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N°21’s Alessandro Dell’Acqua: “Imagine a New Neorealism, but make it fashion”

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“I don’t go for sexy; I love sensuality. An eroticism that cannot be seen. For me, it’s the attitude that makes the difference.” These are just a few words of wisdom from the man who fuses past and future to create a sensual, modern, yet cinematic fashion world: Alessandro Dell’Acqua, founder and creative director of N°21.

Alessandro Dell’Acqua, founder and creative director of N°21

Alessandro Dell’Acqua, founder and creative director of N°21

Always inspired by Neorealism, also known as the golden age of post-war Italian cinema, Dell’Acqua often names Anna Magnani, Silvana Mangano, Monica Vitti and Sophia Loren as his muses both in life and in collections. So, when he was asked to mentor Fashion Design Master’s students at Istituto Marangoni in Milan, it was no surprise that the name the creative chose for his project was “New Neorealism N°21.”

Alessandro Dell’Acqua, founder and creative director of N°21, introducing his mentorship programme, “New Neorealism N°21,” at Istituto Marangoni Milano

Alessandro Dell’Acqua introducing his mentorship programme, “New Neorealism N°21,” at Istituto Marangoni Milano

In a recent conversation with the esteemed Art Director and Professor Carlos Rodriguez, Alessandro Dell’Acqua sat down with us to discuss his history, fashion obsessions and how to support emerging creatives.

Hailing from Naples, Alessandro Dell’Acqua became the creative director of Genny at just 23 years old. He then worked with various brands, including La Perla, Brioni, Malo, Borbonese, and Rochas. In the meantime, he launched his eponymous label in 1996, but disagreements drove him to leave the brand in 2007.

N°21 campaign posters near Piazza del Duomo in Milan

N°21 campaign posters near Piazza del Duomo in Milan

However, his motto has always been to take back what he has lost, and three years later, he created N°21, a brand that began with a personal reworking and tribute to the type of woman he admires. “The kind of woman I like, and that I represent, is always the same,” he told us. “I don’t go for sexy; I love sensuality. An eroticism that cannot be seen. For me, it’s the attitude that makes the difference.” 

Sketches by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

Sketches by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

“I don’t go for sexy; I love sensuality. An eroticism that cannot be seen. For me, it’s the attitude that makes the difference” – Alessandro Dell'Acqua, founder and creative director of N°21 

Looks from the N°21 fall-winter 2010/11 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

Looks from the N°21 fall-winter 2010/11 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

During the interview, Dell’Acqua and Rodriguez also shared a moment of intimacy, bonding over their mutual passion for Italian cinema and its iconic female stars. The magical allure of the silver screen has always captured Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s attention, and actresses such as Anna Magnani, Silvana Mangano, Monica Vitti, and Sophia Loren continue to inspire him.

Pencil skirts sketched by Alessandro Dell'Acqua as a signature garment

Alessandro Dell'Acqua's pencil skirts as a signature garment

The designer reworks classic elements of their style, such as swathing dresses, midi hems, black petticoats edged with lace, and lots of silk, in a modern and sensual way. This is the definition of femininity, according to Alessandro Dell’Acqua. 

Looks from the N°21 spring-summer 2016 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

Looks from the N°21 spring-summer 2016 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

New Neorealism N°21 represents his latest project, aimed at mentoring and guiding the new generation of Italian creative directors. Inspired by Italian neorealism, this theme is particularly close to Dell’Acqua’s heart.

N°21 headquarters in Milan

N°21 headquarters in Milan

“With new neorealism, I hope to see tomorrow’s Italian creative directors flourish, showing a vision that goes in opposite directions,” said Dell’Acqua. “I desire to see something different, untied from what is currently popular, which is very much influenced by celebrities and influencers.” 

Looks from the N°21 spring-summer 2023 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

Looks from the N°21 spring-summer 2023 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

Students will have a unique opportunity to work closely with the founder of N°21, learning from his creative vision and incorporating their creativity and point of view into a new neorealism-inspired capsule collection for spring-summer 2024.

A sketch by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

A sketch by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

New Neorealism N°21 is more than just a learning experience for students. It celebrates the timeless allure and enchanting glamour of Italian cinema’s golden era, which continues to inspire Alessandro Dell’Acqua and shape his unique aesthetic vision.

N°21 store in Seoul

N°21 store in Seoul

 

 

Sofia Sarandrea
Fashion Business, Digital Communication and Media, 3rd year, Milan
Course
Programme
postgraduate-Master's Degrees • Master's Courses