INTERVIEW: Antonio Berardi Returns to Italy

Late pop idol Prince definitely foresaw a genderless world when he wrote “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” thick with prose about the trials of intersex life and love. 

ANTONIO BERARDI at his FW17 show in London. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

London-born Sicilian designer Antonio Berardi used the 19th century hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin (the figure that inspired Prince’s music) as the inspo for his latest collection and debut on the Milan scene. An intimate affair, a small crowd of editors and influencers gathered to view a collection full of iridescent flowing gowns and metallic couture à porter ensembles with a sartorial edge. 

The designer, who counts stars like Kylie Minogue among his muses, got his start working for John Galliano. He made a name for himself on the London scene with his elaborate fashions that incorporated Sicilian folklore and symbols. Critics here say his Baroque spirit influenced many designers that came after him. NowFashion caught up with Berardi backstage where he chatted about leaving the UK for Italy. 

ANTONIO BERARDI FW18 show in Milan. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

SC: A lot of people credit you with bringing Sicilian heritage, artistry, and symbolism into your fashion. This collection was ultra-elegant and had a couture flair...  a bit of a departure from this Southern Italian fashion….

AB: No, it’s still pious and the dresses you saw had built-in lingerie so that you don’t see anything. That’s the Sicilian part: it’s where everything just exists, where nothing is just for the sake of it. Things have to be beautiful, sensual, but never too over the top.

SC: Why did you decide to show in Milan? What does it mean to you, being from London?

AB: I live here, so I thought it would be nice to do something small and concentrated, where people actually see the clothes.

SC: Have you always worked with Italian mills and companies in this area?

AB: Not necessarily this area, but I work with France, I work with Italy. But it depends where I can get the best.

SC: I read that you were going to show in different cities. Is that part of an expansion plan?

AB: It’s something on the horizon. What we want to do is not make it so static, like one same place and the same people seeing what we do. So, we want to take it around and expose it far away, you know? It’s very much what you do when you visit the world. I just like the idea that we can take the collection to different people and have it live a different experience.

ANTONIO BERARDI FW18 show in Milan. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

SC: This intimate fashion show kind of felt like the type of affair top editors like Diana Vreeland were privy to in the 50s and 60s. What was the reasoning behind that?

AB: This is my studio. I decided to show it, like inviting people for dinner. It’s much nicer than taking them out to a restaurant.

SC: You’ve grown up a lot. Has your woman grown up, like the woman that you dress?

AB: She’s still naughty, but at the end of the day she’s a woman. And I think you can be as playful as you want, but I think that it’s kind of like the people who appreciate it the most, who want something that lasts all season.


See ANTONIO BERARDI's full FW18 collection here.