The brainchild of Italian designer Veronica Leoni, Quira is one of this year’s LVMH Prize finalists. On a Zoom call from her studio in Rome, Leoni said it came as a surprise to be included in the final selection. “A start-up project like Quira doesn’t necessarily grow following the rules the industry today mostly adheres to. It makes me feel optimistic that its challenging path has been acknowledged.”
Leoni knows a thing or two about the inner workings of the fashion system. Her pedigree comes from having worked in close proximity with Jil Sander and Celine’s Phoebe Philo; for both she was head designer of the knitwear line. Moncler’s Remo Ruffini put Leoni in the top creative position for womenswear at Moncler 1952; currently she’s consulting with The Row for both men’s and women’s collections, working closely with the Olsens. “In Quira, there’s a sort of coexistence of all the differences, both geographic and stylistic, of the creative directors I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with,” she said. “But it’s a coexistence of experiences, rather than of aesthetics.”
The designer’s Italian roots give the three-year-old Quira its spirited quality, an expressive, instinctual peculiarity that translates into a “maximal minimalism,” as Leoni calls it. The sensibilities of her mentors have been distilled into a “guerrilla project” that embodies her personal take on contemporary femininity—rigorous yet spontaneous, sensuously severe, simplified and essential with hints of audacity. Her “devotion to Made in Italy” supports an imaginative complexity of construction that doesn’t detract from a strict, almost exacting approach. There’s inventive freedom in her disciplined design, although “the leash is quite tight,” she said, “when it comes to editing and to respecting the essentiality of the ingredients of my style. I’d call it equilibrium rather than minimalism.”
In the fall collection, Leoni further honed her take on the modern wardrobe, infusing it with a sense of poised newness while staying eminently wearable. An undercurrent of Philo’s unconventional artistic classicism and of Sander’s classy purity can be felt, but the overall look is Leoni’s. The clarity of shapes is twisted with intriguing plays on cut and construction, while considered details (which she calls “little hidden secrets”) provide each piece with edge and a unique character.
“Challenging my creativity, allowing moments of discomfort to happen helps push the process towards unpredictable solutions,” the designer explained. One of the best looks in the collection—a deceptively classic skirt suit—provided a template for Leoni’s modus operandi. The masculine strong-shouldered jacket was cut in a spiral shape to accommodate the hips in a soft, almost drapey movement; the box-pleated skirt was vertical and strict, made from dense, compact wool in a severe shade of uniform-gray. “I wanted something that recalled ’50s couture, and also 18th century volumes, and to inject some unexpected folk into the silhouette,” she offered. “What I’m after—it’s style, not fashion.”