Krizia now. Looking back, going forward, the exhibition at Palazzo Litta in Milan, applied this manifesto-title to celebrate the brand’s 60th anniversary in 2014, as well as the entry in the maison founded by Mariuccia Mandelli of a new president and creative director, the Chinese Zhu Chongyun.

The architect Vincenzo De Cotiis took part with an installation-sculpture in brass, as part of the overall installation. The next step was to redesign the historic flagship store on Via della Spiga, in the Milan fashion quad.

“We chose this architect because his vision of design and minimal, contemporary, artistic style fully corresponds to the aesthetics of my fashion collection. I like his approach to materials, very similar to mine, a mixture of sophisticated, precious and rugged textures with which to experiment, without overlooking the intrinsic beauty of imperfections in the production process. A sort of avant-garde approach with a Futurist accent,” says Zhu Chongyun, a mechanical engineer who became a fashion designer through passion.

Self-taught, just as the schoolteacher Mandelli was at the start. De Cotiis too conducts research away from the crowd in the hybrid territory between art and design, which began 25 years ago with Progetto domestico (a collection of one-off furnishings, many made with recycled materials, wood, fiberglass, cast brass).

The cuts and forms, the sculptural lines of abstract geometries that now inhabit the updated Krizia boutique, 300 m2 on two levels, in a contrasting metropolitan mixture of raw and polished ‘skins’, come from this path and these roots. A different way of looking at design that corresponds to the genuine pleasure (and talent) of always recouping the charm of an existing context that opens up to new possibilities of life.

De Cotiis has never thought of things in a serial manner. He relies on a circuit of crafts workshops for the prototyping of his pieces. The concept of standardization is banished. For him, design is art or, more precisely, not just industry. Like Gaetano Pesce.

Specifically, he has brilliantly combined this recognizable signature with understanding of the historical and cultural values of a very Italian brand. “We have been able to achieve an architectural, rather than decorative, result,” he says “shaping and designing the material not in a graphic texture that can be infinitely repeated, but in a solution connected with unique pieces and a limited-edition logic.”

From the floors in sheets of cast aluminium, white onyx, blue Belgian stone, to the ceilings in Steelcolor, artistic resin panels, backlit fiberglass, and the walls in fiberglass, Steelcolor and natural iron; from the display fixtures in polished brass to the prismatic furnishings in fiberglass; everything speaks of craftsmanship (except for the light sources, produced by Erco), an image reduced to the essential, that never interferes with the leading role of the garments and accessories.

The interpretation of the new direction of the company implied looking into the future. “Which, for me, meant innovation in terms of continuity, on the conceptual level, indicating the change of course, with the idea of a unique place, a boutique, exclusive quality that becomes an expression of luxury.

On a compositional level, it meant radically altering the spatial layout, making the staircase have a central place, not only in figurative terms, offering easy circulation as well as a freestanding architectural object, with a structure in iron, and a single attachment point at the top and at the bottom. The cladding is in blue Belgian stone on the inside and Steelcolor on the outside, underlined by the reflecting surfaces of the enclosure, which modulate the color effects through light.

A unique place. Let’s not forget that designing fashion with architecture is the same as representing a tailor-made garment. And our dress, in itself, is the first place in which we live. This uniqueness is what, in retail design, allows me to always make brand identity recognizable, even for large manufacturers of consumer goods.”

In the end, the objects that inhabit this interior become dense presences; they give substance to an alchemy of light, transparency and fluidity, sustained by formal and emotional depth, conveying the sense of life as an open work of aesthetic and materic synthesis. Feeling, in short.

I prefer dissonance to perfect matching,” De Cotiis explains. “I am afraid of everything that is ‘correct’; it gives me a feeling of emptiness. Because I can’t see beyond it.”

photos by Santi Caleca – text by Antonella Boisi