Angelo Milano, the founder and designer of Roba di Sangue, may never have planned on becoming a fashion designer, but his outsider perspective has lent his designs an unexpected, attention-grabbing creativity. Milano created his line of eye-catching, screen-printed T-shirts after being encouraged to do so by a friend, and since then he’s never worried about trends.
Since the line is based completely in Milano’s creativity, there’s nothing stopping him from completely reinventing his collection every season, which is what he did for Spring ’16. For the new line, Milano bought a roll of linen and built a long printing table to try out patterns and improvise on a large scale.
The result is a collection that resembles modern art, with designs featuring abstract and surreal touches. There are T-shirts that play with shapes and color and linen shirt-and-shorts sets that feature big, bold prints that look like they could have been painted by Kandinsky or Miró.
Past Roba di Sangue collections have been equally innovative but with completely different themes. His first collection in Spring ’12 was inspired by his hometown, Grottaglie, a small Southern Italian town where he currently resides. Milano photographed the walls of Grottaglie’s downtown area, including earthen, stone and wooden surfaces, and used the photos to silkscreen the images onto t-shirts for a highly photorealistic effect. Since that initial collection, Milano has moved into more abstract designs.
In terms of silhouettes, Milano sticks to a simple crew neck for his T-shirts, so as not to distract from the prints. He said, “My designs are too arrogant and present to be on a weird cut, I need all my T-shirts to be very simple so I can make a mess on them. That’s where the personality of my pieces is, in the prints.”
T-shirts are special, Milano says, because they are garments that welcome expression. “It’s the piece of clothing that even the most conservative person would put on if it carries an eccentric or extravagant design.”
Consumers have enjoyed Milano’s unique T-shirts but have been more conservative in trying the tee’s matching shorts and swim trunks. The majority of business (75 percent) comes from t-shirts, and consumers are more likely to buy separates than sets.
Milano is, however, less concerned with tracking the success of his categories and more interested in generally promoting small businesses. He does everything for Roba di Sangue himself, from production, to sales and shipping.
He wants his consumers to understand, “Big brands are useless and meaningless, mass production is bad for the individuals, the planet and the market too. Little precious things can be found here and there.”