It’s in the iconic 1950s comic strip animation Peanuts that the character Linus van Pelt is instantly recognisable by his security blanket, which he resolutely carries everywhere. A source of much envy for Snoopy, who is constantly trying to pinch it, the blanket’s charm lies in its ability to bring a sense of comfort to the wearer. It’s an attribute the Milan-based brother-sister duo Carlotta and Nicolò Oddi have wholeheartedly embraced with their escapist knitwear brand, Alanui, which is built around a similarly cosy item: the cardigan. It just so happens, that they have also collaborated with Peanuts on Snoopy motif pieces as well.
“Starting from our concept of a cardigan like a Linus blanket and, also, the historical period we are living in – spending a lot of time in our homes,” Carlotta says of the thinking behind their recent expansion into blankets for the spring/summer 2021 season. “[We are] thinking [about the idea] to dress your house like you dress yourself. That was the idea to develop and bring Alanui into homeware, to grow the concept of a kind of lifestyle.”
A capsule of five blankets that revel in the wanderlust feeling of the brand – anchored by craftsmanship, luxury, travel and sustainability – explore the desert lands of the American West, the aesthetic for which they have become known. Vichy patterns in intricate jacquards, landscapes of wild horses, canyons and ancient saguaro cactius, as well as mirage formations all build on the brand’s signature geometric pattern.
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“I thought of myself as painter in front of a big white canvas,” says Carlotta, the creative director of the five-year-old luxury label. And notes that at a time when travel isn’t possible, she instead went on a journey through her imagination.
It was on vacation Nicolò had found a cardigan in an LA market as a present for Carlotta. Loving it as much as she did, she’d end up wearing on her own road trip to Hawaii – Alanui comes from Hawaiian and translates as “large path” – the start of a new business venture unwittingly began.
“I’m very connected to the world of travel and exploration,” says Nicolò from his office, which is sleek, dark and organised. “I’m in love with Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time there.” Carlotta, familiar on the street style scene owing to her former role as a fashion editor of Vogue Japan, is in her office: bright and with a wall of colourful swatches behind her – research, she says, for SS22. “Carlotta is the creative one,” points out Nicolò, whose own professional background is in water technologies. “Very different,” he laughs.
Growing up in Milan, he says, they were exposed to the same values, which included their mother’s “super-good taste”, which he points out was very fashion-orientated. It’s perhaps a no-brainer then that they would go on to form Alanui, originally built on this one luxe knitwear item, but one that wasn’t like anything else out there. Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli were exemplary of course, but more classic than the experimental approach they wanted to take.
An oversized and button-less jacquard cashmere unisex cardigan, produced in a variety of colours, edged with a dense fringe and closed with a two-tone belt would become their hallmark. By 2017 New Guards Group, the Italian holding group which controls Off-White, Marcelo Burlon County of Milan and Palm Angels, had acquired a stake in the brand.
Part of that team-up means that sustainability is important - the online retail platform Farfetch, which last year published ambitious climate positive goals, acquired New Guards Group in 2019. And Carlotta and Nicolò are devoted to being as conscious as possible and year on year, season on season, are researching and implementing ways to be more sustainable. Plastic, when used, is recycled and in the case of the blankets, each is crafted from premium transformed cashmere or virgin wool yarns, treated only through processes that exclusively use renewable energy to limit the brand’s ecological foot print. Made in Italy craftsmanship is notably important.
“We remain focused on the quality and craftsmanship of the product,” affirms Nicolò. He notes the past year has been challenging, as it has for everyone, but that it has also brought with it the opportunity to innovate. “Not just to survive but keep growing,” he says. “Our goal is to create a lifestyle.”
And aside from the new blanket launch that builds upon this mission, the SS21 season also sees them launch a trio of films, West is a State of Mind, shot by director and photographer Andrea Calvetti. A journey through the US by three friends, it appropriately captures the adventure spirit of the brand – and teases the delights of travel when we can once again.
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