Tension and Release:
The Precisionist Tailoring of CASASOLA
By Thomas Sweeney
Photographed by Hanna Tveite
The Brazilian-born, London-based designer Barbara Casasola has described herself as a "free thinker" who "quietly moves fashion forward," and slow-fashion enthusiasts who have followed her half-decade career would nod appreciatively in agreement. Since the 2012 launch of her namesake line, Ms. Casasola has paced herself in honing a signature aesthetic: a melodious dialogue between fluid volumes and razor-precise tailoring. "The CASASOLA label is about mixing moments of tension and release," she says, "which expresses a relaxed-but-ready attitude to the woman I design for. She's not wooden; she's sensual and comfortable in her own skin."
Ms. Casasola, who knew from an early age that she was destined for a life in fashion, has the résumé of a designer's designer. She graduated summa cum laude from Istituto Marangoni, in Milan, landing her assistant and consulting stints at the likes of Roberto Cavalli and Lanvin. And since striking out on her own, she has been the guest womenswear designer at Pitti Uomo 2014 and won Breakthrough Designer of the Year at the 2015 WGSN Global Fashion Awards. Yet, despite her international lifestyle and appeal, Ms. Casasola consistently revisits the visual culture of her native Brazil for inspiration, and does so with a hushed elegance in her Spring/Summer 2018 collection.
"My label is about mixing moments of tension and release, which expresses a relaxed-but-ready attitude to the woman I design for."
São Paulo's Casa de Vidro (Glass House), by the modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi, was the creative genesis. "It's raw tropical beauty set in a concrete metropolis," says Ms. Casasola. "For the collection, that means organic volumes and sensual shapes that mix with clean, masculine lines." Lygia Pape's fragile "Ttéia" thread installations inform the pewter and gold metallic rays on dresses and skirts, while the white, black, and earth-toned palette seen elsewhere takes notes from Candomblé vestments. "I aimed for a tactile interplay of planed and textured surfaces," Ms. Casasola explains. "Silk and cashmere mixes, natural linens and sea-island cottons, knitted soft and technical yarns and raw silks. The effect is a sense of tribal athleticism."
A nude scoop-neck viscose midi dress sets the "tension and release" mood of the collection, which, says Ms. Casasola, "is marked by second-skin knits and flowing volumes." The dress's ribbed bodice and sleeves hug every contour; below the banded waist, the garment ripples into a flowing stream of pleats on a calf-length skirt. (The skirt is also available separately with that Pape-esque metallic threading, and is seen here paired with a maillot-neckline bodysuit.) The midi length is a defining theme, appearing on a cross-front pleated silk-blend dress and a zip-front stretch-linen frock with a paneled bustier. Both are realized in black (Ms. Casasola is a proponent of the easy day-to-night transition), as are her figure-flattering mid-rise cropped jeans.
The jeans are of particular significance to Ms. Casasola, an ethically minded designer who speaks of the "meaningful experiences" of her clients. A percentage of sales from every pair sold will go toward the largest tropical-reforestation project in history. Spearheaded by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, the initiative will restore 300 square kilometers of rainforest and approximately 75 million trees in Brazil's Amazon River basin over the next six years.
CASASOLA is a tactile interplay of planed and textured surfaces. The effect is a sense of tribal athleticism.
Though Lina Bo Bardi's modernist jungle (even if it is Brazilian) may be new territory for Ms. Casasola, the inspiration for Spring/Summer 2018 ultimately serves as an esoteric and considered step forward, not a reinvention. Her house codes—expert tailoring, softly pleated dresses, modern knitwear—reappear in nuanced incarnations, and that's precisely what the CASASOLA woman expects. "She seeks out innovative but lasting design, quality and craftsmanship, simplicity and practicality," says Ms. Casasola. "For her, it's not about replacing the wardrobe each season, but replenishing it with pieces she values."
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Styling Gabrielle Marcecca
Makeup Rei Tajima
Hair Takayoshi Tsukisawa
Lighting Design Aaron Joseph Thomas
Art Director Ashley Helvey
Model Liisa Winker