Walter Albini: The Forgotten Pioneer of Italian Fashion

Walter Albini, one of the most influential and innovative fashion designers of the 1960s and 1970s, is set to make a comeback. His brand, which had been dormant since his death in 1983, has been acquired by Bidayat, a Switzerland-based investment platform controlled by Alsara Investment Group. Bidayat plans to revive the brand and create awareness about Albini’s legacy and impact on the fashion industry.

Bidayat is a vehicle of Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who is also the CEO of Qatari investment fund Mayhoola. Rachid stated that he was honored to have unearthed this hidden jewel of Italian high fashion and that he was currently studying Albini’s vast heritage to set the foundations for the future of the eponymous brand. He also said that his challenge would be finding the right caliber of leadership team to bring alive his vision and ambition.

Walter Albini: The Forgotten Pioneer of Italian Fashion
Walter Albini: The Forgotten Pioneer of Italian Fashion

A possible collaboration with Alessandro Michele

One of the most intriguing questions surrounding the relaunch of Walter Albini is who will be the creative director of the brand. There has been immense speculation that it would be none other than Alessandro Michele, the former creative director of Gucci, who left the company in November 2022 after a seven-year run. Michele is known for his signature gender-fluid maximalism, which could resonate with Albini’s experimental and unisex approach.

However, neither Bidayat nor Michele have confirmed or denied this rumor. It is understood that Michele is limited by a yearlong non-compete clause until November 2023, which could coincide with the unveiling of the new Walter Albini collection. Carla Sozzani, the founder of 10 Corso Como and a friend of Albini, told WWD in July that she believed there was nobody better suited than Michele for this job.

A pioneer of ready-to-wear and Milan Fashion Week

Walter Albini was born in Turin in 1941 and studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan. He started his career as a freelance designer for several Italian brands, such as Krizia, Trell, and Basile. He also collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, who was working for Krizia at the time. In 1965, he launched his own label, Walter Albini per Zambaiti, which was one of the first examples of ready-to-wear in Italy.

Albini was a visionary who combined his artistic talent with his business acumen. He created collections that were modern, elegant, and wearable, drawing inspiration from art, cinema, music, and culture. He was also one of the first designers to use models of different ethnicities and genders on his runway shows. He embraced the concept of unisex fashion, notably in his Autumn/Winter 1975 collection featuring both male and female models.

Albini was also instrumental in establishing Milan as a fashion capital. He was one of the founders of Milan Fashion Week in 1972, along with Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Elio Fiorucci, and others. He chose to show his collections in unconventional venues, such as theaters, museums, and gardens. He also invited celebrities, journalists, and buyers from all over the world to attend his shows. He was widely acclaimed by the press and the public for his creativity and originality.

A treasure trove of archives and inspiration

Walter Albini died prematurely at the age of 42 in 1983 from AIDS-related complications. His brand faded away after his death, but his creations remained an outstanding patrimony of Italian fashion. Bidayat has acquired the intellectual property and a substantial part of the archives of Albini, which include sketches, photos, fabrics, accessories, and garments.

Bidayat aims to use these archives as a source of inspiration and guidance for the future of the brand. The investment platform stressed that Albini’s creations continue to inspire some of the world’s most sought-after designers and artistic talents today. For example, Michele was inspired by Albini’s 1970s aesthetic for his AW16 collection for Gucci menswear.

In addition to relaunching the brand, Bidayat also plans to organize exhibitions and events to celebrate Albini’s life and work. One of these exhibitions will be curated by Sozzani and will be held in May 2023 at Prato’s Museo del Tessuto. The exhibition will showcase some of Albini’s most iconic pieces and will explore his influence on contemporary fashion.

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