LONDON — Craig Green is preparing to cast a midsummer night’s spell over the Boboli Gardens for his first Pitti Uomo show as guest men’s wear designer — and it will likely have a dark edge. The designer, usually the hottest ticket on the London men’s schedule, may be all smiles and self-deprecation, but his imagination often spills into strange and shadowy corners.
Green, who is known for his utilitarian and often otherworldly designs that draw on everything from children’s toys to aliens and martial arts, said he chose the gardens, a broad, gentle slope of green behind the Pitti Palace, for a very specific reason. He loves that the Boboli Gardens aren’t manicured “but rather natural and overgrown, like a protective garden, and not too preened or polished, which I think is the beauty in it.”
He also thought it would be interesting to show somewhere “that was so classically Florence, and then try and twist how we present in the space. Hopefully it’s like nothing that has been seen there before.”
The plan for Thursday’s show is to create an installation that reflects “kind of a strange garden. The feeling will be transportive, because we’re showing at night. We’re trying to add some fantasy to the tradition.”
The Pitti show is a turning point for Green — as it has been for so many emerging and established designers before him. It’s also his first show outside the British capital and a chance, he said, for some of his customers to finally see him in action.
“We’ve got retailers who have been buying us for four years and who have never been to a show because they don’t have the opportunity to come to London. But they do go to Pitti,” the designer said.
Green’s ascent has been rapid but steady and he’s managed it with great care. Last year, he introduced a core collection of everyday pieces, which represents 75 percent of revenues, and is sold alongside his conceptual, and often wild, runway pieces. The fall 2018 collection featured robes that doubled as nomad’s tents, makeshift flying machines and sweaters patched together from colorful bits of fabric and knitwear.
Green also oversees the sales himself and will jet to his Paris showroom after wrapping up business in Florence.
He has also been dedicating time to some high-profile collaborations, working with Moncler on various collections and most recently on the Genius Building collective. He’ll unveil his second collection for Genius in September and will do a further two seasons after that.
He’s also turned his hand to films, creating costumes for the characters in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” that were based around his fall 2015 collection. Actors wore Green’s hand-twisted jersey, long johns, skin-tight clothing and quilted vests in the movie, which was released last year.
The designer, who launched his collection in 2012 shortly after graduating from the fashion M.A. course at Central Saint Martins, was the winner of the Men’s Wear Designer prize at the British Fashion Awards in 2016 and 2017 and the BFC/GQ Designer Men’s Wear Fund prize in 2016.
He used the GQ prize money to bankroll the core collection and also plowed the 150,000 pound prize money into hiring a production manager. Earlier this year, he launched footwear with Grenson in the form of chunky lace-up shoes inspired by toy soldier molds, and said there are more projects in the pipeline.
The Grenson shoes will launch in store soon, and Green said he’s been working with the British shoe brand on part of his Pitti show as well.
Green’s label sells at stores including Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Dover Street Market, Galeries Lafayette, Joyce, Matchesfashion.com, Mr Porter and Selfridges. He’s managed to develop a customer base both for his core collection and for the wackier runway pieces as well.
“He’s developed this amazing, utilitarian, almost uniform type of clothing with a very new and fresh approach. He gets into the textiles, into the details,” said Stavros Karelis, founder and buying director of Machine-A, the London-based multibrand boutique.
Karelis said Green’s jackets are easy-to-wear, “and the same applies to the bulletproof vest that he’s created. They are the most popular items this season. What I like especially about Craig is that he presents his concept every season and evolves it — without changing it too much.
“He remains focused and doesn’t try to do something that isn’t true to himself. And he has a huge appeal to both men and women. You see people wearing Craig Green regardless of whether they’re a boy or a girl,” Karelis added.
Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter, said the site started selling Craig Green for fall 2017, and it has been building a steady following, particularly in the U.S. She said coats, jackets and shirts are performing well, “and especially any of the signature workwear pieces with the iconic lacing. Craig’s use of different fabric techniques like padding, quilting or boucle wools is what makes his brand unique.”
Green’s collections evolve up until the models hit the runway, so the designer rarely gives too much away, and he doesn’t do sketches or previews.
For spring 2019, he said the collection will revolve around “reality and perspective and that idea of things not being what they seem — and we’ll do that hopefully in our kind of language. I love that idea, you know, when a crime happens, and they interview 10 people and everyone has a completely different perspective and story on what happened at that moment.
“It’s more about that idea of everything being an alternate reality, because everyone is seeing something in their own perspective. So, fantasy, reality and — I guess — the darkness in positivity,” he said of his current thoughts. “But who knows? It could all change.”