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Time to mutate- Sue Webster

2001-08-05


05 august 2001

...Textiles are a lot easier to work than steel, so clothing can be made to mutate at the drop of a hat, right?
Perhaps, but esamples are scarce. Quirky Italian designer Daniela Gregis is one of them, and notable. The unikely darling of intellectual circles in Italy, Gregis is a doctor's daughter who originally trained as a herbalist and, from a very young age, cooked food and sold it to her father's patients.
She now stages theatrical fashion shows at such foodie venues as the Bulthaup and Alessi show rooms, and restaurants in Milan and Bergamo. ''Food is just like clothing,'' she says. ''it joins people together, breaking down barriers''. Next month Gregis will present her spring 2002 collection in London for the first time at cult clothing retailer Egg - wearing and carrying the new collection, together with some food.
It is less surprising to learn that her autumn collection for this year include dresses that can also be used as tablecloths (£435) and beautifully soft, sunset coloured, dnitted bags that could carry your vegetables home from the market, then be slipped on as a gilet (£150). As with all revolutionary ideas, these are hard to imagine - you have to see them. Since launch of her first homeware collection at 1997 Milan furniture show, Gregis has focused on her own brand of flexible design, not at least because it prevents waste.
She makes only small quantities of her hand made garments, and any remaining scraps of fabric are saved and used to make handles for bubblewrap bags or as decoration. Her designs are simultaneously child-like and sophisticated. Many of her dresses come with builtin bags - at the end of an attached scraft, say, as a kind of pocket to keep your hands warm - but these clothes, though loose-fitting, are not baggy.
Drawstrings define the shape of flowing skirts made from Liberty lawn (£160), and of the ''trapezium shirt'', a pretty top with batwing sleeves with a bow to tie at the back or bind beneath the breast in front (£135).
Created in cashmere for winter (the collection is already at Egg), the effect of her long dressed is even more wraith-like, with headscarves and voluminous knitted bags added. A heavy hand knitted jacket (£475) seems at first to be a simple luxury item in a silky, dense knit. But touch it, and a surprise emanates from its undyed, spun linen: the unmistakable smell of new-mown hay. The coat carries its own aromatherapy, the seet scent of summer, as a comfort on those chill autumn days.... 

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