The 55-year-old fashion house has tapped someone from outside the founding family for the first time to design its collections. Luckily Marco de Vincenzo is the ultimate fashion insider

The Spring/Summer 2023 Etro collection was one for the history books. The packed outdoor show venue, with guests squeezed in like sardines, proved that everyone wanted to be on hand to witness when the designer baton was handed to Marco de Vincenzo for the first time. Up until that point only members of the founding family, Veronica Etro for womenswear, and Ken Etro for menswear, had designed for the house. But as the long-legged models poured out onto the massive geometric-print burnt-orange catwalk the family breathed a sigh of relief. They got the right guy for the job.

It’s a sentiment that is even more impressive considering that Marco only had a month to create the entire collection after he learned he had been chosen as creative director. “It was incredible. I never ever thought that my first collection could be like that,” admits the designer. “I decided on everything in four weeks because of production timing. So I started the job on the first day of June and after four weeks I closed the collection. It was strange but also quite perfect because we had bags, we had shoes, belts and accessories. The company really helped me to do everything, to tell my story, and show my experience,” he adds.

The result on the catwalk was a collection that brought together a brand known for its love of paisley prints, boho aesthetic and vintage flair with a designer who is renowned for his leatherwork, his quirky nostalgic touches and his love of both rainbow hues and fringing. The looks were structured in nature and explored more of Etro’s history as a textile house rather than its fluid bohemian fashion sensibilities. So charming bird and fruit-printed jacquards embellished straightforward silhouettes, fringing appeared on the bottom of retro silk panel earrings, along the bottom of crop tops and sprouted out from brightly-hued wrap skirts. And oversized versions of the iconic Etro Pegasus was embossed on striped shirting and covetable satin baseball hats.

“I wanted to push from the beginning the relationship that Etro has with textiles. The house was founded as a textile design company It was only after 20 years that they decided to launch the fashion brand we know today. So their relationship with textiles is deep, they are masters when it comes to textiles,” explains Marco.

This love of textiles was actually how Marco first started generating buzz about his new direction for the house. Even before his debut show the designer made the astute move to create a limited-edition series of 200 bags crafted from unused Etro fabric offcuts he discovered at the brand’s textile factory. These deluxe upcycled Love Trotter bags were crafted by hand and carried on the catwalk, but were a clever see-now-buy-now accessory that sold out almost as soon as the show had ended.

Backstage at the show, it was all about rainbow knitwear and upcycled bags from vintage Etro fabrics

“It was very important to me that I give a new direction and focus to the accessories. I think I am here also for that part of the business because Etro didn’t work a lot on accessories until now. For me, with this first collection, it was extremely important to show that I am a leather goods designer. It’s a category in my life that has great importance,” says the designer.

Great importance indeed. Marco, who grew up in Messina, Sicily and moved to Rome when he was 18 years old to study at the Istituto Europeo di Design, was snapped up by Fendi the moment he graduated from the university. There he worked side by side with Silvia Venturini Fendi designing accessories for the iconic Italian fashion house.

“I started the job on the first day of June and after four weeks I closed the collection.”

Marco de Vincenzo

In fact, even with his new role at Etro, Marco has maintained his job as head designer of leather goods at Fendi and now spends his time travelling between the Etro headquarters in Milan and the Fendi headquarters in Rome. “I’m not the only designer working at more than one brand. Just to give you a name, Kim Jones, for example, is doing Dior and Fendi at the same time. I think it’s a beautiful thing especially because Fendi and Etro are such different brands. Not only in terms of proportion, Fendi is much bigger, but in terms of needs. They are in different moments in their lives. At Etro we are building a new story, not starting from zero but it’s a smaller brand and there is still so much to explore,” confirms the designer.

But this sort of double duty is nothing new to the designer. For decades Marco split his time between working on his signature collection (which he shuttered when he took on the Etro job) and being the highly regarded right-hand man to Silvia at Fendi. So the challenge of creating for two distinctly different fashion houses has long been second nature to him. Marco recounts how when he made the choice to take on the role at Etro he told Silvia he was going to leave. But the Fendi team wasn’t ready to let him go. “After talking a lot with the Etro CEO, Fendi found a way to share me,” Marco says with a little smile.

The debut collection was a sartorial palate cleanser

It’s worth noting that in July 2021, the LVMH-backed private equity firm L Catterton obtained a majority stake in Etro and quickly tapped Fabrizio Cardinali, an executive formerly at Dolce&Gabbana, as CEO. Then a year later it named Marco as the brand’s creative director. So there is a real luxury powerhouse engine driving the Etro brand into its next chapter and there are big expectations to go along with it.

Thankfully the family still holds a minority interest in the house and Marco has been determined to glean as much institutional knowledge from them as he can. In particular, he has bonded with the founder Gerolamo ‘Gimmo’ Etro over their mutual love of textiles. The continued exploration of fabric manipulation, which is part of the house’s heritage, will be a cornerstone of Marco’s tenure as well.

But besides its rich archives, the Etro family have also been lifelong collectors, Gimmo’s wife Roberta was an antiques dealer with a particular passion for rare vintage shawls. “The family has devoted countless hours to collecting everything from around the world. So it’s really inspiring,” says Marco. “If I’m missing some idea, I go upstairs [to the archives] and I simply follow my instinct and spend hours in those rooms. There I can find everything.”

With a treasure trove of over half a century of textiles at his fingertips, access to a vast collection of antiques sourced with a discerning eye from across the globe, and a founding family motivated to help inspire the next generation of Etro devotees, wishing Marco buona fortuna with his new role almost seems unnecessary.

Images Courtesy of Etro

From Harper’s Bazaar Arabia’s March 2023 issue