Coffee Colour in Turin
By Lara Statham
Walter Dang, French fashion designer based in Turin, has just released his latest ‘pret-a-couture’ autumn/winter collection for 2014/15. I met him at his spectacular atelier in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and over a cup of strong black espresso he revealed the ideas behind his collection, the Walter Dang brand philosophy and what he loves most about his adopted city.
Couleur Caffè (Coffee Colours), Walter tells me, is inspired by the history, culture and cosmopolitan elegance of coffee drinking. Turin could not have been a more appropriate location to host this collection – the Italian city that has given the world some of the biggest names in coffee production and where the coffee ritual filters satisfyingly into the social life of the city.
Walter himself exudes the debonair elegance of a true cosmopolitan. Born in France, to parents of French Spanish and Vietnamese ancestry, he grew up being strongly influenced by his father’s immaculate style and was taught his craft at the house of Pierre Cardin. Arriving in Turin in 2002, Walter established his first atelier in the now uber-chic district of Quadrilatero, moving to Corso Vittorio just 2 years ago.
He was the first in the fashion world to coin the term ‘pret-a-couture’. A blend of the attention to detail of the haute couture, and the ready to wear of the pret-a-porter, each of his designs are made specifically to suit certain body shapes and sizes. The idea is that when clients go into his showroom, they receive individual advice as to the design best suited to them. His designs are versatile and can be worn in different ways to suit women of all ages. For example, I spotted a black and white dog tooth mini skirt which Walter showed me would look equally stylish worn as a cape on a more mature woman.
Collections such as Couleur Caffè complement the seasons but on a tour of his showroom, he also pointed out the timeless quality of his pieces. “A dress that a woman bought in 2006 can be easily matched up with a jacket and shoes from today’s collections.”
I asked him if it was difficult to attract clients these days who appear to favour cheap, fast, throw away fashions. “I see that since 2008 there has been a new consciousness, especially in younger women in their 30s who are starting to think, perhaps for the first time, about quality. There is a growing trend among young Italian women to make their own clothes which means that when they buy a piece they prefer to buy something original that has been well made.”
The fabrics that Walter uses also mirror his social consciousness. He carefully researches the conditions in which his fabrics are sourced and manufactured. Walter’s meticulous attention to detail and passion for his craft is clearly evident in the detail of his Couleur Caffè collection. Inspired by realist Slovenian artist, Ivana Koblica’s ‘Coffee Madam’ he developed the entire collection around the history, the rituals, stories, the fashions of the day, colours, textures and aromas of coffee culture through the ages.
Always the innovator, Walter recently offered evening previews of his collection by turning his showroom space into four themed installations: Coffee Drinkers, Coffee Women, Coffee Times and The Lady of Costadoro. The Couleur Caffè collection is sponsored by Gruppo Costadoro S.p.a., a company of excellence in the field of coffee roasting.
The Walter Dang brand with its clever combination of innovation, creativity, tradition and style is perfectly matched to the city, which he now calls home. When I asked Walter what he loves most about Turin, his answer was appropriately eclectic.
“I love it all – the grittiness of areas such as Barriera di Milano to the tree-lined wide avenues of streets like Corso Unione Sovietica. Obviously I also love the central areas – the pedestrianised thoroughfare via Lagrange, the narrow cobbled streets near the Quadrilatero like via Barbaroux and the buzzing atmosphere of the many bars and restaurants in multicultural zone of cool San Salvario.”
All photos compliments of Walter Dang