Paolo Carzana Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear Collection

He described the collection as “A 24-hour journey from darkness to light,” an odyssey that obviously symbolizes something of the euphoric feeling of emerging from the pandemic. There are more layers, however: an offering of hope for a generation battling anxiety, and a practice that he has dedicated to sustainable, vegan, organic, and expanding exploratory research into non-harmful processes since he was an undergraduate student at the University of Westminster. Already a pioneer of its generation in 2018, Carzana’s graduation show had vast, monstrous patriarchal beings sitting on the models’ shoulders that dangled crude, manipulative, gloved hands over them.

Five years later, this controlling terror is exorcised and purified and returned to the hands of the angels who care for Carzana.

The title of this first graduate album, “The Boy You Stole” spoke ominously of trauma (which Carzana never spoke about directly) and embodied a broader generational fear and furious helplessness. But over the years, thanks to his mastery at the CSM, this extraordinary chemistry of personal feeling and larger social vision has fixed in him a messianic desire to do work that harms no one and nothing.

It’s Carzana now: announcing progress by being it. “In the beginning, people were always asking me questions, like if using environmentally friendly fabrics and dyes was going to be some kind of deterrent,” he recalls. “But I think it makes it so much easier. Because as soon as you create something, you feel like it’s all yours.

The ecru looks, he pointed out, “were dyed with X amount of tea bags and orange spice. The midnight gray of the coats and knits took hours and hours of dyeing with acorn or logwood Silk-like fabrics are made from Tencel, or eucalyptus, grown in a renewable and cruelty-free way Organic-shaped squashy bags are made from Pinatex, made from pineapple crop waste. Another luxurious black coating material was donated by Sarah Burton, as part of her Alexander McQueen initiative to redistribute animal corpses to young designers and students.

Paolo Carzana’s talent has already attracted its own choir of guardian angels. He is a resident of the Sarabande Foundation, where he partnered with textile artist Semin Hong and jewelry designer Mairi Miller. Nasir Mazhar, the multi-talented London milliner, helped Carzana bring to life her gravity-defying angel wings and tiny spiral tulle cups. Behind him, too, are the art teachers and other educators who supported the working-class boy who was bullied at school for his differences but turned out to be a brilliant creative force in his generation.

It’s kind of an old, old fashionable story. The connection Paolo Carzana feels most deeply is with Alexander McQueen himself, whose legacy is the Sarabande Foundation. Carzana dedicated the show to her. He knows how lucky he is to find like-minded people to collaborate with, to be able to rehearse something collective. “It really saved my life,” he concluded. “I don’t think I could live if I didn’t create.”

Luz W. German