‘I have always had this strong link to the world of art, even before fashion,’ says Tod’s creative director Walter Chiapponi, who initially studied the discipline before shifting to design (and is a stalwart of Milanese fashion, with roles at Gucci, Miu Miu and Bottega Veneta before joining Tod’s in 2019). An avid collector – particularly of contemporary photography – he owns works by Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin, and Larry Clark, while Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat were the impetus behind a recent street art-inspired collection of accessories. 

Tod’s S/S 2023 at Milan’s Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Anselm Kiefer, The Seven Heavenly Palaces (2004). Image: courtesy of Tod’s

It was an altogether more monumental artwork that provided the backdrop for the designer’s S/S 2023 collection, shown in Milan this past weekend (it was his second runway show since prior to the pandemic, and his fourth full collection for the house). Taking place in the vast main hall of the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca – a former manufacturing plant for the Italian tiremakers, now a contemporary art institution – Anselm Kiefer’s permanent installation, The Seven Heavenly Palaces (2004), loomed over the runway. Comprising seven towers in concrete and lead, appearing as if made from sliced apart and stacked up shipping containers, it explores the themes that have run throughout the German artist’s output – spirituality, memory, civilisation.

‘Ruins are a beginning. They are not some sort of level zero,’ said Kiefer of the work at the time. ‘The towers in Pirelli Hangar Bicocca seem to have collapsed in on themselves, but their precarious situation, their nullity as well as our nullity makes us believe in our individuality.’

Carla Bruni walks in Tod’s S/S 2023. Image: courtesy of Tod’s

Chiapponi says he chose the space for its feeling of ‘poetic and philosophical reflection’, imagining the show as a ‘symbolic path, among these very high towers, where the rough material of the unbalancing, not perfectly aligned concrete blocks is in contrast with the clean, straight, precise, and very light lines of the garments’. (Kiefer initially found inspiration for the work in ancient Hebrew texts charting a spiritual journey towards God.) 

‘I like the space’s immensity, its prominence, and the fact that there are no barriers, but only a large open – but still closed – space. I especially love that there are no points of light, which makes everything more mysterious and melancholic.’

Anselm Kiefer installation
Anselm Kiefer, The Seven Heavenly Palaces (2004). Image courtesy of Tod’s

Opened by Carla Bruni and closed by Naomi Campbell, the collection saw archetypal womenswear – ‘essential pieces and iconic garments’ – filtered through the designer’s sensual, 1990s-inflected lens, with a particular focus on leather (lightweight and soft to the touch, the designer said he ‘treated it like a fabric’). ‘[It is] ethereal and grandiose,’ he says, a reflection of the space’s own majestic proportions. ‘Everything is dramatic, but in perfect balance.’ §