Friday, 23 April 2010

Thirty years of Ally Capellino

Raising a glass of Prosseco to the thirtieth anniversary of Ally Capellino

To mark the thirtieth anniversary of Ally Capellino's accessory and fashion label, the Wapping Project is home to an impressive retrospective exhibition of the designer's work. Last night I was fortunate enough to take my place at the opening and duly raised a glass of nicely chilled Prosseco to the label. The exhibition shows the evolution of the brand, from the clothing where it all started during the big hair and shoulders era of the 80's through to the modern 90s and then on to the accessory collection that we have all come to love and associate with the name Ally Capellino...

Ally Capellino's timeline is wonderful illustrated form on the leaflet I was handed upon entering the space. Notice the launch of menswear in 1986. I remember it well (I was two, ha).

This retrospective was borne from the fact that their faithful client base frequently boast about having owned this or that for twenty years or more and that they can't throw it away or, in some cases are even still wearing them! From the bin liners of designs and accessories donated they have managed to create a representative line up of that illustrates the narrative of the label perfectly.

A wall of portraits depicting people and their AC's. Portraits by Donald Christie and assisted by Tom Sloan.

Together with accessories from the archives, art director Rupert Blanchard has created a number of striking installations but I was particularly taken by Michelle Noel's impressive 'Wall of Bags' creation. The wall is a mix of vintage, new styles as well as a number of prototypes and ideas for the future. In addition to the obvious impact of seeing them all on one wall, it is important to stress that each bag has its own story. I personally love how the vintage bags have aged, the leathers and fabric get better as the years go by.

The Wall of Bags by Michelle Noel

Now, when I think of Ally Capellino my mind is full of covetable classics for men and women, satchels made from canvas and leather with names like Vanessa, Lionel and Jeremy which are all timeless and modern. However, the accessories line that I am most familiar with was not launched until 2000. The label has a past spanning twenty years that I had absolutely no idea about. So as I walked around the well curated space I followed the progression of the label, right from it's first womenswear collection in 1980, to the launch of Hearts of Oak in 1983 to designing Girl Guides and Brownie Uniforms in 1999. The area that obviously interests me most though is the launch of its menswear line in 1983...

I loved looking over the early menswear adverts and news pieces

"I'm very proud of the men's clothing that we did at Ally Capellino between 1985 and 1995. Our reputation for tailoring started by breaking rules blossomed under Juno's careful skills. Our fabrics were subtle in colour and cut and he always wore them well. We began with five button jackets and anchor sweaters and worked through linen shorts, suits and shirts. Our tailoring was done in Leeds at 'Sumrie' clothing which had been one of the big successful tailoring and outerwear manufacturers." Ally Capellino

One of the first menswear designs (please excuse my shadow!)

While admiring the suit pictured below I actually bumped in to the owner. The proud chap informed me that he had worn the suit at the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997. It was in remarkably good condition but he confessed that he had saved it for only special occasions. Simply tailored and it certainly would not look out of place in my wardrobe today. Having seen a few of the pieces up close a large part of me wishes that the label still produced menswear...

One of the early suits

Collaboration has been a key facet of the recent development of the label. In 2006, Ally created a collection of bags for Margaret Howell, Topshop and the bestselling artist’s set (pencil case, apron and satchel) for the Tate Modern Gallery. In 2008 the label created one of their most interesting collaborations with Apple. AO sees original Alley Capellino bags and sleeves tailor made for the variety of mac products, from leather sleeves for your Air to a despatch satchel for your pro. My particulat favourite is the below canvas sleeve. As part of the iconic AO range, it embodies quality and utilitarian design, neatly wrapping a notebook in quality canvas and leather...

My favourite piece from the AO range.

The exhibition concludes with a more familiar sight (to me atleast), the timeless, but never dull, range of bags that I'd happily sell an unnecessary body part in order to own. Each piece is made from beautiful durable leathers and fabrics that only improve with age and boy do I want to grow old with them. With their quiet branding they are meant to be worn, used and loved. “People should add something of themselves, so that the bags become theirs not mine,” comments Ally.

Temptation at every turn.

In addition to this exhibition, Ally Capellino has collaborated with Liberty to continue her thirtieth birthday celebrations. She has reworked two of her existing bags into exclusive styles for the homely department store. The ever popular (and one of my favourite) Frank rucksack has been produced in soft blue leather with contrasting tan leather buckles and lined with Liberty fabric. Ever since I saw it in March I've been in love. In addition to offering these bags exclusively Liberty is home to a Rupert Blanchard installation in the main stairwell.

No words can do this justice.

Apologies, I was momentarily sidetracked by a beautiful bag. Back to the retrospective exhibition for a moment...I urge you to make the trip to the Wapping Project if you can. The exhibition officially opens today and runs until the 6th June. If not, I'm sure you'll join me in toasting thirty years of Ally Capellino and if you are interested in seeing more from the collection then look out for an upcoming post from Susie (I excitedly shot a number of womenswear pieces and she'll no doubt want to feature the exhibition when she returns from New York).


Athletiart said...

Wow, I love retrospective collections like this. It gives one a perspective and evolutionary sense of the time and mood of culture and what the designer was doing within or outside of the culture. Not as spectacular, but very cool, I think you would appreciate my vintage leotard collection:

Let me know what you think!

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Ally Capellino! I must agree that it's Temptation at every turn. I can't take off my eyes from those leather bags. They're just gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

The wall of bags is literally AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

any idea how/where to get this bag????
i want this!!! but they are sold out........................
why is this happening to me.....


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