Byline: Alessandra Ilari

Quietly, Lawrence Steele has become something of a media darling, with editors and stylists clamoring to shoot his clothes. Since Steele made his debut in 1994, he has managed not only to raise his profile, but he’s honed his fashion wit and expanded his business, too. He’s projecting sales this year at $5.4 million (9.4 billion lire) — up 18 percent over 1996.
Demanding stylists notwithstanding, Steele is keeping at least one eye on the commercial side. “This season, I added a pre-spring collection, which is more commercial than the one I show on the runway, and it has performed well,” said the American-born designer, in an interview in his Milan design studio.
Steele’s collection is distributed to some 150 sales points worldwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S., Luisa Via Roma in Italy and Light in Paris. The line is produced by Casor through a licensing agreement. “After three years, our relationship flows — we understand each other immediately,” said Steele.
“I think my product is more refined,” he continued. “I’m not a fan of the total look; rather, I believe in separate pieces that you can play around with. In general, I like the texture play of masculine and feminine looks, interpreted with classic men’s wools and wispy silks.”
Steele is also into theme collections, and one never knows what he may come up with from season to season — everything from safari hunters and peasant girls to G.I. Janes and show girls. In his spring collection, he was off to Las Vegas, where his little sexpots were poured into skin-tight cire pants and pink sequined T-shirts that had all the dazzle of a casino stage. In a more aggressive mood, Steele cut Eighties-style, sleek biker jackets in shiny synthetics. But Steele also gave his tough chicks a bit of romance with long, rose print dresses and tops with a big sequined rose on the side. It may have been all over the map, but Steele sure gives those editors plenty to shoot.

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