European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Walter Albini: Power to Imagination

1960s1970sItalian fashionItalian style

The first stilista of Italian – and global – fashion

“The ability to dream, the ability to give body or an appearance of reality to his dream world. And he even has the rare quality of doing it without ruining anything. This is the reason why women love his clothes so much. They immediately recognize that power is given to the imagination”.
 (Isa Vercelloni and Flavio Lucchini on Walter Albini)
Walter Albini is surely one of the most interesting characters of the recent history of fashion. His intuitions led to the development of the Italian fashion system as it is today, making him the first “stilista” and contributing also to the international development of methods and attitudes in fashion design. Gualtiero (Walter) Albini was born on March 3, 1941 in Busto Arsizio, near Milan, with his family. His interest in fashion designed was manifest since a very early age, making him enroll in the institute “Italo Cremona” in Turin, when he was only sixteen. Here he was the only boy in a school for fashion design populated only by women.
Among his first works was that of illustrator for various magazines. Between 1961 and 1964 Walter went to Paris to perfect his technique and work for the styling agency of Maimè Arnodin and Denise Fayolle, for which he deigned prints and patters for fabrics. Here he fell in love with the style and philosophy of Coco Chanel, whose image remained an inspiration also for shaping his “ideal woman”:
 “I just described the woman I would like to dress (…) Ambiguous, very hard and strong, at least in appearance. She smokes a lot, she travels, she is not necessarily married. She works, but seems perpetually on vacation. She is stylish, elegant, mysterious, alone, adaptable, but not engaging. Not necessarily beautiful, but certainly irresistible”.
Upon his return in Italy, he soon started collaborating with Mariuccia Mandelli, for whom she took care of the Krizia Maglia. From 1964 Albini embarks in numerous experiences of collaboration and consultancy with companies and ready-to-wear brands; some names: Billy Ballo, Cadette, Trell, Montedoro, Princess Luciana, Paola Signorini, Uama Sport, Cole of California, Annaspina, Glans, Callaghan.
It is in 1971 that Walter Albini decided to move from Florence and present in Milan, for the first time, the collections he designed, stating clearly his name together with that of the brand. In a single show, Albini presented five collections for different brands (Basile for coats and trousers, Escargots for knitwear, Callaghan for jersey, Misterfox for dresses, Diamant’s for shirts, replaced by Sportfox), creating the first examples of “total look.” The designer thus becomes a figure to be proposed as a model – an icon. In the spring-summer 1973 the first “Walter Albini” line was born, produced and distributed by Luciano Papini, head of Misterfox.
Apart form his striking talent in design, Albini is interesting also for his consciousness in the methods of developing a fashion project which entails designing but also styling: “I am interested in giving indications of method, both drawing and using other people’s things, as I did here. We must learn the freedom to dress outside of any scheme. Consumerism produces objects, not styles. I look around, I choose, I combine and I propose”.