dArE To WeAr dES_pHemmES

We got behind the scenes with the Italian cult label ahead of their Milanese show

dArE To WeAr dES_pHemmES

We got behind the scenes with the Italian cult label ahead of their Milanese show

Salvatore Rizza, founder of new label DES_PHEMMES, happily chats to me over Zoom while basking in the Sicilian sunshine with his dog sunbathing around his feet. It’s a far cry from the tiny workspace I’ve cramped myself into to take the call, dressed in black due to the plummeting London temperature. Rizza’s relaxed nature is highly surprising considering his Milan show is looming with only two weeks to go, not to mention the fact he’s had to overcome multiple obstacles to make it happen in exactly the way he wants it to. 

“Fabric has been an issue,” Rizza explains, “with the war in Ukraine, global issues and Brexit, it’s been hard to export and import classic fabrics and sequins, and I use Swarovski crystals. Even the most simple of shipments are really hard right now. Last year you could ship to LA in two days, now it takes up to five.” This has meant a lot of extra admin, which in turn, means a lot of extra admin for Rizza who holds the tenure of creative director, PR manager, logistics director and social media aficionado. That’s a lot of hats to juggle. “When you start your own thing you become a businessman rather than a designer,” he replies to my statement, “but it makes it more interesting as you get to take part in every level of what’s happening.” 

Rizza, I quickly learn, is an eternal optimist. “What I’ve learnt is that if you want something, ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist. There's always a way. And with that mindset, you can always find a way to get tricky things done.” This optimism could not have proved more useful than when Rizza launched DES_PHEMMES itself.


 The inaugural collection, released in early 2020 ahead of Rizza’s first ever solo show, was live in his showroom for only 48 hours before Covid struck and the world went into lockdown. No orders, no show. But Rizza did not give up, releasing a second “more refined” collection the following season. After this, it all switched and DES_PHEMMES was receiving buying orders from across Europe. “If you’re stubborn and you know what you want, you will get there.”

Rizza, I quickly learn, is an eternal optimist. “What I’ve learnt is that if you want something, ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist. There's always a way. And with that mindset, you can always find a way to get tricky things done.” This optimism could not have proved more useful than when Rizza launched DES_PHEMMES itself.


 The inaugural collection, released in early 2020 ahead of Rizza’s first ever solo show, was live in his showroom for only 48 hours before Covid struck and the world went into lockdown. No orders, no show. But Rizza did not give up, releasing a second “more refined” collection the following season. After this, it all switched and DES_PHEMMES was receiving buying orders from across Europe. “If you’re stubborn and you know what you want, you will get there.”

Despite the trials and tribulations, DES_PHEMMES has come to be recognised as the up-and-coming bad boy in womenswear, thanks to its use of quirky colour and fabric combinations – think tie-dye velvet and crystals (or “hard and soft, masculine and feminine,” as Rizza puts it). Feminine shapes are given contemporary twists, there are modest knee-length skirts which suddenly and daringly split to the upper thigh, one-shoulder gowns with thick crystal strap detailing, and casual t-shirts are given a luxurious spin with hundreds of Swarovski crystals hand-sewn in intricate patterns.

“One of the most important things in fashion is tension. If you work with opposite elements, feminine and masculine, embroidery and plain, the tension between the two is what makes it interesting,” says Rizza regarding his AW22 collection (currently all on-site at KOIBIRD). “I like it when things look wrong but then it's not a mistake. Wrong makes it special.” 

Rizza sources all of his fabrics himself, predominantly from his home country of Italy. There is one rule: polyester is never used, only natural fabrics such as silk, cotton and chiffon. Recently he has also experimented with leather and lace. “I buy everything in white, then we dye it,” he says, “I am always being told to buy colours but no, I don’t want that.” This dictates the prices: “there’s nothing done by machine, that's why things cost the way they do.”

Silhouette and fabric are the two founding pillars of DES_PHEMMES. “If the structure doesn’t work, you can’t make it work,” says Rizza with conviction. Rizza always starts with plain white fabric when making his garments, a far cry from his colourful and embellished finished works. “I just want to look at shape and proportion, I ask myself what is the focus? Is it the waist? Is it the shoulder? Once this is done then you begin, and after that comes the embroidery and colour.”

But what of his upcoming show? What plans does Rizza have in store? His Milan show, taking place later today, is his biggest yet. It’s a large space with a 360° video screen surrounding the viewers showcasing 30 models at actual size. “You won't know where it begins and where it all ends.”

“I call it the safari of life,” says Rizza. The video will showcase both men and women, a first for Rizza who previously focused on womenswear (although he states anyone can wear anything from his collection). Initially, “they will be doing daily life things” he explains, like “eating ice cream [and] talking.” But it’s of course not that simple (this is Rizza after all), as the models will also build their looks in front of viewers, with a woman taking the suit off a man and giving him her shirt, for example. It’s a cool concept.

But what of his upcoming show? What plans does Rizza have in store? His Milan show, taking place later today, is his biggest yet. It’s a large space with a 360° video screen surrounding the viewers showcasing 30 models at actual size. “You won't know where it begins and where it all ends.”

“I call it the safari of life,” says Rizza. The video will showcase both men and women, a first for Rizza who previously focused on womenswear (although he states anyone can wear anything from his collection). Initially, “they will be doing daily life things” he explains, like “eating ice cream [and] talking.” But it’s of course not that simple (this is Rizza after all), as the models will also build their looks in front of viewers, with a woman taking the suit off a man and giving him her shirt, for example. It’s a cool concept.

But what of his upcoming show? What plans does Rizza have in store? His Milan show, taking place later today, is his biggest yet. It’s a large space with a 360° video screen surrounding the viewers showcasing 30 models at actual size. “You won't know where it begins and where it all ends.”


“I call it the safari of life,” says Rizza. The video will showcase both men and women, a first for Rizza who previously focused on womenswear (although he states anyone can wear anything from his collection). Initially, “they will be doing daily life things” he explains, like “eating ice cream [and] talking.” But it’s of course not that simple (this is Rizza after all), as the models will also build their looks in front of viewers, with a woman taking the suit off a man and giving him her shirt, for example. It’s a cool concept.

Section
Drop element here!

Rizza reveals that there are many hidden secrets within the show. “I’ve used the shapes of garments around me, ones that are in my life. These often form the basis for many of my clothes. The boxers are from a guy who stayed with me. I love how I know where they are from – if you know, you know,” he says with a wink. There will also be models who are Rizza's friends in the video, creating more secret intimacy.


Once his biggest show is over, what next for the Italian designer? The answer is simple: “I’ll keep going. I love to do it.”

Rizza reveals that there are many hidden secrets within the show. “I’ve used the shapes of garments around me, ones that are in my life. These often form the basis for many of my clothes. The boxers are from a guy who stayed with me. I love how I know where they are from – if you know, you know,” he says with a wink. There will also be models who are Rizza's friends in the video, creating more secret intimacy.

Once his biggest show is over, what next for the Italian designer? The answer is simple: “I’ll keep going. I love to do it.”

Shopping Bag

We ship worldwide. Free express delivery on all UK orders over ${currency_symbol_input}${cart_note_currency_value}.

close Created with Sketch.
Group 10 Created with Sketch.

YOUR CART IS CURRENTLY EMPTY.
BAD TIMES.

Subtotal
£0

Shipping calculated at checkout.