Physique du Role: Philosophy and Essence of Made in Italy, between Tradition & Innovation, Poetry and Functionality
Phisique du Role is an Italian fashion brand, born in 1980 in Florence, but re-invented by Alessandra Bellelli in 2015 who wanted to make a new kind of fashion, rooted in authentic quality fabrics and knitwear from Carpi, one of the most important European textile districts. Alessandra’s dream was to design and create modern pieces that combine tradition and innovation, masculine and feminine, practicality and comfort mixed with avant-garde design and a touch of bourgeois style. Sounds impossible and contradictive? Not for Alessandra Bellelli, who says is interested more in the “mistakes” in fashion than being and looking perfect.
When I meet Alessandra and ask her about the woman she designs for, she says “I started PDR with a woman like me in mind: intuitive, analytical, opinionated, active, confident. A woman who works and travels. A woman who reads and loves art”.
I have to add, that the PdR woman loves life and good food too. She is interesting without being perfect, full of character and personality, but not sweet and pretty. I would say Alessandra is afraid of being too nice and her work is never predictable or pleasing.
Without a doubt PdR signature is rooted in the historical heritage of the region its designer comes from, the lively theatre and ballet culture and the state-of-the-art architecture of the region, which is a mix of old historic buildings and cutting-edge new districts. Born and raised in Carpi, Alessandra tells me about her childhood and her passion to find and wear one-of-a-kind pieces that she cherishes up to this day. Her knowledge and insightful understanding of Italian Fashion is admirable. She reminds me that only someone who knows the rules so well, can break them, achieving something so full of character, originality and charisma.
When I ask Alessandra about her first collection, she tells me she started with trousers and jackets and half of the collection was knitwear, “because this is what I know best and have the most experience in. I love the classic jacquard and wool, but I want to make things interesting, fun and surprising. I will always have respect for quality and tradition, but I want to try new techniques and technologies, to experiment and innovate”.
When I ask her about her proudest moment, Alessandra laughs and says: “It is always my last collection, because I see how much progress I have made and it makes me feel proud”.
Showing me the AW PdR pieces Alessandra tells me that she is most of the time inspired by her travels. “I always bring something and keep it till one day I interpret it into one of my designs. I love to find a vintage piece of clothing, an old Burberry jacket or a classic knit vest. I can also use a piece of traditional ceramics as inspiration or table clothes, kitchen towels with old lace, which I would sometimes try to re-invent in a blouse or a dress. I am inspired by old or new movies, women like Monica Vitti, Francoise Hardy, but usually, they are just the beginning of the journey, then the story for the collection keeps unfolding with other elements added”.
Walking through the isles of clothes neatly folded in plastic covers, we start to talk about sustainability and what makes PdR a sustainable brand. Alessandra tells me that at the moment it is still very hard for any fashion brand to become fully sustainable, but they are trying making little steps. For example she shows me the label of each item tells where in Italy the clothes are made and where the textiles are produced. More and more of the factories PdR choosers to work with are green, meaning they are using renewable energy sources and no water waste, as well as recycling plastic bottles.
Finally I ask Alessandra who from the current fashion designers she admires the most and without a moment of hesitation she says it’s Miuccia Prada, “because after all this time she manages to stay relevant and to surprise her audience”.