If ever there was a fitting muse for 2020, it would be Josephine Baker. Fearless in her pursuit of equality, Missouri-born Baker not only caused a stir in Paris when she donned a micro skirt crafted from fake bananas (during a time when hemlines hit just above the ankle) but also when she aided the French resistance. In addition, she refused to perform for segregated audiences in the States, gave lectures on race at an historically black college in Tennessee and speeches beside Martin Luther King Jr. Following his assassination in 1968, Baker was asked to consider leading the Civil Rights Movement by his widow Coretta Scott King.
Progressive 20th-century women such as Baker, the Italian arts patron Luisa Casati and the dancer Isadora Duncan were the inspiration for Veronica Leoni, the Rome-based designer, when she was bringing together her womenswear collection for 2 Moncler 1952. “I started envisioning an army of women on a quest for their lost paradise,” Leoni elaborates, speaking over the phone from Italy, “strong women who do not give up their freedom, who are able to indulge in femininity and at the same time contaminate it in a modern, active and functional way.”
The 2 Moncler 1952 collection sits within Moncler’s Genius portfolio, a project where different creatives are invited to reimagine the Italian outerwear brand’s codes every season. Rolling with the brief, and with Baker in mind, Leoni dreamed up elegant trench coats worn with puffer jacket turbans, drop-waisted, flapper dresses crafted from devoré velvets and puffer jackets covered in shaggy black shearling and damask florals. “I wanted to project Moncler into a decadent image, merging the utilitarian with a sort of lightness and dreaminess,” she says, speaking of a texture-rich collection that uses technical Nylons instead of silks, mixing it with lots of heavy knitwear fit for arctic winters. Leoni, who formerly worked as head of knitwear at purist label Jil Sander, says she wanted to “fuse sportiness and functionality with femininity… without indulging in superfluous details.”
It’s perhaps natural then that this chic pragmatism informs Leoni’s collections. As well as working alongside Sander herself, Leoni was formerly head of pre-collections at Céline during Phoebe Philo’s tenure. “From Mrs Sander and Phoebe Philo I learnt quality and an obsessive care of details,” says Leoni, who studied literature in Rome before finding her path in fashion design while living in London after university. “They both establish through their collections a very direct dialogue with their women. They earned trust, they’ve been reliable and they became something more than designers,” she says. “They have been cultural figures, leaving a mark on contemporary womanhood which I definitely share and [seek to] push further.”
Working with Moncler has helped further refine Leoni’s eye for essentialism. “The collection is very focused,” she says. “It’s taught me flexibility at all levels and that I needed to train my editing skills.” And, in 2020, with the industry and society upended the world over due to the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement, this discipline to redefine what is imperative is even more important.
The designer Veronica Leoni.
“Fashion is a mirror of the evolving society, anticipating, proposing and supporting changes,” says Leoni. “The industry has responsibilities which go far beyond clothes. We can’t be shallow and we can’t avoid the brutal reality we are experiencing worldwide on a daily basis. We need to be involved, we need to be committed to do our work with a deeper ethic, honesty and authenticity. And we need to stay on the right side of setting examples of values and behaviour.”
Included in the launch of her 2 1952 collection for autumn/winter is a limited-edition anorak, made with Moncler’s signature nylon, part of a collaboration with the US-based Girl Up organisation, which helps fight gender inequality across the globe by funding education and leadership for young women. Emblazoned with a statement that reads ‘IT’S HER RIGHT’, a donation will be made to the organisation. For Leoni, the charitable element was an essential addition to the line-up – she says Moncler’s owner Remo Ruffini was “excited” by her idea. “I loved the idea of making the Genius project not just a creative hub for different voices, but an active platform challenging the status quo and promoting differences and gender equality,” she says. “I really hope that what we are feeling now is a wind of change, and by supporting and encouraging the next generation, we will be able to see positive results.”
Continuing in this vein, education, she says, is key. “Guaranteeing access to [learning] not only empowers a new generation of girls, but is our primary instrument in building a better society in which prejudice, violence and hate no longer exist. This cannot be utopia anymore,” she says. “We all have to do our part in driving change.”
The 2 Moncler 1952 womenswear collection by Veronica Leoni launches 3 September on Moncler.com.
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