Daniel Del Core learned about the reality of fashion—as opposed to the fantasy—early on. In May 2017, to be exact: The German-born, Italian-based designer, whose label, Del Core, debuted in Milan this past February, was working at Gucci, creating red-carpet looks as part of Alessandro Michele’s design team. And he had been dispatched to New York to fit Dakota Johnson’s Met-gala dress—black, betrained, and bedecked with ruffles. What he hadn’t planned on was having to drive with Johnson to the gala to make sure she looked A-OK after getting out of the car. “We arrived, and the photographers went wild,” Del Core recalls. “I was blown away. Then, when I turned around,” he says, starting to laugh, “the car had disappeared, and I was standing there like an idiot. [But] as I was walking back to the hotel I thought, Well—in the end, my job is for her. [Being there] made a difference. Dakota looked amazing.”
Fashion has had plenty of reality checks lately, some of them very much needed. Yet increasingly there’s a desire for it to return to finding joy and inspiring dreams in our transformed world, something that a new generation of designers—not only Del Core but the likes of Maximilian Davis and Charles de Vilmorin as well—has seized upon. Del Core’s own dramatic entrance, a live runway show at Milan’s historic Cittadella degli Archivi (everyone was rigorously COVID-tested), was ambitious and dazzling, with theatrical flourishes and couture techniques aplenty. It was also a reminder that sometimes designers just need to act on the strength of whatever weird and wonderful synaptic connections power their imagination.
In Del Core’s case, those include nature (he has a thing for fungi), science (ditto mold), wanderlust, and science fiction, which is a bit of an obsession. The day we Zoomed, he was wearing a sweater emblazoned with H. R. Giger’s nightmarish Alien. (“I have a Gremlins one too!” Del Core says, grinning.) And that Manhattan evening on the first Monday in May also looms large. “It was what fashion should be,” he says, “and what’s missing a bit now: the fun, the glamour, the explosion of color.”
Tick, tick, tick, then, for Del Core’s first collection out of the gate. There was bold-shouldered—bold every which way, actually—and whittle-waisted tailoring with a distinct whiff of the ’80s, in shades of amethyst, scarlet, and a rustlike hue he calls Tierra di Siena. He deliberately opened with the pantsuits and short, sashed coats—“to prove myself,” he says, “because as a red-carpet designer, you don’t do a lot of tailoring; it had to be good”—though there wasn’t exactly a lack of major evening moments either. The floor-length red-and-black floral dress, for instance, an intarsia of four different laces that took 1,500 hours to hand-stitch; or the 800 hours that were needed for an emerald-and-white silk plissé number, an incredible confection of flou and fan pleats anchored to an inner corset. The dress’s pattern was inspired, incidentally, by spore cultures.
“When it comes to a dress, there are certain constructions we don’t see anymore—maybe they are too difficult to commercialize or whatever—but I think we should think about the past when we want to be modern,” he says. “I mean, I am concerned about the sales; I’m concerned about where the brand is going”—and deciding to lead with the more commercial tailoring over the big-night dressing suggests he’s as shrewd about the bottom line as he is comfortable in fashion’s dreamy stratosphere—“yet it’s also important to scream a bit, to say, ‘Okay, we were in a bad situation; let’s figure out how we get better and be positive, especially now.’ ”