“Our collections are an intertwining of our escapist teenage fantasies and the spirit of nostalgic references from our upbringing,” said Alex Russo – one half of the team behind Paolina Russo – in a press interview prior to the brand’s show during Copenhagen Fashion Week (CPHFW). The duo, which is completed by Lucile Guilmard, were selected as the winners of the first edition of Zalando’s Visionary Award in partnership with the event, recognising them as “makers of the future”.
Founded in 2021, Paolina Russo has become known for its take on knitwear combined with artisan techniques, bridging the gap between heritage craftsmanship and technology. This was no different for the London-based label’s spring/summer 2024 collection, which Russo said mixed “sports codes with folkloric fantasies of stone circles” resulting in a subversive exploration of knit, print, jersey and denim.
An important element of the line, according to the designer, was the use of recycled and single-cotton fibres that reiterated the label’s commitment to responsible practices – a quality made possible through a collaboration with textile solution developers Pizarro. Such practices could be seen in lasered denim and t-shirts, which Russo noted eliminated harmful processes for workers and reduces the environmental impact of production.
Silhouettes present throughout the collection ranged from low waisted, flowing asymmetry to layered basics and figure-hugging forms, made possible through a prominent use of ruching. Other techniques were also vast, as crochet and intricate knitwear formed corset-like tops could be seen combined with printed sportswear pieces.
‘Our aim is to create a modern context for craft…’
Such prints reflected the aforementioned folklore theme, a common staple of Paolina Russo’s collections brought on by the past of the designers – bringing together Russo’s suburban upbringing in Canada with Guilmard’s French heritage. Commenting on this contrast, Russo said: “Both of us found community and belonging through making, and it’s how we realised that craft is something that exists because of communities and passes from generation to generation.”
Ultimately, the brand’s goal is to “create a modern context for craft” through the development of technology, evident, as noted by Russo, in signature illusion knits, which were also present in the SS24 collection. Further proof of their efforts is also in the designers’ so-called “collaborative manufacturing network”, through which they intend to treat their supply chain as creative partners. Russo added: “We work face to face and as locally as possible with our supply chain in order to approach development hands-on and to experiment within the facilities of our manufacturers.”
It is this mindset that led both Russo and Guilmard to apply and ultimately win Zalando’s Visionary Award, bolstering the pair’s mission to continue empowering others to consider their practices as well as their self-expression. On the win, Russo said: “ Meeting the high standards of an award like this brings us closer to our goal: modernising craftsmanship and rethinking traditional techniques through innovation and responsible fashion products. Winning encourages us to keep building a sustainable brand and celebrates an alternative way of working.”