He has one of those mercurial Italian faces: sometimes mischievous as a faun, sometimes solemn as a bust of Cicero. Indeed, the rising Sicilian fashion star Marco de Vincenzo is becoming known as a master of fusion and illusion, bypassing the familiar extravagance of Southern Italian designers—sexy baroque, folklore, gladiator—to enter uncharted territory that just might make him the thinking woman’s Sicilian.
De Vincenzo’s clothes, which blend classic silhouettes with a mind--blowing assortment of high-tech materials, are both futuristic and ladylike (think Judy Jetson goes to finishing school). His spring 2014 collection won raves for the subversive luxury of its pared-down dresses and suits, which combine metallic leather, digital ikat prints, trompe l’oeil prismatic effects, and lacquered athletic fabrics. In February, LVMH invested in the brand.
“I like to make people look twice,” says de Vincenzo on a January afternoon in Milan, during the shoot for this story. He is flanked by W Contributing Fashion Editor Giovanna Battaglia, a close friend and the stylist for his shows. De Vincenzo jokes quietly with her and supervises the proceedings with the sort of relaxed air of experience that comes from a demanding day job as head accessories designer at Fendi. “I owe a lot to Fendi, which has been my school,” says the soft-spoken 35-year-old. “I devote my days to them, and at night I work on my clothes.”
Growing up in Messina, de Vincenzo was obsessed with drawing and design. He would study family photographs, fascinated by the transformational power of clothes; at 18 he left Sicily for Rome’s prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design. After graduating, he started working on handbags at Fendi, where he forged a close relationship with Silvia Venturini Fendi.
Still, he fantasized about making clothes, and in 2009 he presented a small haute couture collection in Paris. It was an auspicious debut: His body-skimming suits and dresses with meticulously crafted pleats and metallic finishes caught the attention of the Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani, who awarded him first place in her magazine’s famous competition for newcomers, Who Is On Next?
Since then, de Vincenzo has shown a series of accomplished ready-to-wear collections in Milan. From season to season, his look has been anything but predictable, oscillating from geometric leathers to yeti-like furs to pixelated prints to sunny knits in serpentine patterns. At Fendi, he developed a passion for unusual materials, which he sources from small factories and artisanal workshops all over Italy, and when something strikes his fancy—whether it’s fur or athletic mesh—de Vincenzo goes to great lengths to make it unique, hand-painting 3-D effects, gilding and pleating leather, adding crystals. “After working for so many years on handbags, I wanted to feel free,” the designer declares. “I take the liberty of doing a kind of creative slalom.”
What gives cohesion to de Vincenzo’s style is his instinct for what is wearable and his spare, classic silhouettes. “I don’t have a muse, but I have beautiful friends who work in the fashion world, like Giovanna and Delfina [Delettrez, the jewelry designer and daughter of Silvia Venturini Fendi]. From the start, I’ve studied their real-life outfits,” de Vincenzo confesses. “I begin designing, and I ask them, ‘Would you wear this?’ But I also dream of transforming fabric. When I’m working alone, just with the material, I always ask myself, ‘Is it magic?’ ”
Hair by Gabriele Trezzi at Close Up Milano; makeup by Mathias van Hooff at Julian Watson Agency. Models: Tanya Katysheva, Sibui, and Emilia Nawarecka at Next Management. Digital technician: Zoe Salt; photography assistant: Edward Singleton; fashion assistant: Carlotta Tabaroni; production: Neela Quagliola at Mascioni Associati.