A Designer Who Got Her Discipline From Dance

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A Designer Who Got Her Discipline From Dance

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When the New York-based women’s wear designer Marina Moscone was 3, she stole her father’s burgundy leather briefcase and used it to carry around the sketches she made wherever she went. Not long after, she announced to her parents that she was becoming a fashion designer. A few years later, at age 7, she decided that she would eventually move from her native Vancouver, British Columbia, to New York to study at the Parsons School of Design. She had learned about the school while watching reruns of the Canadian TV show “Fashion File.”

It would all come to pass exactly as she had planned, something that Moscone, now 33, credits not to fate but to the tenacity she acquired while studying ballet as a child. “It’s that really weird ballerina school of thought,” says Moscone, who, until college, would often dance 30 hours a week. “Ballet teaches you a relentless level of discipline and determination, and that entered my personality a bit,” she adds, “for better or worse.”

Certainly, that sense of rigor and the persistent pursuit of seemingly effortless elegance is visible in her designs themselves. Since founding her eponymous label alongside her younger sister, Francesca (who is the brand’s president), in 2016, Moscone has built a loyal following of women with her pared-back yet sensuous collections, defined by a contemporary approach to Basque tailoring — a technique that emphasizes a sculpted, V-shaped waist — intuitive, textile-driven draping and contrasts of severe angles with more fluid shapes. With each season, she prioritizes expertly made looks that can easily transition from casual to more formal settings without fuss — for example, loosely fitted, unabashedly pretty silk gowns or slips worn over wide-leg trousers — and returns to certain shapes, such as strong shoulders and elongated sleeves, again and again. Another signature is a twist in the fabric of a piece, a technique that creates a natural ripple effect and is often used in her work to soften bold, architectural designs.

Moscone’s approach, then, is about evolution — as she inches ever closer to an ideal combination of European grace and American practicality — and not about reinvention. Her latest collection, resort 2021, which debuted this July, featured updates to her now-familiar sculptural suiting, fringed peach and cream shift dresses cut from intricate hand-woven textiles, and a couture-like version of a knit hoodie with fluffy white plumage along the hem created by profusions of loose cotton threading.

And so, while Moscone’s collections often read as minimalist in form, she considers them maximalist when it comes to quality and craft. The brand’s tailoring is hand-constructed, the fabrics — from sumptuous silks to supple cashmere knits — are luxurious, and each season there is always an element of handcraft, such as embroidery, delicate lace inlay or, as shown in her recent resort collection, weaving. “Fabric is always a starting point for me: I know what texture I want the hand to feel, and then I build silhouettes from there,” says Moscone, who typically produces all of her textiles in Italy, at mills near Como and Florence. This spring, though, when the country was ravaged by Covid-19, she was forced to rethink her production plan. When New York, too, issued a stay-at-home order, she decided to set up a loom in her Manhattan living room. Using leftover yarns and fabric scraps from past seasons — including strips of silk wool, silk jersey and crepe — Moscone developed many of her own unique textiles, and she temporarily redirected her team to produce hundreds of protective cotton face masks for New York hospitals. This hands-on approach is not new to her: Last year, Moscone installed an inflatable pool in her apartment so that she could marble the silks that would later appear in her resort and spring 2020 collections as ivory-hued bias-cut dresses patterned with earthy, abstract swirls.

After graduating from Parsons at the height of the financial crisis in 2009, when design jobs were scarce, Moscone began her career at a creative agency, working with fashion photographers and stylists. In 2012, she joined the American label Peter Som and eventually became its design director before breaking out on her own. “This spring was the first time in my professional life when there’s actually been a bit of time,” says Moscone, who notes that collaborating with her younger sister, with whom she also lives, creates a vibrant, symbiotic foundation for the brand. “I’ve been able to think things through and consider where we are and where we want to end up with some sort of clarity.” Though her team of 13 is now settled back into its West Chelsea atelier — a bright, bustling space in a prewar building surrounded by art galleries — she says that the brand is a different one post-lockdown, as she finally found an opportunity to make changes she had long been considering. Going forward, it will present only resort and pre-fall collections and forgo runway shows entirely. Moscone plans to offer editors and buyers a more intimate experience instead, while also prioritizing direct interactions with her clients, through personal appointments and new retail concepts, both live and virtual.

Earlier this summer, Moscone started to conceive her pre-fall 2021 collection, which will debut in January, marking the start of the brand’s new chapter. The collection will highlight her continued exploration of fabric manipulation techniques, including the felted hand-quilting that she recently introduced for resort. And once again, she will focus on adapting favorite silhouettes from past seasons rather than starting anew, an approach that she feels more comfortable with now than ever. For too long, she says, big retailers — many of which are now struggling — and large brands set precedents for constant creation and perpetual deliveries that made it near impossible for smaller brands to keep up. Now, there is an chance to reset and establish more conscious, thoughtful styles of working that generate beauty not through excess but through disciplined restraint — which has been Moscone’s way all along. “We don’t need to rely on other people to tell the narrative: We have our brand, our own platform, and actually we are the ones best equipped to share our own story,” she says. “So, we’re taking control.”

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