That the ’90s are a goldmine for inspiration isn’t a secret. Decades later, the individual talents who shaped a new aesthetic path on multiple platforms remain touchstones for the undiluted expression of creativity that designers strive for today. But while the ’90s are a fascinating reference for a generation too young to have known them firsthand, for Alessandro Dell’Acqua they were an actual territory of personal exploration; he launched his eponymous label in 1995. He looks at the decade without filters of nostalgia, reading it just as he experienced it, as a time when clashing signifiers of a new style freely coexisted, when the sense of provocation was as stylish as it was uncompromising.
Indulging in the thesis/antithesis game for pre-fall wasn’t a trip down memory lane for Dell’Acqua, but rather a way to find a synthesis pertinent for today between glamour and minimalism, the two driving forces of the ’90s. “Versace and Prada, Tom Ford and Hussein Chalayan, Jean Colonna, and John Galliano,” he said over Zoom. “The contrasts couldn’t have been more exhilarating and energizing. Today such risk-taking approaches seem increasingly rare.”
Dell’Acqua walked a masculine/feminine line between discipline and sensuality, curbing maximalism with restraint and amplifying reduction with decoration. Sleek mohair car coats in red and black houndstooth revealed flamboyant linings printed with a magnified image of a punk couple making out, while a minimal black shift dress was pierced by spirals of bejeweled safety pins. On a similar note, soft-tailored masculine pantsuits were layered with tulle or veiled by delicate chantilly lace. The silhouettes were appropriately ’90s—elongated and laid-back, lean and slightly languid, the industrial vintage feel of that time mitigated by a gentler version of provocative glamour.
The collection was cohesive and versatile enough to be worn by different genders, with pieces fit for the compelling shared wardrobe Dell’Acqua has been proposing for a while. “You have to get out from the stereotype of a jacket being masculine and a skirt being feminine,” he said. Dressing a woman like a man to give her authority no longer makes sense (if it ever did), just as dressing men in traditional feminine clothes doesn’t mean diminishing their sense of self. When fashion is able to eradicate the gender connotation from every single garment, then we can say that we’ve come a long way—thanks in part to the questioning, provocative seeds planted in the ’90s.