MILAN, Italy — "I focus on the fabrics first — and then on the colours. In my collections colour is very important," said 31 year-old Italian, menswear designer Luca Larenza. Now in its eighth season, Larenza’s namesake brand blends traditional Italian craftsmanship with eye-catching chromatic juxtapositions and innovative modern detailing.
For Autumn/Winter 2015, Larenza took cues from New York's late 1970s/early 1980s street art scene. He was previously himself a graffiti artist — for a period of about 13 years — which led directly to his interest in fashion. "During that time, I started to develop some ideas, playing with shapes. I began to concentrate on a small menswear capsule collection, centered on knitwear."
Today, that collection includes an oversized, deconstructed, pimp-style camel coat, influenced by the aesthetics of early hip-hop, and sophisticated jumpers with 3-D stitches, rubber effects and bold lines, evocative of subway graffiti and the brush-strokes of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Re-worked menswear staples such as herringbone, checks and tartans complete what Larenza calls a wardrobe for the "modern dandy."
Larenza did not formally train in design. In fact, following high school, he chose to study law with the intention of entering the field. "But when I finished studying law, I understood that what I really liked for my life was to work with art and fashion.”
Knowing he wanted to start his own business, Larenza completed a master's degree in fashion management at ISEM (International School of Economics and Management) in Madrid. Next was a stint as a fashion buyer for Amazon BuyVip in Italy, during which time he began working as as a consultant for Italian menswear designer Angelo Fusco. The experience gave Larenza the confidence he needed to venture out on his own and, in 2008, he founded his label in Milan.
"In the beginning, I was only able to do small collections, because of the costs, so I preferred to focus on small, detailed collections," said Larenza. Starting small allowed the designer to experiment with little risk and focus closely on the craftsmanship and detailing that has become a signature of his brand.
In 2011, Larenza was a finalist in “Who is on Next? Uomo,” the emerging menswear talent competition hosted by Pitti Immagine Uomo, Alta Roma and Uomo Vogue. "This helped a lot for the positioning of my brand, also for the press attention. After years, I got into important department stores like Beams International Gallery in Tokyo and Andreas Murkudis in Berlin."
Larenza has since expanded his distribution across Italy, where his products are sold via The Store, Paleari, Mario & Sons, Gigi Tropea, Chirico Uomo and others. The label currently has a total of ten global stockists and Larenza is keen to grow a serious presence in Asia and expand his European distribution network, with a focus on department stores.
In September 2014, Larenza signed a five-year licensing deal with Milanese luxury knitwear specialist AM [Andrea Monteverdi] Srl and the designer is currently working on the second season of the partnership (Spring/Summer 2016). Larenza hopes this deal will provide the kind of economic stability that will allow him to continue to grow his business, whilst maintaining the “Made-in-Italy” craftsmanship that has characterised his work from the start.
For this month’s Spotlight, Luca Larenza has designed a custom BoF logo that evokes his street artist origins. "This pattern I have done has also been used for the paintings and the set design at my Autumn/Winter 2015 presentation during the men’s shows in Milan," he explained.
Although Larenza’s primary focus is menswear, he has also started to develop accessories, incorporating a small number of these products into his Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. A capsule collection for women may also be in the cards.