Since 1996, Carpe Diem has been the go-to label for in the know, fashionable individualists who appreciate conceptual, meticulously crafted, and deliberately not-so-prim luxuries. We last reported on the expansion of the Perugia, Italy, based collective into several collections (L'Maltieri, Linea, and Sartoria) which further satisfied hordes of cult followers, including actor Jude Law and architect Antoine Predock. With rumors swirling for two years now that Carpe Diem's founder and figurehead, Maurizio Altieri, may no longer be at the helm, the style cognoscenti are wondering what's in store for the label's future. But even amid speculations, one thing is certain: the story now has less to do with expansion and more to do with a number of secessions. Four of the collective's designers: Maurizio Amadei, Simone Cecchetto, Luca Laurini, and Sara Lanzi, have left their posts and spawned collections inspired by their own personal aesthetics.
As the designer responsible for Carpe Diem's leatherwear, Maurizio Amadei is no stranger to turning animal skins into clothing and accessories rife with clever construction techniques. This familiarity is evident in his a/w '06-'07 collection for his own label, M.A+, in a large messenger bag fashioned from one piece of leather that has no seams, and whose sides have inventive fan-like folds secured only by metal pins. For s/s '07, Amadei confidently explores beyond bags and belts, sets aside his choice material of leather, and offers instead a small collection of menswear that still manages to showcase his penchant for innovation. Despite its cozy cotton jersey fabric, a WWI-aviator-inspired, form-fitting hooded zip-up looks weighty, and a blue Japanese cotton jacket appears to be textured satin, its pockets seemingly sliced from the fabric by a dull knife ― even Amadei's unmentionables, silk cotton long johns and boxer shorts, warrant some serious attention for their luxe utilitarianism.
While Amadei is developing M.A+ with a mini-lifestyle brand in mind, Simone Cecchetto, who was Carpe Diem's shoe designer, doesn't stray far from his old post, sticking to what he knows best for his solo label. Named after his grandmother, Augusta is an incredibly focused line of artisanal leather shoes and bags for men. Coming from a background in body art, Ceccheto makes up for the lack of a formal shoe design education with a single minded commitment to experimentation in order to come up with the right leather for the right shoes, bags, and belts in his Rome atelier. For s/s '07, this obsession, like that of a madcap scientist, yielded several "eureka" moments. Using pig and buffalo hides, winning pieces include Margiela-esque tall cream boots, distressed black oxfords and half-boots with discolored and beat-up laces, and deep U-shaped bags in red, black, and brown.
Luca Laurini, however, eschews leather and accessories all together, instead grounding his Label Under Construction line, which has been around for three years and is the best-known of the four labels run by former Carpe Diem members, purely in clothing. As the name suggests, Laurini's s/s '07 collection comprised pieces which seem unfinished, but are unmistakably crafted by a highly skilled tailor with a flair for urban minimalism. A soft white T-shirt sports an uneven hem, a black long-sleeve has seams down the spine and the backs of the arms that look like they were cut with pinking shears, and tapered low-crotch pants, which are ruched at the ankle, slightly reveal white fabric and a button-fly. Not one to forget his design DNA, Laurini also tips his hat to Carpe Diem, with a long-sleeve shirt covered in a faint blue-and-white print that resembles muscle fibers, with curved seams reinforcing the anatomical inspiration.
For former contemporary art student Sarah Lanzi, who was mainly responsible for Carpe Diem's Linea label from 1999 to 2003, the body is not just a reference point, but an object for "essential and transformist pieces," which Lanzi unveiled at her premiere womenswear collection in Paris in 2004. For a/w '06-'07, this consisted of a mainly black palette with hints of sand and white that included a knee-length dress with a scarf that doubles as sleeves, an unevenly draped ribbed tank that transforms into a cowlneck sweater, and an A-line velvet dress that appears, from the front, rather monastic because of its heavy drapery, yet features a seductively transgressive low-cut back. For s/s '07, Lanzi mines this same conceptual vein and continues with pieces that have the same versatility, but adds chromatic drama to her austerely dark palette with intense red.
"It's a good thing that the individuals who worked with this company are now able to express their own visions unhampered," says Karlo Steel enthusiastically. Steele plans to nurture and sell M.A+, Label Under Construction, and Augusta in his menswear store, Atelier New York. Sarah Lanzi is sold at If Boutique in New York. In this narrow retail arena that caters to well-moneyed style iconoclasts, it's still a waiting game to see whether these designers are worthy competitors of their mother label, which has a tight grip on this fashion sect.