Francesco Scognamiglio’s New Venture Monogram by Sea Is a Showcase for His Neapolitan Savoir Faire

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The pandemic has forced independent designers to reshuffle their practices; for some it has brought about dramatic, sometimes tough changes of direction, while for others it has been a sort of blessing in disguise, inducing them to rethink their m.o. and to embrace a more versatile and agile approach.

The latter is the case of Francesco Scognamiglio, who recently sold the shares of his eponymous company to launch a new label. Called Monogram by Sea, it’s intended, as he explained, “more as a private club than a fashion brand.” Its lifestyle format encompasses high-end fashion collections as well as diverse future projects still in the making, including home decor, fragrances, and collaborations with craftsmen from the South of Italy to produce limited editions of high-end artisanal specimens. Hailing from Pompeii, where his atelier was established in 1998 and where it’s still based, Scognamiglio knows how to navigate the rather picturesque Neapolitan world.

The first Monogram by Sea collection is a couture offering along the lines of the dramatic, red carpet work the designer is known for. Figure-hugging numbers dripping with crystals and rhinestones alternate with masculine tailored pieces, cut oversize with Neapolitan sartorial savoir faire. Mostly rendered in translucent white or pearly shell-pink hues, the seductive evening dresses are designed for a “young Venus emerging from the sea,” as Scognamiglio explained. Equally sexy is a series of draped asymmetrical frocks in liquid black jersey, obliquely intended as an homage to the late Gianni Versace, alongside whom Scognamiglio worked in the years before the late designer’s untimely passing. “They’re also inspired by the Roman peplos of ancient statuary,” he said, underlining his Southern-Italian roots.

Scognamiglio believes that couture is a modern practice with firm foundations in the past—“couture is the mother of ready-to-wear,” he stated—and so his embrace of haute upcycling is consequential. He bought handmade corsets of the sort no longer done from an old Neapolitan corset maker, as well as the archive of a French producer of hand-embroidered laces. The encrusted and embellished bustiers became bodices of glamorous evening dresses or were worn as bodysuits under hand-stitched opera coats. But don’t call this approach sustainable; he prefers to call it “sensible couture.”

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