For a brand that makes such timeless clothes, there’s a particular era that D’Ascoli favours in both process and symbolism: the pre-industrial age. It’s why William Morris – a key figure in the British Arts and Crafts movement – has proved such an inspiration. His words (“Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the maker.”) are the first thing that greet anyone wanting to find out more about D’Ascoli on their website, but his influence is obviously much better explained by Peter D’Ascoli himself: “William Morris was an artist, designer, and businessman who was living as the industrial revolution altered the very nature of work. He was eager to find meaning in the way we earn our daily bread,” he tells us over email.
gET tO KnOw D’AscOLi
Meet the label favouring longevity over trends
Words by Heather Gwyther
Here at KOIBIRD, we love clothes. Sexy clothes. Flamboyant clothes. Clothes that spark conversation and silence detractors in a single moment. Clothes that are so much more than just clothes. But, when the party’s over and look-at-me moments feel uncalled for, what we actually gravitate towards are timeless clothes. The type of clothes that you can buy now and love for a lifetime. Really reliable clothes. There’s even a school of thought that says timeless clothes are the greatest clothes of all. A brand that fights this corner with gentle ferocity is D’Ascoli.
tHERE’s EVen a scHOOL Of ThOUgHT THaT SAys TimELeSS cLOtHEs ARe THE gREATeST cLOTHEs Of aLL.
The appeal of D’Ascoli doesn’t just rest in the clothes themselves, but the ethos with which they are made. It’s a DNA forged long before clothes were even part of its offering. “Decades ago, before internet-accelerated globalisation, my first job out of design school was working for the Indian government developing handmade textiles for export,” says D’Ascoli. It was during these years that he fell in love with rural india, an experience which felt like “travelling back to a pre-industrial age.”
Eventually, in 2006, this passion led D’Ascoli to found Talianna, a product development and design studio in New Delhi that creates custom luxury fabrics for the interior design trade as well as being home to D’Ascoli itself. At the start, D'Ascoli focussed on interiors but, in 2012, his wife, Cecile, also began developing a garment collection – the rest is history.
THe APPeaL Of D’AsCOLi DOEsn’T jUST REsT In THE cLOTHEs THEmsELVEs, bUT THe ETHOs WiTH wHIcH THEy aRe mADe.
Does D’Ascoli have a preference between fashion and interiors? The answer is no: “I was trained as a textile and product designer at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, and in doing so we work in both apparel and interior products. I have been fortunate that, in my working life, I have had the opportunity to engage in both segments of the fashion business, and I have learned to love them both.” That said, there are differences between them that can’t be disregarded. “Apparel is exciting because it is constantly changing and requires a large volume of content, while the interior trade moves more slowly and requires a greater investment,” says D’Ascoli. “The positive aspects of both can also be seen as negatives in the sense that, sometimes, apparel seems disposable – here today and gone tomorrow – whereas interiors are longer lasting.” Ultimately, though, D’Ascoli believes that his experience with interiors helps him to create better clothes: “while I am happy if my work is seen as being ‘on trend', I am not chasing trends but focussed on enduring beauty.” And D’Ascoli has that in spades.
In the D’Ascoli world, however, beauty is not just an aesthetic bonus but something that is truly felt: “A powerful aspect of our work is how we mix different patterns, colours, and techniques, and I find in myself that, when this is done correctly, it triggers strong feelings of pleasure,” he reveals. “I would like everyone to experience this emotional connection.”
"I Am nOT CHAsINg TREnDs BUt fOCUSSeD
On eNDURiNg BeaUTy.”
Emotional connection, as it turns out, is a key driver for D’Ascoli who champions ethics and sustainability: “My work with Indian craft is a happy convergence of my love for this culture and the fact that these ancient ways of making, so tied to the natural rhythms of nature and village life, are desperately needed by a world filled with wasteful, industrial overproduction,” says D’Ascoli. Does a desperate need constitute ease, though? Of course not. “Scaling handmade production is a challenging endeavour,” D’Ascoli Admits. “Our future plans include continuing work with the craft sector to reach a balance between the demands of uniform manufacturing and the variations arising from human hands within commercially acceptable parameters.” This tension is demonstrated when D’Ascoli is asked if he has a favourite fabric printing technique: “Printing with wooden blocks is dear to my heart because of its human touch and long tradition since antiquity, but digital printing uses much less water and is, therefore, much friendlier to the environment. Therefore, I admire and use each technique when appropriate for the commercial need.”
But what’s beyond and behind this commercial need? That aforementioned B-word. “My hope is that people who see D’Ascoli designs will find them beautiful to behold,” D’Ascoli says. We daresay he’s succeeded.