Behind the scenes with Tod’s creative director.
Alessandra Facchinetti is reinventing Tod’s, one pair of flats at a time.
alessandra Facchinetti greets me at her Milan office, an appropriately luxe HQ housed in the upper floors of a palazzo complete with book-lined walls, modern art canvases and bursts of red peonies. Facchinetti, 42, recently showed her fall/winter 2014 Tod’s collection— her second for the storied Italian house—and the designer is in a reflective mood. “Tod’s is part of our collective consciousness,” she muses, adjusting her antique chandelier earrings. “It evokes what it means to be Italian— Italian taste.” Italian taste happens to be a subject on which she is particularly well versed. Born in Bergamo, north of Milan, Facchinetti is a fashion veteran, having worked for Miu Miu, Gucci and Valentino before assuming design duties at Tod’s last fall. (Derek Lam designed Tod’s womenswear from 2006 to 2012, but until Facchinetti took the reins, it was known mostly for its accessories.) Facchinetti’s job is to establish the ready-to-wear line as a modern fashion force or, as she puts it, to capture the spirit of “today’s elegance.” Here, the designer talks inspiration, investment dressing and what it means to be the boss. What is your earliest fashion memory? “A type of femininity, an attitude, a way to wear your makeup and jewellery. I’ve always been curious about the way people act, which led me to the world of fashion. When I started thinking about making a job of it, my most authentic motivation was the allure that some women know how to conjure.” How much freedom did you have to develop Tod’s? “There was no history, no archives— only a perception: the desire for practicality, a search for classic comfort. I started working on the accessories, which is where the brand’s DNA is most deeply rooted. I imagined dressing a woman after first looking at her shoes, her bag—not a bad exercise. The fact that we like to imagine her in low heels helped define her attitude. Slowly, the Tod’s woman took shape.” What do you find intriguing about flats? “Even though I love heels, for a few years I’ve found that flats are much more elegant, including with eveningwear. It’s as if a look is made new when matched with low heels. It’s the idea of beauty as removal—in certain cases, it’s best to take a little something away.” Your fall/winter 2014 starting point was the idea of furnishing a house, room by room. “I started with paintings by Boldini and Sargent, portraits of women in upper-class interiors. I enjoyed inventing a dialogue between present and past—if there’s no link to the past, I don’t have a starting place for my thoughts. Clothes
tell stories, as if they were so many portraits—a dialogue among a thousand women in a single interior. We also focused a lot of attention on the accessories, which are rich and tailored while still providing ultra-comfort.” What’s your team like, and what kind of boss are you? “There are 25 of us, mostly women. Not because we don’t want men; it just turned out that way. ‘Boss’ is a pretty big word. I enjoy a great relationship with everyone. There is no hierarchy, especially when we’re sitting around a table. I encourage the others to say what they think, and I’m not offended if someone says ‘That’s hideous; I don’t like it.’ I also talk things over with a couple of close, trusted friends. The point of view of someone on the outside—that’s sincere; someone who follows fashion and buys it—that’s crucial.” What is your vision for the brand? “I want to focus on just a few pieces, the ones that I always want to wear. You can feel the pieces, touch them in the present, but they’re destined to have a place in your wardrobe for a long time to come. The only thing that matters is creating beautiful things without necessarily following trends.” What drives you during the design process? “I try to determine whether what I’m working on has more than one use, like the laser-cut leather shirt, which can be worn for evening or in the office. I use the same thought process when I go shopping for myself: Can I wear this in at least three different situations? Today’s shoppers demand this kind of potential.” Do you rely on a muse? “I used to need an iconic woman as a reference when sketching. Today, less so. I get better inspiration from a sensation—an energy that’s more complete and profound than a beautiful face hanging on the wall. The tendency is to recycle women from the past. But any pretty girl I happen to meet on the street might suddenly become an icon for me. Even if I never see her again....” ■
Highlight reel: our five favourite fall/winter 2014 Tod’s looks