Rico Manchit Au is a rising star in the Chinese fashion industry, known for her brand “RICOSTRU” which she founded in 2011 after completing her Master’s degree from Istituto Marangoni in 2009. Her designs have gained recognition globally and she made history as one of the first Chinese womenswear designers to present her work at the prestigious Milan Fashion Week in 2016, after being personally selected by Giorgio Armani for the world famous Armani/Teatro runway.
Rico’s design aesthetic seamlessly combines “oriental minimalist” visual aesthetics, sharp tailoring, and innovative technology to create a fusion of futurism and orientalism. Her inspiration stems from the concepts of nature, time, and architecture which are evident in her striking designs.
Her brand “RICOSTRU”, born as a design collective in China in 2011, is named after the Italian word for reconstruction, “ricostruzione”, and embodies her faith in the younger generation’s ability to create and break new boundaries, following a philosophy based on believing in reconstruction as the creative process itself. The brand features a minimalist style with clean lines and luxurious fabrics inspired by nature and unique textures, offering a basic-chic wardrobe that is both comfortable and stylish.
Rico’s distinctive approach to fashion design has earned her a loyal following in the industry and she continues to push the boundaries of what is possible with her innovative and thought-provoking designs.
Ricostru’s Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, named “Reconstruction of the ancient path” was recently displayed in the private dining room of the famous Michelin star Restaurant, Cracco located at the center of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, that she transformed into showroom during Milan F/W Women’s Fashion Week. The collection consisted of exceptionally futuristic pieces, with a glimpse of Chinese culture integrated into them through the details. Representing the connection and contrast between the past and the future, the pieces represent a fixed point in time, turning strong architectural references to establish a connection from the past to what lies ahead of us, transcending simple clothing and accessories. The designer’s main inspiration was the rapid industrialization in the world, colliding with the culture and heritage of her birthplace: China. Rico herself describes China as a place where “ancient and future coexists”, claiming the idea of this came to her while thinking of the country’s tea culture, dating thousands of years back, yet still connecting modernity to the past through the tea trees, just like her clothes connect chinese heritage to us, donating it new life through modern designs.
The garments were mainly made out of synthetic leather, with color schemes consisting of earthy tones such as brown and sage green, coupled with shades of gray and black. Some of the garments had a shiny, metallic appearance imitating metal, reminding how the choice of the color gray for the collection was intended to give a sense of industrialization and construction, a theme repeated in the concrete bricks and walls of factories and buildings found all throughout the showroom. To highlight the strong futuristic idea behind the materials, Rico explained her choice of sustainable fibers and metallic yarn for the brighter metallic pieces, this compound intended to be as futuristic looking as possible to juxtapose even further the historical elements chosen by the designer.
The sharp cuts present in each design made the garments appear as architectural structures, touching once more the thread of industrialization and modernization at the base of the collection. Through the usage of hard leather, the dresses stood upright in a stable manner as if they needed no support other than themselves, without draping off of the models’ bodies. A certainly noticeable feature that accessorized almost all of the garments in the presentation were large metal rings, either hanging onto the clothing in various ways or worn as bracelets by the models: these rings, drawn from Chinese clothing culture, were meant to symbolize the past’s link to the industrial pieces. The collection also included many draped shapes hanging so low that they contacted the floor- provoking the idea that although the pieces exist in an industrial world, they would be impossible to wear in a city. Along with clothing, the showroom housed a series of bags on display for the audience: their visual had strong influences on traditional Chinese manufacture, visible in the classic calligraphy elements plastered all over aged leather almost wooden-looking bags, heavily contrasting their clothing counterparts.
Through modern haircuts, from pixie cuts to bobs and mullets, along with minimal makeup focused on highlighting the sharp lineaments of each model, the designer excellently balanced the futuristic and historical elements of the collection beyond their clothing aspect, allowing her craft to flourish. Rico’s highlighting of her chosen themes went beyond the models and garments when one took a look at the showroom’s setting: the models, as well as the accessories chosen to be displayed to the audience, were presented on rough brick platforms of different heights coupled with large metal plates in the background, all of this in a location characterized by the neo-renaissance style typical in Milan’s city center, creating a symphony of past and future coexisting in a place which used to be the hub of Milan’s trade, now a symbol of bygone times, but once a beating heart of novelties which perfectly summarizes Rico’s creative design.