Alithia Spuri-Zampetti is quietly bringing a fresh perspective to the French fashion house Paule Ka. She took over from the brand’s founder Serge Cajfinger in 2015. He launched his brand in 1987 – a straightforward commercial enterprise with nothing more complicated than the style of the classic 50s and 60s fashion icons like Jackie O, and Grace Kelly in mind. Not surprisingly, Cafjinger’s vision found itself an audience but now it is the job of Spuri-Zampetti to keep that upbeat, elegant spirit but to inject a new energy too.

You only need to look at Spuri-Zampetti’s flamboyant collection when she graduated from Central Saint Martin’s Fashion BA in 2008 to see she is a natural born show-off. That collection, which was featured in the windows of Kokon ToZai was a feat of technical prowess, exquisite cocktail dresses made with dramatic laser cut filigree collars. She has a fascination with 50s couture – Jacques Fath is a favourite reference – and she has a hyper real aesthetic too, with heightened colour choices, perhaps a result of her love of Japanese Manga comics. 

Spuri-Zampetti has a flightiness about her that is infectious. She has long wavy hair with a blunt fringe and a smudge of red lips. She is Italian, born in San Diego, raised in Rome, educated in London. During her time at CSM, she worked for Valentino and Hussein Chalayan, and then Bottega Veneta before working with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin for six years where she was head of womenswear. She has his lightness of touch as well as his meticulous attention to detail and an inherent understanding of how a certain woman wants to look and feel.

Alithia Spuri-Zampetti

She was a smart choice for Paule Ka – a designer with her own style and vision. She took the job because she was seduced by a state of the art atelier with an experienced team of seamstresses. She can’t quite believe how much freedom she has to create textiles from scratch. ‘I have three factories in Como I torture daily. I’m such a textile freak,’ she said when we met in the basement of the Paule Ka shop in Mount Street. And you can see that the artisanal fabrics and the craft of making clothes has been put at the centre of everything she is doing.

She was excited about the campaign she was prepping with Miles Aldridge. They were creating a futuristic bamboo jungle for the French Japanese model, Yumi Lambert to walk through. That campaign has just been released, a burst of bright, zingy colour in these grey days, with something of the optimism of La La Land about it. For spring/summer 2017, Spuri-Zampetti presented her collection at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. “We displayed it in a greenhouse and people looked at the dresses like they were birds. We suspended five looks really high so it was like they were in the jungle.” Here she talks us through the inspirations and intricacies of her SS17 collection which is a subtle play on masculine tailoring and feminine dresses that grew out of a research trip she made to Japan. It is going in store now.
Paule Ka, 19 Mount Street, London W1

Japan

I did a bit of a journey from hardcore Japan [Tokyo] to really soft emotional dreamy japan [Kyoto and the islands] and in the collection I wanted to reflect this. I thought I will bring the audience on the same journey I experienced. I started with architecture, I went through judo and the kimono.

Paule Ka spring summer 2017

Tailoring

I discovered the first piece of clothing the founder Serge Cajfinger made for Paule Ka was not a dress but a suit. So I started the show with a modern trouser suit. I know a Paule Ka woman would not be attracted to a men’s suit so I thought how can I rework the tailoring? If I work on the fabric, and take a menswear wool gabardine and make it fluid, it will look more womanly. I took the lapel as the element that wouldn’t change but in one look it is draped on the bias and the silhouette becomes top and pants. Or the lapel becomes a robe and flirty volume in the skirt; it becomes the drape of a jumpsuit; it has judo reference – a crossed jacket with a fastening almost like a Yohji Yamamoto look, but Paule Ka.

Paule Ka spring summer 2017

Stripes (and how to do something interesting with a bow)

This stripe print was taken from an obi but we started darting the stripes and fitting it to the body so it becomes a sexy dress. It is a way I can interpret the bow. The bow is the thing I hate the most but it’s the signature of the house! Sometimes when you don’t like something, you can take it somewhere interesting. So we integrated these bows made of stripes in the garment but it’s sewn in completely flat and you get all this engineering. The pattern cutting of these dresses is really amazing - all darts without any cuts. Everything is flat; these are masterpieces in pattern cutting. It’s very Paule Ka of the future, the atelier’s savoir faire, the graphicness of the colours, the modernity.

Paule Ka spring summer 2017

Kimono

The final story of the evening was the idea of ancient kimonos. You have to degrade lining inside them all. I thought it would be amazing to wrap the lining around, so I worked with a French manufacturer which does this special dyeing, where you turn the fabric and dye it and we did the whole construction in one piece – it’s all draped, so normally the construction is seamless and you have this feeling of the kimono.

Paule Ka spring summer 2017

Text by Tamsin Blanchard

 

 

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