Why Maltese Culture Needs Couturiers

Luke Azzopardi’s On the Opera’s Ruins SS2019

Preamble: The Concept behind Luke Azzopardi’s show and collection On the Opera’s Ruins

” The nine couture looks are an homage to the female heroines of opera. Featuring Manon, Tosca, Aida, Cio-Cio-san, Eurydice, Lucia, Norma, Lakmé and Turandot, the collection is inspired by the remarkable women who have fallen in love, raged, wept, and stoically faced their tragic plight in the name of beauty and passion on the opera house’s stage throughout the years. ” (Luke Azzopardi, 29 October)

Reflections and Meanings: A review in part, but mostly a discussion on the place of such a collection in the local fashion scene

I can wax lyrical until the sun sets about Luke Azzopardi’s latest collection showcased in none other than the historical setting of one of  Gozo’s prized cultural venues: Aurora Opera House. And I shall, because at the moment the brand carrying the eponymous name as the designer’s is unlike anything we have seen locally. Although fashion is often treated as a superficial and whimsical domain, Luke’s journey into the world of fashion and design is anything but. Honoured to be among the first to observe Luke’s  impressive albeit humble beginnings, I can indeed vouch that he has grown from strength to strength, undeniably stunning audiences and customers alike with his vision and creations.

With every collection you wonder, is this his best yet, until he surpasses all expectations, and indeed himself, with every new one. So it is with such a sentiment that I cannot say it is easy to guess what he has in stall every time a collection is unveiled. It might be the case that he exhibits loyalty to certain fabrics and is partial to particular designs, but if a designer can cause murmurs and stirs in the audience, then it is testament to unadulterated surprise and delight.

So, what was it that surprised and delighted the most in this collection?

First off, the homage to opera, which is most of the time professes to be an elitist type of music, was for me a special element, given that I am an opera aficionado. By being inspired by such female behemoths (as mentioned in the Preamble), there are nuances in the design of the couture looks. Is Luke hinting at an elitist type of fashion? He is definitely not one to shy away from the unconventional. Now you may ask, what is unconventional about suiting? Isn’t everyone doing it this season? Has Luke Azzopardi jumped on that bandwagon? It might seem so, but let us read between the lines of fashion and go beyond them. Look at the cut, look at the colours; those are sufficiently striking and imposing in such ways that you could almost say that were the likes of Tosca, Manon, and Aida to come back today, you would be more likely to find them in these types of powerful suits (rather than the ones you will undoubtably find in many stores). After all, these women’s actions spoke louder than their garments. 

Of course, you cannot watch Luke Azzopardi without being dazzled by his alluring gowns. And so it is that Luke delivers in grand style. In the first piece, the puffed sleeves detail goes higher to the shoulders, and Luke marries such a detail beautifully with a golden velvety animal-like printed material. Let us also consider the wedding-style dress, so fairy-esque, conveying innocence and audacity simultaneously. Or the strong yellow piece, seemingly conservative and stiff, but also dreamy and implying ‘I do not take your nonsense’ kind of attitude. Ah, and what may we say about the black embroidered two-piece (skirt) suit? If that does not scream power and dominance, then what does?

Indeed, power and dominance also ooze out of the cape-and-pants look. Now when done up in the same colour only to be broken up momentarily by the green and white ‘bleed’ in the collar (is it a flower, is it a butterfly? Let the audience wonder), then it truly is simply remarkable; I must also add that it was rather an ode to the cardinal-esque style, very reminiscent of The Borgias. Lest we forget, the coup de foudre – or, love at first sight – comes courtesy of the final piece: a black gown accompanied by an equally massive helmet. Such was the weight to bear by the women in the operas who found themselves united by the tragic circumstances they found themselves entrapped in, from which they could not possibly escape. But Luke Azzopardi’s art through fashion, or fashion through art, is a much-needed breath of fresh air, and a much-desired escape that has to be appreciated and desired; just like wine and opera, such appreciation comes with maturity and an eye for talent. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Maltese culture needs a couturier like Luke Azzopardi. 


” The Luke Azzopardi’s studio’s commitment to beauty, has been translated into an ethos for the work itself. For this reason, the studio consistently seeks to exhibit work that speaks of a curated experience. This obviously cannot be done without its supporters, mainly Camilleri Paris Mode, Aurora Opera House, Olympus Music and The Ministry for Gozo. The studio’s belief in the beauty of the authentic object that exists in its ability to stand alone, remains at the heart of every project. 

All of the taxidermy on display was created using domestic birds that had been certified to have died of natural causes. All custom fabric dyes are cruelty free. 

Photos: Kris Micallef
Makeup: Gabrielle Zammit Grungo assisted by Roberta Sultana
Hair: Hair&Co Studios
Set: Andrew Borg Wirth at Camilleri Paris Mode
Floral Helmets: Alistair Floral Design

Models: Amy Zahra, Madeleine Baldacchino, Jacqui Losco, Gabriella Mifsud, and Sunshine Boric  at SuperNova Models; Venla Edelmann, Lenny Kaisheva and Claire Galea at ModelsM

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