How Giovanni Bedin Is Reinterpreting the Rules of Couture

A conversation with Venetian designer after his fourth fashion show at Paris Couture Week reveals the thinking behind his design approach.

A conversation with Venetian designer after his fourth fashion show at Paris Couture Week reveals the thinking behind his design approach.

Giovanni Bedin has taken another leap forward within the fashion industry. The Venice-born designer—who splits his time between London, Paris and his native city—showcased his Fall 2019 collection at Paris Couture Week, his fourth since founding his eponymous maison in 2017, and continued to test the boundaries of couture.

Held at the Hôtel de Crillon, Bedin presented a youthful, 18-look collection comprised of bondage–nodding dresses and bustier-and-skirt combos, shown against an ornate, gilded backdrop. The silhouettes were tapered, the decorative elements were at a minimum, and the color palette was restricted to primarily black and white— all characteristics that typically don’t register as couture collections, which are often thought of as having voluminous shapes and excessive appliqués. With over two decades of experience at some of the leading design houses, Bedin understands the rules of couture as good as anyone. It is clear his intention is to not live by them.

As a child, he was deeply inspired by the work of Valentino Garavani and Yves Saint Laurent, particularly their use of fine materials and techniques gleaned from working at ateliers. Bedin has followed suit. After graduating from the American University of Paris, he enrolled at the École de la Chambre Syndicale  in 1995 before assisting Karl Lagerfeld for three seasons, and Thierry Mugler for one. He then went to work at Emanuel Ungaro, designing its Pre-Fall collection for one season. Later, from 2011 to 2015, he became the creative director at House of Worth, the reputed first haute couture label, where he designed garments for the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Kate Moss.

Informed by these experiences, Bedin is a virtual rolodex of references—something he is putting to good use with his own brand. The visible boning on his tops mirrors the corsetry of Charles Frederick Worth; the short, frilly hemlines take after Ungaro; the high-contrast hues are very Lagerfeld. There are also bits of Azzedine Alaïa’s cinched silhouettes, and Gianni Versace’s penchant for using bondage motifs, as seen during his runway show this week. He is formulating his own identity, and still needs some maturing to reach the level of his idols. That said, he is off to a great start.

Ahead of his Fall 2019 couture show, Surface chatted with Bedin about his line, creative process, and why couture collections are still viable.

Photo courtesy of Giovanni Bedin.

Why did you decide to venture out on your own?
Because I felt that l have something to say. l grew up inspired by designers with big personalities that were able to define their own style. [Ready-to-wear] fashion today is a lot about popular shapes and being safe. Couture, however, is a made-to-measure service. Anything can be couture as long as it is custom-made for a client. The rest is a question of style and taste. It will always be relevant.

Do you really think couture is still a viable commodity?
It is not as big as it used to be and the culture has changed a lot, but it’s still important to promote the image of a brand and drive all of the other products. It’s important to create the dream, especially for big houses. That said, smaller designers can still have reasonable businesses—if they are competitive with their prices. They do not need to charge for the marketing and communication, just for the product and the service. But there will always be women that want to have a unique piece.

How would you describe the aesthetic of your brand?
My approach is about the real roots of fashion, and less about marketing. It’s about the product, the clothes, and well-made goods of value that are worth your money. It’s not about shoes and bags. We all remember Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking suit; Chanel’s bouclé jackets; and Madame Grès draping. Couture is technically more complicated, with garments that embrace the body.

How is it different from others in the industry?
I’m building my own DNA that follows a clean aesthetic. I use [breathable] materials like cotton and plain jersey. I take inspiration from the past, and translate it for today with my knowledge. I give my clients structured dresses that do not overpower the body. In fact, I love to work close to the body. The closer you take the fabric to the body, the more difficult it is to make the dress fit—unless it is knitwear. It is more interesting, sexier, and much more challenging. The challenge excites me.

Giovanni Bedin Fall 2019 couture collection. Photo courtesy of Giovanni Bedin.

How are looking to refine your signature with each collection?
I work constantly on my aesthetic, putting together different influences—from movies, to paintings, to my friends, to books. One of my favorite movies is Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter, starring Charlotte Rampling, who always inspires me. I also work a lot with historical garments, looking for details that work for today. Though, I prefer looking at a vintage image, rather than analyzing a vintage piece per se. This allows me to give my own interpretation, and add my own technical skillsets.

What inspired your latest collection at Paris Couture Week?
I don’t like to report on the precise references of a collection. It is a mix of inspirations. I filter different emotions and translate it into a dress. I will say that I really like the neck lines of Leonardo da Vinci’ s “Madonnas.”

How are you looking to grow your business internationally?
Each piece will be available for a made-to-measure, custom order for a single client. I use what is presented on the runway as the starting point and then adapt it to [the client’s] lifestyle and body type. Then, I create similar looks that will be distributed in regular sizes by the top retailers. It’s the same aesthetic, same taste, but, again, a different type of service.

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