Being unaware of your own sensuality is the key to seduction, especially when seducing a fashion pro like Alessandro Dell’Acqua. The designer defines himself as an estimator of subtle eroticism: his last N° 21 collections are openly inspired by the most sensual actress in cinematic history that embodies this concept, especially the great Italian divas of Neorealism.
Looks from the N°21 spring-summer 2023 fashion show by Alessandro Dell'Acqua © Courtesy N°21
It comes naturally that ‘New Neorealism N° 21’ is the project name that Alessandro Dell’Acqua chose to crown his mentorship at Istituto Marangoni in Milan. And now that the designer has selected the best works by the most talented Fashion Design Master’s students, we jumped at the chance to let you know what he shared with them.
Alessandro Dell’Acqua met with students for the final delivery of his mentorship programme, “New Neorealism N°21,” at Istituto Marangoni Milano
A cinematic vision: The influence of post-war Italian films on Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s practice
Alessandro Dell’Acqua has always been passionate about art, culture and cinema. He considers his inspiring muses the Italian actresses of the 50s and 60s, such as Silvana Mangano, Anna Magnani and Monica Vitti.
Alessandro Dell’Acqua, founder and creative director of N°21 © Courtesy N°21
The seed of unaware sexiness was rooted in Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s early years in Naples. Born in the roaring Sixties, he grew up watching films starring Anna Magnani. Her charisma has fascinated him so much that he considers her one of his muses.
He included Magnani’s portraits in many of the moodboards behind his collections to be inspired by her timeless charm. In an interview at Style Magazine – Corriere della Sera, he explained how she perfectly embodied the look of the Italian woman exuding a sensuality that is neither provocative nor artificial. The core concept is wrapped around her sensuality being totally effortless and “exhibited with an unaware, natural attitude.”
A career in fashion: Dell’Acqua’s extraordinary journey through femininity
Dell’Acqua’s personal idea of subtle sensuality of the 1940s and 50s soon clashed with the femininity of the 1980s and 90s. Freshly graduated from Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples, he started taking his first steps in the fashion industry and began working with Byblos, Les Copains and Iceberg. These brands sculpted the image of an empowered contemporary woman, able to seduce and send messages with her lifestyle and fashion choices.
Alessandro Dell'Acqua's pencil skirts as a N°21 signature garment © Courtesy N°21
He worked with knitwear master Pianforini and Genny in the same years Gianni Versace was involved with the brand. Moreover, he left his mark on a leading lingerie brand, La Perla, a quintessence of sensuality, impacting the brand’s leading role in representing modern femininity. In October 2013, Alessandro dell’Acqua was then appointed creative director of Rochas. He worked at the helm of the French fashion house for six years, showing his last collection for the company in February 2020. But his ultimate research into sensuality is expressed through his own brands.
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(Not just) A number: What’s behind N°21
Alessandro Dell’Acqua launched a brand named after himself in 1996 and returned in 2010 with his late fashion project N°21. Twenty-one is a meaningful number for Alessandro Dell’Acqua: it’s the day of his birthday (he was born on December 21, 1962), and it stands for “the naked woman” in the Neapolitan “Smorfia” (a sort of code used to interpret dreams).
N°21 campaign posters near Piazza del Duomo in Milan © Courtesy N°21
A nod to the brand’s mission: elegant transparencies, see-through garments and seductive (never too much provocative) outfits are the essences of N°21’s style. The brand speaks of a designer with a passion for flesh-coloured garments, which he has made into a trend, influencing other brands with its explicit femininity and lightness.
Sketches by Alessandro Dell'Acqua © Courtesy N°21
The same lightness can describe his approach as a designer, as he creates a strong bond with the women he aims to dress and who identify with his creations.
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A new role as a mentor: The “New Neorealism N° 21” project for Istituto Marangoni
Recently, Alessandro Dell’Acqua met with Fashion Design Master’s students at Istituto Marangoni in Milan as their mentor to crown his “New Neorealism N° 21” project. He joined and supported the students, who drew from his vision of creativity and femininity, to create a new capsule collection inspired by Neorealism for Spring-Summer 2024 and showcasing the students’ unique perspectives.
Alessandro Dell’Acqua with Sara Sozzani Maino at Istituto Marangoni Milano
For the final delivery, Dell’Acqua reviewed the projects with the support of industry expert Sara Sozzani Maino, Educational & Scouting Initiatives Advisor of Vogue Italia, Creative Director at Fondazione Sozzani, CNMI International Brand Ambassador and more.
The designer expressed his desire to be impressed with something new, far from today’s representation of sexiness often exaggerated by influencers and celebrities, driven by a constant need to look good.
At the end of the project, Alessandro Dell’Acqua congratulated all of them as he was satisfied with the creative outcomes. Then, he selected the work of Fashion Design Master’s student Tan Changxin as the best one and also recognised the projects of his peers Elena Palumbo, Marco Trentin, Denis Li, Chengpu Li, Selen Altaras, Liu Jiawang, Carlotta Martis and Wu Yixue. A great opportunity still awaits: to go backstage during the N°21 Spring Summer 2024 fashion show in September.
As the students worked hard to handle such a complex brief, which involved extensive research on both materials and the concept itself, they also received inspiring advice from Alessandro Dell’Acqua: “Trust your instinct and personality: do what you feel inside and don’t worry about others’ opinions”, said the designer.