Last year Stefano Tonchi and Maria Luisa Frisa put together a special book detailing the life and work of the Italian designer titled Walter Albini and His Times: All Power to the Imagination. With the current 1970’s mood that has inspired so many designers and their collections, a look at Albini’s work grants a refreshing insight. Inspired by 1920’s and ‘30s modernism, as most designers were at the time, Albini sought to advance it as a reference, to shift the spirit into something that would not look to the past but instead push towards the future. Like Halston, Kenzo, and Yves St. Laurent, Albini’s designs informed the popular fashion discourse and defined the era, but unlike those celebrated designers, Albini’s contribution would be mostly forgotten.
When he passed in 1983, Albini’s work had taken on a transgressive quality; questioning the status quo of power, gender, and tradition, reexamining it and deconstructing it, always subtle but always so sure. His work paved the way for other Italian designers, notably Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace, to charge ahead. If Albini’s work reveals anything it is that the 1970’s was more than Studio 54, peasant blouses, Faye Dunaway, flared leg pants, Annie Hall, midi skirts, or any of the other nostalgic icons and fashion memes that have crept up in the collections over the past few seasons. It was, at least in Albini’s world, a time for real ideas and the fearless pursuit of them.
Walter Albini and His Times: All Power to the Imagination is currently available through Mode in collaboration with Fondazione Pitti Discover