I caught up with designer Cesare Casadei in New York for a sneak peek at his resort ’12 collection and to get a taste of the “dolce vita” he so enjoys. During a whirlwind day, the creative director of Casadei proved he can balance the roles of family businessman and creative mind. And from the search for the perfect cup of coffee and best candy to exploring the High Line park and inspirational fashion photography, the Italian native always seeks out beauty along the way. And, more important, he’s having fun. What I discovered was not only the designer’s passion for the craft — and for his team — but also a number of varied interests, a love for his family and a devotion to his preferred soccer team, FC Inter Milan.
We meet at the newly opened Nespresso Café on Madison Avenue and 66th Street for a cup of “real” Italian coffee. “I’m crazy for coffee,” Cesare admits. “I’m Italian. There is no other way.” The manager kindly treats us to espressos and a tour of the new café. Cesare enthusiastically points out the multiple Nespresso machines he recently installed in his home and factory. “Bellissima!”
We proceed to the High Line, which Cesare hasn’t seen yet. As we stroll, he takes calls from his Italian factory and makes a date to meet his architect, Argentinian Claudio Pironi, to discuss plans for a new boutique in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. He also recently bowed shops in Casablanca and Cannes and will unveil a second Dubai location in July. “I would love to open shops in the U.S.,” Cesare adds. “First in New York and then L.A., but step by step. We have to keep our feet on the ground and fly safe.”
At the showroom, Cesare walks me through the resort collection, replete with feminine silhouettes in python and pop colors. Inspired by 1950s style, the offering features new single-soled styles with 2-, 3- and 4-inch heels. Cesare and his wife, Alessandra, discuss the new materials, including laser-cut raffia and patent leather, both with a python effect. The designer’s son, Federico, texts him to check on the response to the patent python, the clear family favorite for the season.
An admirer of Herb Ritts’ work, Cesare wants to see the fashion photographer’s show at Edwynn Houk Gallery. Alessandra’s favorite is the famous “Versace, Veiled Dress,” while the designer prefers a nude shot of Helena Christiansen wearing conceptual metal shoes. “They must have been a prototype made just for this shot. They are like my blade heel more than 15 years ago. Bravo!” he says.
Next, we head to Dylan’s Candy Bar on a mission to find the best American candy for Cesare’s daughter, Arianna. Currently in a training position in the family business, she is also a candy connoisseur. Cesare and Alessandra make the rounds before opting for a colorful mix of treats for Arianna and a bag of black and blue M&Ms (the Inter Milan colors). “We love to discover [life together] … and Alessandra likes soccer even more than I do!” Cesare exclaims.
The Casadei team knows how to party. After a busy day during the FFANY market, the whole gang reconvenes at Imperial No. 9 for dinner. Reviewing the week’s successes and strategizing for the main spring ’12 line, the group is full of laughs, too. So what’s next for the brand? The designer is off to Milan for market week, then on to the store opening parties and back to New York in July to present the main collection. Finally, a holiday in southern Italy. “Che dolce vita!”