The most striking statements are often delivered in the faintest of whispers. And when it comes to style, the loudest proclamations can be revealed in the smallest of details. Storied Italian textile manufacturer Agnona has long been favoured by well-to-do Milanese ladies—who are notoriously discreet, but with an air of eccentricity. At its heart, Milanese style is about understated elegance and sartorial simplicity. And Simon Holloway, creative director of Agnona, manifests an affinity for that particularly Italian way of blending the traditional with the contemporary.
The Agnona ethos exudes a sophisticated attitude, with sleek silhouettes made voluptuous by the finest fabrics. “Agnona has a timelessness to it,” says Holloway. “It’s more about style than trend. There’s a seasonal conversation with fashion, but it [Agnona] shouldn’t be mistaken for trying to be the most conceptual kind of fashion brand. It’s really about style.”
Agnona was born in 1953, founded by Francesco Ilorini Mo (and today is a part of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group) during the era of miracolo economico (the economic miracle) in Italy. “Agnona was in lockstep with all the great product designers designing their way out of the postwar economic disaster,” says Holloway. After many years of providing customized fabrics to some of the most respected couturiers (Balmain, Givenchy, Dior, Valentino, Pucci), Agnona began to develop ready-to-wear, eventually launching its own collection under the mill’s name. “When he [Ilorini Mo] launched Agnona as a brand, as opposed to just a fabric mill, it was done through the lens of having worked with all these creators,” notes Holloway. Specializing in noble fibres such as vicuña, cashmere, alpaca, camel, and fine wools, Agnona’s innovative experiments with finishes, rich colours, and weaving processes are what make its fabrics some of the most coveted.
The Agnona ethos exudes a sophisticated attitude, with sleek silhouettes made voluptuous by the finest fabrics.
To hear the English-born designer speak about his creations with the Italian luxury brand is to listen to Holloway tell the story of celebrating its cultural heritage. “If you go through the fabric archive, you can see incredible double-faced fabrics. I found one that was cashmere on one side and linen on the other. We can’t even replicate that now.”
Holloway’s pedigree for luxury comes from time spent at Chloé and Sonia Rykiel in Paris, Narciso Rodriguez and Ralph Lauren in New York, Jimmy Choo in London, and Hogan in Milan. In an era when fashion brands are adopting a see-now, buy-now approach to production, Holloway is content in taking a slower approach. “Agnona is much more of an evolutionary process from season to season,” he says. In addition, with Agnona producing its own textiles—a detail that adds unparalleled value and craftsmanship to the clothing, but dictates a certain cadence—yarns must be dyed and then woven into fabrics and turned into finished items of clothing.
Since showing his first collection for Agnona in the fall of 2016, Holloway’s ability to use Agnona’s history as a platform for showcasing its hallmark fabrics has made his timeless yet modern designs desired by a new clientele. Debuting in Canada exclusively at Holt Renfrew, the fall/winter 2017 collection is an amplification of the decadence of the fabrics that keeps the silhouettes simple—a ’70s spin on flare knits, statement fur, and Agnona’s signature neutral palette that is so extensive, the word beige is translated into countless variations. “The world is inherently a neutral one,” says Holloway. “Taupe is magical because it clings to whatever you put next to it—a very, very intelligent colour.” (Serendipitously, one of the earliest pieces of clothing Holloway bought for himself was “a Giorgio Armani jacket that I really couldn’t afford—but I bought it anyway. It had that beautiful Armani shoulder and that amazing Armani kind of slouch that he cut into his jackets. It was taupe.”)
“Agnona has a timelessness to it,” says Holloway. “It’s more about style than trend.”
Holloway is making his mark on the label’s look, firmly yet gently. “As a designer, it’s your job to anticipate what people want. The Agnona style is about personal reassurance. It’s about dressing for yourself. And when somebody notices you, they’re noticing you for the way you look, rather than you wearing the latest and greatest piece that’s in fashion. There’s a kind of discretion there.”
As a company that values its fabric heritage, it should come as no surprise that Agnona extends into a home collection (also stock-ed at Holt Renfrew) consisting of throws and pillows—think alpaca, cashmere, Mongolian lamb, and mink-trimmed knit. (There is also an adjunct baby collection of little pillows and cute blankets.) Comments Holloway, “We’ve taken some of the blanket details and turned them into wraps and ponchos in the ready-to-wear. There’s this nice kind of interplay between the two.”
Agnona stands for a level of luxury superior to most other things. It doesn’t have to shout—it merely whispers.
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