What often comes to mind with neighborhoods and its inhabitants is what I call the bubble factor. This factor calls to mind the Upper East side woman who won't go above or below the borders of her neighborhood without the added luxury of a cab or car service. Or perhaps the many a Washington Heights Manhattan neighborhood that offers a salon, barbershop, restaurant, supermarket, bodega, church and common area to almost every four block radius rendering it unnecessary for one to venture far from home. Its these bubbles that this country once fought to disband and desegregate. And while it occasionally may be the mark of racism, classicism or an unwillingness to broaden borders, no one can truly say that it's not a cultural trek to restaurant hop in Chinatown or Little Italy or spy the aerodynamic hats and macked out suits on a Sunday morning in Morningside heights or shop for robust meats and breads in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Its just as important to accept the neighborhoods of this nation as melting pots that are chock full of flavors to experience and learn from (now getting around the chefs that spoil the meal is a story for another post).
What's interesting is how the soul of these little communities stem from the many different countries of origin. Its almost as if those little villages in China, Italy, the West Indies, Eastern Europe, etc. serve as templates for what's happened on many a block in this country. A playful meandering through such towns reveal pieces of the larger souls of nations, countries and islands worldwide.
As I spoke to Stefano Ughetti, the designer for the Italian label Camo, I began to understand now oftentimes what seems as simplicity and an inability of a culture to assimilate could simply be just a comfort of living life naturally. In the Fall/Winter 2011 'Soul' collection for Camo, inspiration was not pulled from some band or pilgrimage through Asia but rather reinterpreting the beauty that had existed for centuries in a small simple rustic Italian town. The reflective models standing amidst the beautiful landscape and architecture effectively brought to mind the aesthetic that Ughetti states he was trying to convey. "My purpose is not to dress people, but to put them in touch with what they wear" states Ughetti who essentially draws on the essence of the small Italian city of Oropa's natural everyday beauty. Beauties such as the Oropa Sanctuary which inspired the textured pristine wools tailored with soft hands seen throughout the collection. However, to Ughetti, beauty is also found in the soul of this city's inhabitants in their desire for simplicity in ritual, complacency with being quaint and fulfillment by enjoying life through enriching the soul through worship, local craftmanship and even just enjoying an unadorned Italian caffe.
Peppered throughout the collection are non-fussy, uncontrived pieces that you may want to just relax in but will feel perfectly suited for that chance casual or business encounter. There's a spongy, cozy innate quality to wool cardigans, sweaters and plush topcoats for men and smart menswear-inspired pleated skirts, long cardis and demure scarf/shrug hybrids for women. The somber color palette draws out the sumptuousness of the herringbone, flannel and heathered wools all with the visual appeal of classic Italian tailoring. The collection had the evocations of a capsule collective in the easy-to-pair offerings of the suits and sportswear; all the more better to create a seemingly endless great textural layering story. After all, every great city, town, neighborhood has a story that is immeshed onto its dwellers. Some tell the story with the aromas from a kitchen or through the established gathering place to recall times past. Just as personal and direct to the soul as any handed down recipe or familiar neighborhood tale can be is how we choose to relay them; whether whimsically or woven.