Representing the creative future

Paolina Russo brings London to Milan with her SS22 collection

The emerging designer is presenting the universe of her new season at the iconic location of 10 Corso Como as part of Milan Fashion Week with no stress involved in the process

Since her BA Collection at Central Saint Martins Paolina Russo has any fashion enthusiast following her innovative optical illusion knits and repurposed pieces from her collaborations with Adidas, to her MA collection and the set up of her brand. Carving her own, steady path within the industry, Russo is a characteristic representative of London’s creativity but her journey does not fit in any of London’s emerging designer cliches. Instead of following the needs of an industry that changes its favourite young talent every other week, she follows her own rhythm, staying loyal to her craft and process. Paolina Russo is presenting the universe of her Spring Summer 22 collection tonight at the iconic location of 10 Corso Como as part of Milan Fashion Week, a body of work created without the stress, rush, and pain that is usually associated with fashion weeks- just pure creativity, collaboration and a good time.

After graduating from the MA Fashion from Central Saint Martins in 2020, Paolina has taken a new route. Only two weeks after the final show and presentation the entire world was hit by the pandemic and the UK went into lockdown. Suddenly being forced to stand still after 7 years in fashion education made Paolina, amongst many others, come face to face with herself. “It was an anticlimax and a blessing”, she says. The pandemic allowed her time to feel, think, and realise that fashion is what she wants to do. Seeing the whole industry stop triggered thoughts about what fashion is in the world, but also for her personally.

“This was the first time in three years that I am creating from a clear and not stressed out mind.” – Paolina Russo

“Before the pandemic fashion was all about no sleep and all grinding,” she laughs. The months spent not creating gave time for a re-evaluation of what life is. What is enjoyable — success and money, or a healthy and happy lifestyle? Fashion is not everything, mental health, sleep, and food are enjoyable parts of life and they should be as important as work. She argues that she is not alone to say this, but that many of her peers agree. Perhaps it is the industry at large that is changing. One crucial point when she realised that change is needed, was when she saw that this is the first time in three years that she sees her work exactly for what it is and she actually knows what the next step is. “This was the first time in three years,” she says “that I am creating from a clear and not stressed out mind.”

From this point of calmness Russo is presenting a hyper-realistic, futuristic collection together with creative director Ben Ditto. The duo dived into Paolina’s interests in anime and gaming, as well as her background in Martial Arts (she owns a black belt in taekwondo) to deliver an energetic and electrified universe of clothes. It is sportswear, it is red and blue, and it is a game. Influenced by the competitive elements of team sports, Russo looked into how athletes are wearing their uniforms, the aesthetics of the fan culture that surrounds sports events, and placed the graphic logos that adorn fighter t-shirts into a fashion context.

Creating now begins with a brief for Paolina Russo. It is always a very specific start, like the colours blue and red for example, and it is crucial that she sticks to it. As a teacher would in school, Paolina sets measures for how and what she will create. For this season, the brief was the contrast between the colours blue and red, because Paolina and Ben saw these as representations of two different teams in the game they wanted to create. Within this universe, red represents the superpower of energy, and blue equals electricity.

Director of film: Ben Ditto Photographer: Aidan Zamiri

Can rules limit creativity? Paolina would argue it is more liberating in the long run. She has realised that scaling down the width of her collection has allowed her to find a focus and a depth that only shows integrity and respect for the original ideas and design.

“This is part of entering adulthood, to realise that you like to work and that work becomes much easier and more fun when the studio is tidy and a creative process organised.” – Paolina Russo

To be a young designer is not only to understand one’s creative destiny of fashion. Rather it is a full-time chase for time and money. ‘TMM’ now stands for: time, money, management. Russo has had help not just from her creative partner Ditto but also from interns and assistants who contributed to this season’s work. In addition to those in the studio, factories that realised the production of garments needed to be managed too. Located in countries that one after another went into lockdown, Paolina admits it has been frustrating. “It is difficult, especially as a young brand. You are not prioritised when it comes to production…” Although, overall she enjoys the task of managing her team and studio. “This is part of entering adulthood,” she argues “to realise that you like to work and that work becomes much easier and more fun when the studio is tidy and a creative process organised.”

At 10 Corso Como the presentation will be in the form of a film and still photographs. It is a whole universe, a ‘London-grunge universe’ as Paolina calls it, that is brought to Italy. It is open to the public and the designer welcomes everyone to come. Welcome, welcome to Paolina’s world.