A journey and background that started at Milan’s Politecnico followed by the Parson School of Design in New York, Diletta Cancellato has focused, since her very first collection, on a type of knitwear characterized by cutting-edge shapes and techniques, which grabbed the immediate attention and interest of key figures like Rihanna. Innovation is born out of the same conceptual and playful approach to knitwear, one that is wholly and rigorously Made in Italy.
Where did you study?
Following the High School Diploma in classical studies, I studied Fashion Design at Politecnico Milano. Then I continued with a Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Design and Society from Parsons, the New School for Design in New York.
What are your other passions besides fashion?
More than passions, I would call them interests, which are many, constantly growing and changing. I need to feel constantly inspired and challenged, both intellectually and on a practical level. That was one of the main reasons why I left the 9 to 5 office job and decided to set up my own business. I love studying, participating in conferences, seeing exhibitions, learning new and different techniques. This year, for instance, I took up pottery: it feels incredible, like meditating. Perhaps my only true, long-lasting passion is travelling. And food, even better if savoured whilst travelling.
How did your project come about?
I met Amandine (co-founder of the Cancellato brand) seven years ago while doing my Erasmus project in London, me from Milan, she from Paris.Already back then, we decided that one day we would launch our own brand together, it was simply a matter of waiting for the right time. That moment came this year. We both felt the need to leave office life behind and start a journey into innovation based on research and critical thinking. Doing something for its own sake is no longer enough nowadays, you need a goal that goes beyond the object and that is reflected in the society in which we live.
Where do you look for inspiration? And how about your creative process?
To me, in knitwear, it all starts with and from the yarn, the stitches and experimentation with textile and knitting techniques. There is always a starting idea that develops in tandem with the research into materials and textures. Images and ideas, stitches and yarns influence each other in what is ultimately an organic process. Then it’s the samples that inspire forms and shapes. I do not create using drawing and sketches; I find it restrictive. I’d rather create 3D collages using the samples and then work straight on the dummy. This way I allow knitting free and ample expression, which always leads to fresh and exciting ideas I would have never come up with rationally.
How do you approach and re-work knitting techniques to make them more modern and contemporary?
I believe that the difference lies in the approach. For a long time knitting was used to create plain simple jumpers and cardigans whose role was to complete more creative outfits. To me, instead, knitting itself is the technique that allows the most creative output and the more I work with it, the more I realize its endless potential! More than reinterpreting already existing techniques, what I do is experiment with them and create new owns. For instance, for my graduate collection in New York, I created my own fibre and knitted using a yarn that had never been used in knitwear previously. Moreover, mistakes often lead to the most interesting results; what matters the most is acknowledge them and be open to different developments from the one you were originally pursuing.
Craftsmanship plays a key role in your creations.
In knitwear, craftsmanship is a prerequisite since even when using the most cutting-edge digital knitting machines, there are processes – like linking – that can only be performed by hand. I’m still experimenting a lot with manual knitting machines but I believe in the importance of developing products that are creative but that can also be scaled up on an industrial level. Knitting technology has made giant leaps forward and I believe that making the most of the potential of these machines, doing research and experiment with them is – in a sense – a new form of craftsmanship.
Where do you produce your pieces?
At a knitwear factory in the province of Como. They are all made using industrial machines and certified Made in Italy, from the yearn to the end product.
In the time of fast-fashion and mass production, what does ‘uniqueness’ means to you?
Firstly, technical research and experimentation. Having individual opinions and being able to convey them through one’s work rather than referencing common widespread trends and fashions.
How would you describe your brand’s aesthetics?
Feminine and laidback.
The concept of your latest collection.
Besides a constant and tireless study of the body and the attempt to replicate the tactile feel, the textures and the organic curves when it twists and or is manipulated (I have a background in massage therapy), with this collection I examined the meaning of the body in the era of social media. The constant flow of opposites – voyeurism and exhibitionism, the liberation of the naked body and self-censorship that travels from screen to screen through our phone exchanges. That slightly uncomfortable pleasure of disrobing while, at the same time, digitally entering the ordinary intimacy of another being.
If you could choose, what celebrities would you like to dress and who are your style icons?
Lately I’ve been obsessed with FKA twigs: a well-rounded artist who is constantly pushing the boundaries as well as growing both personally and professionally. The same journey is mirrored in what she wears.
Can you tell us about your future projects?
In September, we will launch the first full-fledged collection for Cancellato. We wish to continue pursuing technical experimentation whilst also opening up to collaborations with other fields of artistic expression. Our goal is to create a sort of community (the French “société”) that brings together the most diverse people and realities who share our fundamental values and to join forces in order to express ourselves and grow together. We want to push our société beyond static and restrictive definitions and to open it up to a fluid reality based around fusions and combinations, including the most random and bizarre.