PRESENTING > BARBARA CASASOLA

This girl from the south of Brazil, now based in London with her boyfriend and business partner, has much to say about contemporary fashion. Barbara Casasola, 28, officially created her brand in 2011, launching under the eponymous label a first collection she had been developing since 2010. Within this very short time, she has already reached what most designers still dream about: the eyes of powerful fashion editors. This includes Anna Wintour personally checking out her showroom and the support of Carine Roitfeld, who included some amazing pieces of hers in the just launched CR Fashion Book.

But this instant hit status should be no surprise to anyone: she owns a unique style that stands out for its elegance and simplicity. Much of this comes from a heavy curriculum, although Casasola insists on crediting her late grandmother, a seamstress, for the strong foundation in dressmaking. She attended the prestigious Central Saint Martins, in London, and then furthered her studies at Istituto Marangoni in Milan. While performing the final steps of her graduation, she presented an eco-friendly collection during the Sustainable Development Forum held by ONU in New York.

The collection drew the attention of Roberto Cavalli, who hired her in 2008 as main assistant for womenswear. She worked closely with designer in Florence for two years, before moving to Paris in order to work with German designer and stylist Gabrielle Greiss (former Sonia Rykiel creative director), where she developed projects at See by Chloé and Lanvin. But what dissects better the ‘too cool for school’ factor of her creations is the flair for historical research and the talent for updating these references from a past elegance. Her debut collection, autumn winter 2011/12, was inspired by European clerical outfits and costumes from East Asia. She achieved an effect of aging through the use of textured fabrics like washed silk and created a play of light and shadow by contrasting silk satin with georgette and chiffon.

 

References such as Byzantine iconography, episcopal tailoring and the vertical projection of Gothic aesthetic ideas became constant in her following collections: all of that translated into a very clean design, rather modern than priestly… And rather simple than simplistic. The key pieces for understanding her romantic and monastic version of fashion minimalism are the silk column dresses with sheer inserts. They may not be everyone’s answer to cocktail chic, but her work has no intention of appealing to the masses. Although she has worked next to Cavalli, known for its glamorous sensuality, the sex appeal of her clothes is much more subtle than the red carpet dresses reinvented every season. It lays in the mystery behind a girl in Barbara Casasola. Her pieces play the game of hiding and showing, building the same kind of sensuality defined by Michel Foucault when he says that the song of the sirens seduces not so much for what you hear but for what is not heard, for what remains an unrevealed secret.

Color also plays an interesting whole in the architectural construction of her shapes. Casasola gets her staff on its nerves, as she has every color specifically created for each collection and every fabric carefully hand dyed. Then, the impact of contrasting colors interacts with the rigid cutouts and the geometrical use of sheer organza to create her signature dimensional silhouette.

Since this year, she holds a showroom during Paris Fashion Week, when she presents her collections twice a year privately at Crillon Hotel. Although she has always designed from her studio in London, her early collections were produced in manufactories in southern Brazil, which also used to be the main consumer country of her outfits. Yet, the boom of commercial visibility provided by Paris boosted her career. Currently her clothes are “made in Italy” and featured in selling points in several different countries (in Brazil, Casasola’s can still be found at stores such as Daslu and Choix).

In a smart and recent commercial move, she is varying a little bit her column-like aesthetics in order to invest in fluid volumes and separates, such as fitted tops and matching full skirts or pants. In her latest collection (spring summer 2013), inspired by the paintings of Francis Bacon, the color palette was far more ample than usual and she first experienced with leather.

At the end of the day, it’s pretty much summed up by the comment of Consuelo Blocker, a confessed fan of the designer who met her in Florence: “I can see these dresses going from classic with pearls and heels to punk with skulls and Dr. Martens… Beautiful versatility!”. As the designer herself, the woman in Barbara Casasola is a work in progress.

Nathalia Oliveira and Nathan Machado @ both Ford Models Brasil photographed by Gianfranco Briceño, styled by U+MAG fashion editor Igi Ayedun, all earrings by Christopher Alexander for André Lima, issue n°100.