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Giorgio Sant'Angelo Lives On

Dazed speaks to Martin Price, former design assistant and life partner of the late celebrated designer Giorgio Sant'Angelo.

Martin Price is a senior instructor of design at Parsons School of Fashion in New York and who better to teach handfuls of up and coming talent than a man who spent the majority of his life working beside the late Giorgio Sant'Angelo, an Italian designer also known to many of today's designers as a popular referencing point. In 1978, Martin, then 22, went for an interview to work as Sant'Angelo's primary design assistant. The label was booming and from the get go, Martin became involved in every aspect of running the high fashion atelier. He also became the love of Sant'Angelo's life and here he talks Dazed through the designer's colourful, kaleidoscopic world.
Dazed Digital: You had a long relationship with Giorgio, both personal and professional, how did you influence each others lives?
Martin Price: I'll be honest, he ruled my world. From the moment I got the job with him, we fell in love and so rather than working just as his design assistant, I became his alter ego. It wasn't just my young way of thinking that inspired him though. Giorgio loved to surround himself with youth and he constantly listened to their ideas and thoughts on fashion and life. I worked with him for eleven years and after he died of lung cancer in 1989, I continued to design collections under his name. I got as far 1992 but it became too emotional so I sold the trademark and donated the entire Sant'Angelo archive of clothing and accessories to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
DD: Describe the hype that followed Giorgio during his career peak. Why did his work feel so fresh? What was he striving for that other designers weren't?
MP: Giorgio really knew how to shake things up. He was in tune with globalization and multiculturalism long before they became the buzzwords. Veruschka was his muse and his aim was to really free women from the stiff, structured mod or futuristic shapes that were popular at the time. Giorgio liked to refer to these dresses as 'boxes with zippers up the back' which always made us laugh. He wanted to empower women and that's why he referenced Greek goddesses, amazonian queens, Peruvian princesses and tribal beauties in his work. It was about fashion and fantasy and that's why Diana Vreeland adored him and helped him explode on to the fashion scene.
DD: Why do you think Giorgio's work is still relevant today?
MP: Simply because he was always in tune with the moment and what young and interesting people were into. Again it goes back to the fact that he fully understood and realized the importance and relevance of other cultures and the importance of developing new textiles. The clothes he created were soft and unstructured, created from non-traditional and naive patterns. He was extremely organized and his designs were thought out intelligently but yet spontaneously developed. He was a real originator.
DD: Talk us through some of his key pieces.
MP: Historically, I feel that his brilliant use of stretch fabrics along with wrapping and tying the female form with fabrics to simulate clothes is his greatest mark. Specifically, his Aztec knitted Bodysuits and tights from 1970 known as Patternskins, that a woman could wear alone or under his savage cut suede sarongs. This evoked his strong and natural brilliance of merging the technological with the primitive. Later on into the 1980s, a time when his work was having a major resurgence, the wonderful bodysuits in DuPont developed silk stretch gauze that were photographed for the January 1990 cover of British Vogue on the supermodels of the period. Worn with the models own blue jeans it proved how Sant' Angelo was in tune with the moment yet remained true to his point of view.  

DD: Most of Giorgio's collections were fashion hits, as his life partner and alter-ego, what were your personal favourites?
MP: There are three. The Magnificent Mirage documented in American Vogue in July of 1968. This truly represents Giorgios visions. His bravado in wrapping and layering Veruschka in whole cloth and proving you don't need patterns or sewing machines to create clothes. The Natives of the Americas, the 1970 Fall/Winter Collection that paid homage to North and South American cultures was a great mix of technological stretch bodysuits, tights, and dresses with the most extraordinary ethnic and primitive layering's was also breakthrough. For sentimental value, I'd say his final Collection, the 1989 Fall/Winter Collection that ended with a parade of the second skin silk stretch gauze body dresses that are currently in the exhibition "Model as Muse", at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These dresses represent the goddesses that inspired Giorgio and how he bought them into the 20th century.