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Ralph Vaessen at Pitti Uomo

Fashion designer Ralph Vaessen shows his first collection at Pitti Uomo in Florence.

By Katie Dominy / 19-01-2011

Pitti Uomo is the first major fashion event of the year and this edition took place from 14 to 17 January, 2011.

It was Ralph Vaessen’s first season presenting clothing and footwear at the show; being best known as an eyewear designer.

The eyewear, and indeed the business itself, only started in 2006, as Vaessen had spent over 15 years working for the Dutch government before finally realizing a long-held ambition of a creative career change. The story goes that Vaessen was looking for some new glasses, but could not find what he wanted. So, an optician told him of a small atelier who would make bespoke frames, if Vaessen gave them a design drawing of the style he had in mind. One thought led to another and Vaessen ended up designing a whole collection, focusing on high-end, handcrafted eyewear in natural horn.

Vaessen’s Spyker design - created for the Dutch sports car manufacturer Saab-Spyker - was nominated in 2010 for an award at the eyewear ‘Oscars’ at Silmo d'Or in Paris. Vaessen’s eyewear, with its characteristic glamour and a light touch of retro, can now be found at top international stores such as Barneys in New York, and Paris's Colette, Le Bon Marché and L’Eclaireur.

We asked Vaessen how he would describe his Ralph Vaessen customer. "Someone who is looking for sophisticated contemporary classics with a little twist and without compromising traditional craftsmanship. The collection is aimed at the real discerning connoisseur." And his inspirations? "The British Indie music scene and old movies."

And why did Vaessen decide to move into clothing and footwear?
The designer explained how, as before with eyewear, he could not find what he was looking for, so decided to design it himself. In addition, Vaessen has designed a women’s collection to sit alongside the menswear. Classic fabrics such as cotton piqué and colourful tartan weaves are made into classic pieces, focussing on details such as the mother of pearl and horn buttons.

Back from Pitti Uomo in Florence, Vaessen tells us the new autumn/winter 2011/12 collection received good reviews and positive feedback. Visitors to the stand included many international buyers, as well as a selection of the best of the press; Bruce Pask of The New York Times, style guru Diane Pernet, yet also Russian Vogue, GQ and more.

Click on the images to enlarge

Main image: Ralph Vaessen
Other images: Ralph Vaessen Autumn/Winter 2011/12

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