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Fashion in Milan will return to be a mix of sophistication and culture, eccentricity and knowledge – the mere name Aspesi is enough to evoke an era in which Leonardo Mondadori published the cartoons of Forattini, when writers mixed with journalists, and with some socialist singer-songwriters. Ilaria Occhini and Raffaele Di Capria are still lovely – together. Silence is one of Alberto Aspesi’s watchwords. Literature and industry in the areas of Gallarate, the textile industry, Rossana Orlandi and the Missonis. There is no difference between the fields, and the energy is the same – under the porticoes of Via San Pietro all’Orto, Aspesi transformed a former bank premises into a place of bourgeois irony. The severe, square volumes are today the stage for a divertissement that involves material interplay: PVC, fiberglass and plexiglass alternate with natural elements, wood, iron and inlayed stone. The grey surfaces are punctuated by colored walls, from grey-green to ochre and powder pink. The link between indoors and outdoors, the city and nature, is a photograph: Lemurian Morning Wood by David Benjamin Sherry, lines the front stairs. 

For those born in Milan, it is innate; for those who have made Milan their home, then after a certain number of tram trips and jumps in the puddles of the Brera alleyways, of blue blazers, of knee-length skirts with loafers. It’s a way of being, never appearance: distinguished, without taking yourself too seriously. Extrovert, but not affected. Attentive in equal measure to form as well as content. A men’s leopard print shirt was the non-conventional choice in 1969 for a shirt shop in Legnano – D-Camiceria di Alberto Aspesi. In the Seventies, while Yves Saint Laurent reigned in Paris, Aspesi began to sound out ready-to-wear between sobriety and frivolity. 

Alberto Aspesi has never liked interviews – a modesty, which is even Milanese in itself. He let the images, his adverts, speak in his place. In 1988, Peter Lindbergh pictured a young Linda Evangelista in sepia – the images reprinted in these pages. In1991, Christy Turlington, on the beaches of Malibu – the first and last pictures, redeveloped by Pierre Schmidt. Robert Frank conducted a photo service per Aspesi, between New York, Nova Scotia and Zurich. In 2006, while most fashion brands were creating and launching their own perfume on the market, Aspesi made an advertising campaign to sponsor his bottle of detergent publicized by Kinky Atoms. Once again, the brand’s no logo philosophy was reiterated. Oliviero Toscani pictured three university students – and illegal sellers of counterfeit goods – while they wear Aspesi ski jackets and raincoats with fake bags. 

There is an inclusive driver. When Mina wore Versace and Lorella Cuccarini the same dress by Valentino in which Julia Roberts would win an Oscar, when Alberto Aspesi went to dinner with Franco Moschino – and perhaps Rossella Jardini stayed in the office to sort out some hitches (pardon the poetic license). Pop is based, today as back then, on substance and talent. Different languages, yes – and here the nostalgia returns, because sometimes nostalgia is good for the soul. These are the angles that fashion narrates without even realizing it. Ornella Vanoni – and all that middle-class flippancy, to sing in the middle of the street. “We are reclaiming normality, because normality is a value today like never before” said Miuccia Prada. Milan, a post-industrial city lit by logos, where a middle-class woman lives and travels armed with seductive archetypes – bustier, tulle and sequins, in contrast with nylon. Here in Milan, the bourgeoisie is silent. In the Eighties, Alberto Aspesi launched the chequered shirt, made in a variety of fabrics, from madras made in India to Scottish tartan. In 1985 he introduced a new leitmotif to his collections: the simple materials of military uniforms and work clothes provided the inspiration to make shirts in chambray –informal and light– giving a casual twist to men’s fashion. His talent in applying Italian, handmade style to technical clothing led to the creation of the Field jacket, inspired by the M65, a military jacket worn by the Marines during the Vietnam War. Mod.13 is a shirt made in nylon and cotton, padded with thermal wadding, which after an initial flop would become a massive must-have.

There are those who say, in a slightly poetic way, that the great bourgeoisie died out in the 19th century, when the Milanese merchants covered Via Manzoni with straw so that the passing carriages would not disturb Giuseppe Verdi’s sleep – that was silence. “That Milan, with its established society in which it was fine to say you had gone out for dinner and with which it was nice to plan new things”, wrote Lina Sotis, while Giulia Maria Crespi, insisted once a year, with the Christmas concert in her home in Corso Venezia. “The Milanese bourgeoisie has laid back weekends, has no relations with others, there is no soul searching”, said Franca Sozzani. Irish wools and linens, French silks, Japanese cottons, chambray, Italian cashmere, Korean nylon and technical fibers like American Gore-Tex, or polyester. The fabric is the basis of all our work, Alberto Aspesi seems to repeat again – be it a warp and weft or a weave of intellect. He seeks them and selects them, the combination is specific. At the end of the Seventies, taking inspiration from sports jackets and open spaces of the United States, Alberto Aspesi came up with an urban-style padded jacket, for everyday wear – and he dedicated it to Franco Moschino: the Moschino (still in production) became a cult garment, worn oversize by women. It was the first time a sports jacket found a place in luxury stores.