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GCDS Creative Director Giuliano Calza Is Constantly Shopping

"Collecting is a way to archive fantasies of making new things."

Mitch Zachary
GCDS Creative Director Giuliano Calza Is Constantly Shopping
Giuliano Calza
Raffaele Schioppo

Designer Giuliano Calza, 34, still looks at life through the eyes of a child. “Sometimes precious things are the ones that makes you scream, ‘Cute!’” he laughs, about to take a sip of a bedazzled SpongeBob SquarePants water bottle. “I really find the most weird things beautiful.” His retro-futuristic GCDS collections have provoked the response “grow up” from more than one stodgy fashion critic with their Hello Kitty references and tongue-in-cheek subversions of tropes like workwear and classic horror. But as he fleshes out his label, Calza has proven he can evolve without rebuffing his fantastical nature. “Fashion has to be on the light side,” he says. “Everyone is trying to be too serious, too cool for school. I don't want to grow old before it's my time.”

Step inside the Milanese flat he shares with boyfriend and Valentino CMO Yiğit Turhan and behold that wonder personified. But this isn’t Candyland; he tempers Japanese storyboards of Disney cartoons and old Universal Studios props with an antique art deco rug and Lucio Fontana artwork. His closet exemplifies this same clash-happy spirit, fusing seemingly contradictory designs in one space. Perfectly tailored Valentino blazers and simple T-shirts hang next to Palace x Gucci logo jeans and Pepsi Cola x GCDS hats. “The market is obsessed with logos,” he posits matter-of-factly, speaking of both his and the world’s complex relationship with branding. “I deal in subcultures in a way and mainstream media.” The creative director appreciates an intelligent subversion—Grace Wales Bonner’s boots with the exaggerated square toe are a favorite—and has no desire to wear head-to-toe GCDS. “It's like asking a musician to only listen to their music," he says. "They're going to go crazy at some point." He's constantly shopping. "Collecting is a way to archive fantasies of making new things."

Calza never planned to become a designer; he just liked getting dressed. “It was a way for me to express myself,” he reflects. Fashion was a hobby first. He was styling on the side, offering shopping advice and recommendations as the de facto expert of the friend group—people were starting to notice. Calza was working in a restaurant in Shanghai with his brother (who now serves as the chief executive of GCDS). The man in charge of producing clothing for the restaurant took a liking to Calza and his style; he offered to produce clothing for him for free. Soon after, he returned to Milan due to visa issues and launched GCDS.

Today, both what he wears and what he designs synthesize his prior locales, be that the refined flamboyance of his childhood in Italy or the pop-art-driven shopaholicism of his young adult years in Shanghai and Hong Kong. “The first thing I realized was that leaving China, my biggest nightmare was that I couldn't find all the crazy things that I was buying in the markets.” He set about encapsulating the style of a worldly (whether that be through physical or online discovery) kid. “At first I wanted to do gay streetwear because I was like, ‘I'm gay, I love pink, I love to shop, but I cannot find anything that matches my own style—it's too expensive or it's too boring,’" before diluting those outlandish desires with a dash of practicality. “I wanted to be in the middle of the essential and the crazy.”

Calza, admittedly, designs for himself. In that way, he can always stand behind his own work. “I'm creating things that I'm going to infuse with my energy, that I'm going to be able to wear every day, and be obsessed with,” he says. Example? A red chinoiserie fabric with Chucky, the horror movie doll, embroidered into the landscape, in which he wrapped handbags, outerwear, and more. It’s that kind of iconic imagery that punctuates his memory. Asked about his first aesthetic references, Calza recounts an old The Wizard of Oz illustrated book, Ginger Spice’s Union Jack dress, and a skirt his mother used to wear featuring ladies playing tennis. “I still think that the things people remember are the fun parts of fashion. The Murakami Louis Vuitton or the Marc Jacobs shows or the Prada print with bananas,” Calza reflects. “This is what makes people dream. That's the part of fashion that I want to be.”

Art Director: Smiley Stevens/ Managing Editor: Hilary George-Parkin/ Casting Director: Yasmin Coutinho/ Executive Producer: Marc Duron

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