Aspesi Spring 2022 Menswear Collection

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Lawrence Steele designed for Aspesi as a consultant for 13 years until 2017. Then he joined his partner, Francesco Risso, for three years in “a labor of love” as Risso worked through his first cycle as Marni’s creative director. Then late last year, Steele returned to Aspesi, this time as creative director.

Steele first encountered Aspesi in the late 1980s, shortly after he had arrived in Milan from Chicago, following an internationally peripatetic childhood in the company of his military family. When he met Alberto Aspesi, Steele was working in the studio of Franco Moschino, who contributed designs to the house. Later, Steele also worked for Prada before founding his own line, Lawrence Steele, which ran for a decade and was supported by Aspesi. All this preamble is to lay out that while this collection is Steele’s first as the creative director of Aspesi, it is also the contemporary culmination of a relationship that has grown and developed throughout almost all of his adulthood.

Aspesi is savored by those who know it as a source of discreetly impeccable garments whose minimal looks belie a richness of design consideration and manufacturing savoir faire: satisfying complexity within simplicity. About this collection, Steele said: “It was a question of choosing shapes and pieces that speak languages and which I could juxtapose against each other.”

That apparent simplicity of Aspesi garments, plus their durability and quality, means that once they are birthed and taken possession of, they can live for a great deal of time and even outlive their first owners to be handed down. This was Steele’s thinking in the mixed-material tailoring, which was fashioned from what looked like tweed but presented a counterintuitively soft hand when touched. A fantastic slip dress, perhaps 1930s in style, looked both vintage and appealingly contemporary. The carefully oversized trench coats, patchworked striped rugby tops, and vaguely louche corduroy jacketing all whispered of the Rive Gauche in its tear-gassed 1968 heyday.

The subtle juxtapositions in the clothing became more visibly alive when placed in this cast of family and friends: You could see perfectly well how the garments could be worn, interpreted, and shared by not just one person but a close-knit group of people (which is a far better policy for using less than runway renting). I’m not going to try to excavate too deeply the complexity within these pieces and this collection. A debut that Steele has been experiencing life for many years in order to be philosophically equipped to make, this was lovely: mature, intellectual, slow, and deep.

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