really understand our vision.

"It's been very touching and motivating to see how people react and reinterpret my own visions in order to create completely new languages and sensational projects."

What inspires you?

I am inspired by art, sculpture, photography, and everything that might be related to our inner human instincts. I've been a ballet dancer since the age of 5 so my biggest inspiration as a designer is the concept and reinterpretation of the body itself.

At the same time, I think it's super important to open your eyes to what's going on in today's society. If you want to create interesting designs, aesthetic and technical skills aren't everything; we must have a "radical" point of view and I'm sure, until now, that mine has always been pretty clear — unusual but clear!

Dadsit, composed of Polimoda Talent winners Giorgio Lorusso, Giacomo Nasi and Nicola Del Cioppo, is an acronym that stands for Designers Archive Digital Store. They helped you out with dressing Morgan at the 70th edition of the beloved San Remo Festival. Can you tell me the story of how the stars aligned? 

I could never thank the Dadsit guys enough. Everything happened in a very fast and spontaneous way. Dadsit was given the possibility to show my designs to the personal stylists of various Italian Celebrities for the 2020 Sanremo Festival 2020 and the rest is history.

The suit I designed — part of my graduation collection GENTLEMAN at Polimoda — was selected to be featured in the official video of Morgan's new song Sincero, and has something like 7 million views on YouTube — pretty exciting, no?! 

Marco "Morgan" Castoldi wearing Manuel Calabrese's suit at Sanremo @morganofficial

Other pieces from your past collections are also featured on Italian singer Achille Lauro’s social media. Tell us more!

Yes! They were featured in a promotional video for Achille Lauro's new tour and he wore two of my designs; a coat from my graduation collection as well as a biker jumpsuit from my 3rd-year project MANHOOD

Last question, Manuel. What are your plans for 2020?

I want to challenge myself at the company I'm working at for the moment. I hope to learn from doing more freelance experiences, and to keep evolving my soul and mind so I can be ready to face the world with dreamy eyes and a heart full of things to say. 

Yes, I see myself as a dreamer, and my dream right now is to create something entirely visceral and why not make others dream with me through my art!

Manuel Calabrese (left) and his classmates at the end of the Supernature Fashion Show

Good luck, Manuel! We can't wait to see what you accomplish in the future. 

Check out Manuel Calabrese on Instagram @lemanuel_