“Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life.” – Bob Marley
Imagine a world in decay, where the wondrous remains of the former age dot the landscape amongst dirt encrusted concrete and brick warehouses. Such a juxtaposition exists in Manhattan, where glorious ‘Art Deco’ buildings meet the skyscrapers of this modern period. Drawing from this visual narrative, the creative duo Dres Ladro and Matteo Maniatty – asked themselves what would fashion look like in this society. A culture where humanity struggles to express itself in new and meaningful ways, when creating their fashion line “Descendant of Thieves.” The brand name Ladro is based on the Italian word for thief, encouraging you to steal every moment you can from life.
Dres Ladro, Honor Amongst Thieves
Justin Howard for Black Chalk : Why fashion? What appeals to you about it?
Dres Ladro : Change. It’s never idle. It’s very alive. And, It’s also extremely personal. You can pretend to be anyone you want to be by your selection of clothing. But, be careful because you become who you pretend to be.
Black Chalk : What is the message of “Descendant of Thieves”?
Dres Ladro : One of our brand quotes is, “Love thy neighbor, but for Heaven’s sake do not dress like him.” We do small batch manufacturing. It’s the craft beer of fashion. Every single piece is listed with a born date and the number of units made. It’s designed for those who are the needle, not the haystack. Descendant of Thieves is NOT for everyone… We would like to keep it that way.
Black Chalk : What’s your favorite piece? Why?
Dres Ladro : A/W’s “The Enemy” jacket. Side A is a beautiful and understated charcoal donegal tweed. Side B smacks you hard across the face with an overtly bold and deeply illustrious bright teal with all-over multi floral embroidery. You WILL hurt someone in this piece.
Black Chalk : Are you influenced by any music or art movements?
Dres Ladro : Street art. I still love and relate to Space Invader’s ideals : Design consistency, appreciation for the past, an element of surprise, and a bit of mystery.
Black Chalk : Did you want to become a fashion designer when you were young?
Dres Ladro : No. I only made (still make) clothes for myself. To feel special. It was never my intention to be a “fashion designer” and make clothes for others. I felt it would water down this personal sense of uniqueness I get from knowing I’m the only one wearing it. I blame Matteo Maniatty (The CEO) for dragging me into this shit.
Black Chalk : Whats your philosophy about the ART of fashion?
Dres Ladro : My philosophy is to design from the inside-out. Most apparel designers completely ignore the interiors and focus solely on the facade. I start on the inside, the part that is closest to the body, and work my way through to the outside. It forces us to pay relentless attention to the details… It’s an inside job.
Black Chalk : What do you enjoy most about designing clothes?
Dres Ladro : When your idea or thought magically turns into an object. It’s extremely personal. All artists experience this. With clothing, you can wear your idea while simultaneously sharing it with people in your world. God, I sound like Disney right now.
Black Chalk : As a designer what is the most challenging part of your job?
Dres Ladro : When you hit your creative flow you go crazy. It’s hard to stop. Hard to sleep. Hard to eat. But you don’t think about that. Then, in the end, there are just too many designs. To tell a good story you have to reel it back, focus it, and kill off so many of your ideas… Your babies. Save the babies!
Black Chalk : Does your work reflect your personal fashion taste? Can you describe your style?
Dres Ladro : Everything we make I would wear. It’s me. It us. I might put it together differently. Unexpected. Clash colors. Break some rules. You need to be a bit disruptive… For your own health. You will never do anything interesting until you push to the edge of your own comfort level.
Black Chalk : What do you wish you had known before entering the fashion industry?
Dres Ladro : It’s a racket! I never would have got into this game if I knew there was more work and less sex, cocaine, and models. I’m joking, mom!
Black Chalk : Any advice you want to share?
Dres Ladro : There is less sex, cocaine, and models… But not completely void… There is still hope for the fashion industry. Save Fashion!
Black Chalk : What was your inspiration for this collection?
Dres Ladro : The “New American Revolution.” America is unsettled and more divided than ever due to factors including politics, immigration, racial tensions, and 1% economics. The Next American Revolution is bubbling. Political upheaval seems dangerously close. The activists are speaking but quietly the resistance is building. The collection is designed for the secret civilian army that hides amongst the crowd. It is heavily inspired by neo-military, both aesthetically and functionally.
We did variations of camouflage shadow prints as well as “Donegal” speck weaves, which we consider the ‘new’ camo. “Donegal” is a town in Ireland that invented this namesake distinct weave…. So we are tipping our hat to the Irish who have been in a civil war for 69 years. Notable items include updated ponchos, field jackets, and reversible embroidered tour jackets.
The Secret Knit: We utilized ultra soft, high constructed knit fabrics that have extraordinary stretch attributes. It does not resemble a knit, so we dropped it in more sophisticated pieces including tailored suits, shirting, and pants. It’s a sort of “fuck you” to your boss… I’m actually wearing sweats right now. Hence the name, “Secret Knit”. I suppose it’s when you write BLACK CHALK on a black board… Only you know it’s there. For travel it is masterful, but ultimately it is designed for the resistance movement.
Colors include American Reds, shades of military green, explosively bright ‘Warning’ oranges, and deep Burgundies. There is no white this season, due to its association with flags of surrender.
Black Chalk : Anything we should keep our eyes open for in the future?
Dres Ladro : The New American Revolution!