Simon Holloway: The Man Behind the Agnona Brand
Simon Holloway might not be Italian, but he sure knows the Italian woman. Since 2015, he has guided the iconic Italian fashion fabric supplier and fashion house, Agnona, down a sultry and sexy path that has reclaimed pink; and turned dressing into a sensory thrill.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 12th issue of ODDA Magazine.
Q: Simon, the Agnona label is one of the brands that epitomizes Italian luxury. We see this strongly in the highly polished, but extremely feminine, Resort’17 collection and the Spring/Summer 2018 colection. Was this an inherited persona, or your own personal vision for the brand?
A: Agnona is the personification of Italian Luxury. The elevated quality level of the fabrics meticulously designed and woven from exquisite yarns in exceptional tones, colours, and textures. This is Agnona’s inherent strength. My aim for Agnona is to bring that luminous beauty into an unapologetically feminine collection. Imagining the stylish women who have experienced Agnona and recrafting that notion into a collection for women of great style and taste of today.
Q: Your career in luxury fashion has seen you work with powerhouse brands such as Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, and most recently, Hogan. What has remained your mantra throughout your time in luxury? What is the one rule you always abide by?
A: Always be the best possible version of yourself. Whatever that may be. I try to apply that to life and to work and by extension the brands that I have worked for.
Q: Agnona is an iconic Italian stalwart to the fashion industry, having supplied brands such as Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior with luxury fabrics since 1953. But in 1999, when it was established as its own fashion house, it needed to create its own identity. What do you see that as being? Who is the Agnona woman?
A: The identity of Agnona as a fashion house grew directly from the fabric legacy that had already been created. When the couturiers transitioned into Ready To Wear, Agnona began to specialize in Double Face clothing, as many of the fabrics were double constructed. Later they specialized in Cashmere knitwear. The fabrics were always designed to flatter a woman’s complexion, with texture and beautiful colour for women of great style. What I love about Agnona is this rich history that is at once stylish and pure.
Q: Touch is central to the Agnona brand. Even in your short film for the label, Await, we see the male lover’s hand lingering over the rich fabrics in the Agnona-filled wardrobe. We so often perceive fashion as a visual art, but how important is the touch?
A: The tactile qualities of Agnona fabrics are second to none. It is the basis of the secret and sensual relationship with our clients. They expect and desire it. Wearing a double-face coat is a unique experience, it feels somehow like its not there; because the purity of the fabric just cocoons the body. There is no excess construction and complication, just the purity of the cloth and a lightweight tailored sculpture.
Q: Simon, you are English, but have spent a good many years working for Italian labels – two years with Hogan, and now just on a year with Agnona. What is the essence of Italian fashion? What is the ‘X factor’ that so many other nationalities attempt to recreate, but cannot?
A: Italy is the country that knows fashion instinctively. It is an art to them. The Italians respect design and have a passion for so many different types of craftsmanship. It’s the reason why all luxury brands produce their clothing and accessories there. I think the X factor in Italy is the fusion of traditional craftsmanship, style, and innovation.
Q: Let’s talk about your Resort ‘17 collection. It is heavy with blushing shades of pink – from rose, to musk, to nude, to fuchsia, and back again.What do you think about the modern woman reclaiming such a soft yet understated shade? Why did you opt for such a feminine palette?
A: This feminine palette is derived from the extensive Agnona fabric and colour archive. It is the secret history that has never been told. Over the decades of fabric design for the couturiers and designers, there was always a soft neutral palette punctuated by delicate luminous colour. These luminous colours rendered in fibers that refracted light on the complexion of the wearer are what Agnona is specialized in. The brands came to Agnona for this and I wanted to celebrate that.
Q: Your time at both Hogan and Jimmy Choo must have left you with a lasting love for accessories. Even in the Await short film we enjoy lingering shots on the handbag tossed on the chair, the shoes on the floor. How important are accessories to an overall ‘look’?
A: I can’t even think of a look without a shoe! A good shoe, sandal, boot, slipper, changes the proportion and the attitude of everything. I’m conditioned to think about how the cut of the last and the heel imbues a certain drama or insouciance to a minimal look, or turns down the attitude when you have a more maximalist gesture in the clothes. Bags, belts and jewellery continue the storytelling and shifting the proportion and the attitude of a look. Collectively, it is the richness and seduction of accessories that I love.
Q: Agnona is the leading manufacturer of luxury fabrics, from fine Australian wool, to Tibetan cashmere, Peruvian alpaca, vicuña, and even Chinese silk. How do you ensure these incredible fabrics stand out front and center in the designs?
A: I feel very fortunate to work with beautiful textiles, but ultimately it is the idea of the client, the woman that is paramount, I see the design, the fabric and colour choice as being centered on what will be beautiful. And that’s all that matters. We live in a age where statement making fashion is the trend, but I always believe that it is the person wearing the clothes that should be the most important in the equation.
Q: Looking forward, what do you see as the focus for the Agnona brand? What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
A: I want to connect with our clients. We are slowly developing our brand touch points starting with the clothing and knitwear, accessories and Home Collection. We are undergoing a full redevelopment of our digital platform and related content. That’s an extensive project and the film Await was a small part of that strategy. We are hoping to make another chapter in film. Agnona is a beautifulvstory; it is my privilege to tell that story.
Maggie Kelly is an Australian writer with a background in editorial, fashion, and lifestyle. See more of her work on her website www.maggiekellywriter.com
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