Creative director at Etro takes inspiration from native textiles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 January, 2015, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 January, 2015, 9:05pm

The creative director of accessories, leather, home and furnishings brand Etro talks family, fashion and fabrics

"I would describe myself as a researcher. I have always loved textiles, and I always plan my travels around places where I will find culture and beautiful textiles. I also love archaeology, but a career in archaeology doesn't pay.

I have been to India, Myanmar, and many other places where I know I can be inspired. I have done the Silk Road three or four times. I collect textiles and usually return with fabrics which may be a starting point for a collection.

The current season was inspired by the silk route. It is a bit Tartar looking, mixing rich, gold fabrics with heavy tweeds and wools in that northern oriental way.

The textiles are an inspiration to me. We change the colours, and maybe play with the patterns on the computer, and the textures, to customise them.

The thinking for the new summer collection meanwhile is Navajo; a Native American Indian influence, but more luxurious.

It has a bohemian, 1970s feel, but that is very Etro. We've been doing that for a long time, although it may be a little softer for summer.

I bought some beautiful Tibetan and 1930s-style Chinese carpets in Hollywood Road, which I keep at home.

I have travelled through Yunnan province, where you can find a lot of minority tribes living near each other, wearing an array of beautiful embroideries and striped fabrics.

I like to see the people that still wear a certain kind of clothes. The custom is disappearing, and in 50 years' time we won't see those people wearing traditional clothes.

I joined the family business, which was founded by my father Gerolamo "Gimmo" Etro in 1968, when I was very young. I was supposed to have been called up for military service, but 1962 (the year I was born) had a baby boom.

So in 1981, I was waiting around to hear when I would be called to barracks, and had to find something to do. I loved textiles so much that I started working in the Etro textile warehouse and sample room, learning about silk and cotton.

When I was told I wouldn't be needed for military service, I had a choice: go to university in London to study politics, philosophy and economics, or continue with what I was doing. I thought, why should I study something I am not interested in. So I stayed with Etro, which made my father very happy.

In 1981, we introduced a furnishing textiles line, as well as the paisley motif used to enrich the first collection. That has become part of our DNA. A few years later we did leather goods again, using the paisley jacquards.

Our latest project is an accessories collaboration with the Japanese photographer Mika Ninogawa, which will arrive in Hong Kong next spring.

She has taken two of our paisley patterns and turned them into something wild and surreal with her signature saturated colour palette.

Our menswear, which [brother] Kean designs, was launched in the 1990s, but I am not a garment person so I was very glad when [sister] Veronica wanted to design a womenswear collection.

We work together a lot and she is always coming up with ideas. We have a graphics team, as I have to do a lot more on the business side of the brand now, as we have no investors and are opening new stores.

I also sit on the board of the Camera Nazionale della Moda (Italian Fashion Council). But textile research is what I love and what I do to relax. It may be work but it doesn't seem like it, because it is what I love doing."

As told to Francesca Fearon