In conversation with Alessandro dell’Acqua: the genuine and brave future of N21

Someone says there is nothing new to be invented and, who knows, maybe it is right. It is as well true that everything we have at our disposition is malleable material that can be moulded, re-used and re-invented again and again, in ever new combinations, unexpected and thus powerful. 

This is the base philosophy of N21, Alessandro dell’Acqua’s brand, which is turning ten this year. The peculiar and very much recognisable style of the designer comes from the union of materials, clothes and ideas of various provenance. The final ensemble is impactful indeed because of its mixed composition. Alessandro dell’Acqua can probably teach us something useful in todays’ landscape. 

While awaiting for the year to come (asking ourselves what it will bring along) let’s look at what we have, between tradition and innovation, with its endless possibilities. If we use well what we have we can build a bright future. The essential, dell’Acqua says, is to be courageous.

N21 turned 10, earlier this year, and this is an important milestone. If we consider that this is the 2020, with everything that this sentence means, the event acquires an even deeper meaning. What are the most precious moments you treasure of this first brand’s decade?

For sure the opening of the Milan headquarter: 1.500 squared meters that put together – under the same ceiling – design, communication and marketing. We had the chance to renovate an adjacent garage which is today used for runways, shootings and showroom sales. The space represents the architectonical evidence of N21 creativity and aesthetic, its distinctive character.    

What are the lessons, the ideas and the sensations you collected so far, and you perhaps want to bring to your future styles? What is going to define the second decade of the brand, in you wish?

I have always tried to communicate a very precise identity, made of a strong personality and attitude which is able to carry and be inspired by my clothes. A wardrobe marked by a strong femininity, with some touches from the male attire. The mix of feminine and masculine in both fabrics and shapes create unexpected associations, desired mistakes which are very important to create a new vision.  I suggest to everybody – and to myself too – to be courageous and curios, always faithful to your style, staying away from fleeting trends and from everything that is not essential, not necessary or excessive.  

If we had to sum up the essence of N21, we would probably use the word potpourri, which is the “the mixture or medley of things” but also the blend of flowers, leaves and barks that are perfumed and then used to please the senses – the smell but also the sight. Your collections always put together several suggestions: sportswear and elegance, masculine and feminine, contrasted fabrics, sumptuous details and rigorous cuts. You have been the forerunner of this mix&match style. The pleasure comes from the absence of rules, from the act of putting together desperate things without thinking about the formality? 

I have always wanted to give a vision of the contemporary through surprising associations. This is way I came to put together couture’s materials with sportswear silhouette. In this latest collection, for example, I really enjoyed matching jersey t-shirts with slip dresses in chiffon, adding feathers and metallic chains too. 

The same disruption of the rules can be seen on your work on the female sensuality: even if your inspiration comes from movie starts from the past, with a very traditional beauty, you always plays with the stereotypes, changing them in a trasgressive way. What does it mean sensuality today? 

Beauty and sensuality are, for me, synonyms of strong personality and attitude. 

In the last years you unified your womenswear and menswear, something that seems to be the wish for a transcendent work, detached from the gender definition: sensuality changes depending on the gender or is it rather a super parter attitude? 

It is always about attitude. Hybrids shapes allow me to create a new form of elegance and erotism. My collections want to explore new ways of dressing, which are about freedom. Be afar from gender labeling and orientation gives shape to a natural form of sensuality, very genuine. 

In todays fluid world we often speak of the end of the seasonal trends: many believe that they are out of fashion and the future of the industry is seasonless and trendless. What do you think about the topic? 

In the future, only who is able to be true to itself, with a strong and recognisable identity, will succeed. Seasonal trends will always exist, what is important is to filter them through one’s own DNA, so that they become unique.

Looking back at N21’s archive we think that many (if not all) of your styles can be easily be adapted to today’s taste. They have not gone out of style, they are still fresh and interesting. While you create do you ever think about the future of your garments? And, according to your view, what does it make a cloth always beautiful, despite the time? 

Uniqueness is vital, together with great quality materials and extreme cure for details. This is the way a garment stay relevant through time. 

On your personal Instagram account you often publish throwback of past collections, fashion shows and advertisings. Not only of N21 but of other brands as well. Which decade is the most inspiring for you? 

I am still very fascinated by the aesthetic of the 90s, I am fond of them. Also because I myself started my path back then.

How is it your relationship with the city of Milan and which role does it play your hometown, Naples?

I own everything to Milan, where I live and work since I was 18 years old. Here, all my dreams came true. On the other side, Naples is the city where I grew up. I discovered both cinema and fashion in Naples and many suggestions of my childhood are still well alive in me, in my creative process. One for all: the nude coloured slip vests worn by the women of my family, which are present, if only as an inspiration, in several collections of N21. 

What is your teak on the actual scenario fo the fashion weeks, between digital and physical? Who is “playing” the right cards in the game?

I am a firm supporter of the physical fashion week, because of the emotions it conveys to the audience, which is so magic and essential. Milan, in my opinion, did it wonderfully in September. 


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