Bidayat to revive fashion brand Walter Albini

Bidayat, the investment platform founded by Rachid Mohamed Rachid, has acquired the intellectual property and a substantial part of the archives of renowned Italian fashion designer Walter Albini.

The Switzerland-based investment platform, part of the Alsara Investment Group company, said in a statement that it plans to relaunch Walter Albini as a global luxury brand, describing the dormant Italian fashion house as a “hidden jewel”.

Rachid Mohamad Rachid, founder and chairman of Bidayat, said: “We are honoured having unearthed this hidden jewel of Italian high fashion and are currently studying Walter Albini’s vast heritage to set the foundations for the future of the eponymous brand.

“Walter Albini deserves to claim its rightful place amongst the top luxury brands on the global stage. Our challenge will be finding the right calibre of leadership team to bring alive our vision and ambition.”

Currently, Bidayat said it is teaming up with various museums, cultural institutions, curators, publishers, media partners and luxury advisors to “create awareness and recognition about the legacy of Walter Albini and his transformative impact on the fashion industry” ahead of reviving the iconic brand. No timeline has been given from the investment platform on when the brand will announce the creative and leadership team or launch its first collection.

Image: Alfa Castaldi; Designs by Walter Albini for Misterfox, Milan, 1971

At the heart of the relaunch will be archival pieces from Walter Albini acquired from collector Dr Barbara Curti, whose mother Marisa Curti had been a long-term collector of Walter Albini since his early days as a designer. The archive is the largest garment and accessories repository of the brand and include fashion clothing pieces showcasing Walter Albini’s iconic prints, fabric accessories, as well as costume jewellery, original drawings, and photographs. Bidayat added that Curti will continue to act as an archive curator and advisor to Bidayat on the relaunch.

Curti, head curator of the Walter Albini archive, added: “I’m delighted to join forces with Bidayat to continue to look after and build on Walter Albini’s powerful archive. I am looking forward to having many more generations be inspired by this incredibly talented designer, whose drive for perfection changed the entire Italian fashion ecosystem.”

Image: Gian Paolo Barbieri; A portrait of Walter Albini, 1971

Who was Walter Albini?

Walter Albini, born in Busto Arsizio, just north of Milan, was an Italian fashion designer who gained fame between the mid-’60s to early ‘80s for his avant-garde and innovative approach to fashion. He was recognised internationally as one of the biggest fashion designers emerging from Italy and was widely credited for the inception of the ‘Made in Italy’ concept as well as one of the pioneers of the ready-to-wear movement in the country post-war.

Although his name and brand were soon forgotten after his untimely death at the age of 42 in 1983, reportedly from AIDS, Bidayat adds that his unique creations and transformational impact on the fashion industry continue to inspire some of the world’s most sought-after designers and artistic talents today.

Albini started out working with various fashion magazines and publications, using his talent as an accomplished illustrator and graphic designer, contributing sketches from fashion shows in Rome and later from Paris. When he moved to the French capital, he began working for the styling agencies of Maimè Arnodin and Denise Fayolle, designing prints and patterns for fabrics, and in 1963 he created his first collection for Gianni Baldini. He then went to work with Mariuccia Mandelli, the famous fashion designer known as Krizia for three years, where he worked alongside a young Karl Lagerfeld.

By the end of the 1960s, Albini had designed for some of the other most influential Italian fashion houses of the time, including Billy Ballo, Cadette, Cole of California, Montedoro, Misterfox, Glans, Annaspina, Paola Signorini, and Trell.

Image: Bidayat; Original sketch by Walter Albini, used as a press release for the “Unified collection,” FW 1971/72

By the early 1970s, Albini had established himself as one of the most sought-after designers in Italy and created his own line bringing together five manufacturers from different sectors under a single collection of ready-to-wear, establishing the concept of the “total look” on the catwalk. He also paved the way for today’s Milan Fashion Week by becoming one of the first designers to leave Florence’s historic Palazzo Pitti in favour of Milan.

On the impact of Walter Albini, iconic designer Gianni Versace said in the book, ‘Walter Albini: Style in Fashion,’ from 1988: “There were many things about Albini that I loved: his frenetic creativity, the way he wanted more than anything else, to make women elegant and timeless.”

Who will become the creative director of Walter Albini?

Speculation is already mounting on who will lead the creative direction of Walter Albini for the relaunch, with several outlets attaching former Gucci designer Alessandro Michele to the project. However, both the designer and Bidayat have declined to comment on the rumours.

Image: Alfa Castaldi; Designs by Walter Albini, Milan, 1970

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