Designer Collection

Francesco Fucci’s New Vision for Theory Is All About Vibes

It’s been almost a year since Francesco Fucci joined Theory as its women’s creative director, but you probably didn’t know that. Theory shoppers likely don’t, either. Fucci’s arrival at the 21-year-old label built on wear-to-work clothes, and the changes he’s implemented since, have been quiet and subtle, reflective of his own thoughtful, unflashy demeanor. But if you look closely, you’ll realize that what he’s doing is unlike anything we’ve seen from Theory before. The foundation is the same—classic, timeless, reliable staples—but any lingering stiffness is gone. In its place are nuanced proportions, luxurious materials, and an attention to detail you don’t find at most of the direct-to-consumer basics brands encroaching on Theory’s turf.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. Fucci hails from Naples, Italy, and studied fashion from a young age. In his studio at Theory’s Meatpacking HQ, he recalled winning his “first and only” fashion prize when he was 19: “I made a dress in ivory triple organza that was super pure, super simple,” he said. “It could have been in my new Theory collection.” He worked as a print designer for Italian menswear labels, and 10 years ago he moved to New York with his wife, who is also a designer. Fucci took jobs at Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg in the mid-2000s, but more recently, he was at The Row, where he spent five years working as head designer.

If you had to guess Fucci’s aesthetic based on that background, you might arrive at “minimalist”—and that’s pretty accurate. He calls himself a “basic guy” but is also a self-proclaimed romantic. He’s fixated on über-luxe (usually natural) fabrics, gorgeous colors, and tiny yet transformative tweaks in silhouette and fit. “I love minimalism—it’s why I moved to New York,” he said. “I needed a clean slate. New York is so strong, but I’d never want to abandon where I’ve come from, so I like to mix my European culture with something more streamlined.”

Francesco Fucci

Francesco Fucci

Photo: Courtesy of Theory

That’s the essence of his plans for Theory, where he’s been tasked with “refreshing” its pared-back, office-friendly look. “Andrew [Rosen, Theory’s founder] and I were speaking the same language [when we met],” Fucci said. “What he needs in this moment is someone who can reinvigorate the brand codes. Times change; people change. It just needed a refresh. It’s like changing the furniture in your apartment.” In lieu of a complete aesthetic overhaul—which we’ve sort of come to expect from designers taking on established brands—Fucci did the opposite: He revisited Theory’s earliest collections of the late ’90s and “translated” the look for today. “I really wanted to understand what Andrew was trying to do 20 years ago and give a new energy to those initial ideas,” he said. “It’s an evolution of his original menswear inspirations but with new codes, new finishings, new silhouettes, new volumes, new proportions.”

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Elaborating on his debut collection, which arrived in stores and online yesterday, he said: “It’s very pragmatic and straightforward, but there’s also this emotional feeling. I always try to merge those ideas.” Minimalism often gets a bad rap for being stark or cold, but Fucci is passionate about making even the simple stuff feel special. He pointed out a graceful, nipped-waist poplin dress to illustrate that balance, as well as a beige georgette dress with bell sleeves and a tie neck. “These are minimal dresses because of the clean lines and purist [sensibility], but there’s romance in the proportions.”

In other words, they’re simple pieces with soul. Fucci talked more about moods and feelings than the technicalities of cutting a great shirt (though he’s well-versed in both, having grown up in his uncles’ tailoring shop). He was particularly excited about the “feeling of the colors” in the new collection, ranging from rich chocolate and sand to cerulean and bright lilac. “For me, I don’t like too much decoration, and the colors [give you] room to appreciate the quality of the fabrics,” he explained. Resort’s palette was lifted from a recent trip through “the true America,” namely Texas and Arizona. “It was monumental for me,” he said. “I wanted to bring this emotion and American feeling and [filter] it through the lens of the new Theory.”

But how, exactly, do you bring something as dreamy as the contrast of a Donald Judd structure against the Marfa desert sunset into such a minimal collection? And how do you educate your customers about it? “I like to collect a lot of information and create a big story, and then I spend a lot of time editing,” Fucci explained. “It’s like when you tell someone about a book in just a few minutes—what is the essential part of the story? For me, the essentials are the expression of the silhouette, the fabric, and the colors.” Fucci mentioned Carhartt and L.L. Bean as references, too, showing khaki pants and blouses with bandana-like draped necklines. There was a vaguely rugged, American casualness to those pieces, but you could still wear them to work.

“Office clothes,” of course, have been Theory’s bread and butter since ’97. But the concept of “the working woman” has changed drastically since then. “When Theory was born, it was for a woman who needed a business wardrobe because she went to an office as a lawyer or on Wall Street,” Fucci said. “Now, there are different ways to work. You’re working at home, or in a coffee shop, or a co-working space . . . It’s more free, so I wanted to address this. I think there’s more versatility in the pieces now.” On his Instagram page, he’s been showing those garments in a new light—literally. Ribbed cardigans, leather coats, and wool suits from Resort hang in Theory’s shop windows, and Fucci photographed them so the glass distorts and reflects the cobblestones and construction sites of Gansevoort Street in the background.

Fucci’s second collection for Spring 2019, shown in September (arriving in stores early next year), included a more comprehensive look at his new “workwear”: easy pinstriped suits styled with flat slides, midi skirts and cashmere sweaters, unstructured coats in leather and cashmere, and what he referred to as “a men’s wardrobe for a woman’s body”—crisp button-downs and straight, wrinkle-proof wool trousers. What felt different about these simple, digestible pieces was their sense of warmth. They were even a little sultry. “It’s about the expression,” Fucci explained. “Or like re-creating a movie in the clothes.”

To put it in millennial parlance: It’s about the vibe. The Spring presentation itself distilled that in an experiential, “365-degree” way: Models wandered through a white gallery space in neutral silks and pops of bold color—think saffron, cherry, tangerine—while TVs played footage of oceans, rivers, and houses. Fucci even installed a yellow-ish light to mimic the sun. “It was cinematic,” he said. “When I was trying to explain the collection here [in the studio], I just told everyone to watch Call Me by Your Name to see where I was coming from. It was about the piazza in the summer, flirting after the beach . . . I like those deep feelings. And I’m always inspired by Pina Bausch, her expression of the body and the relation between men and women. That’s what I had in mind,” he continued. “When I go on inspiration trips, it’s more to catch the spirit and feeling, not to find actual garments.”

Fucci is hoping to bring that spirit and feeling into Theory’s stores and website, as well, so customers can feel like they’re experiencing the brand’s world. “It won’t happen overnight, but we’ve started,” he said. “The excitement is there.” It’s a move that mirrors how indie labels have built up organic, super-loyal followings by creating their own communities on Instagram—and it could be a game changer for Theory, especially because it has to compete with those upstarts now. Young women find buzzy new brands every day on social media, and it isn’t easy to get their attention. But Fucci’s main objective will likely be to establish Theory as the go-to for discerning, stylish types of all ages who expect a lot from their clothes: quality, luxury, and ease, sure, but also an emotional pull. They need a good reason to buy it. So far, it looks like he’s up to the challenge.

[“source=TimeOFIndia”]