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Romeo Gigli’s New Gig

The pull of fashion mythology — the current obsession with Dior-era John Galliano or the Apple TV+ mini-series “The New Look” — suggests we are at peak nostalgia. It makes one wonder why someone hasn’t done a book or a documentary on Romeo Gigli. His story has all the ingredients of a blockbuster mini-series.

His star ascended in the early 1990s, when Mr. Gigli’s romantic yet rigorous designs provided an antidote to the high-octane excess of the ’80s. But it all too quickly imploded in a haze of legal acrimony, the cautionary tale of unbounded creativity vanquished by brute commerce. More than 25 years have passed since he was the toast of fashion week. So where is Romeo Gigli these days?

At Riad Romeo, the boutique hotel Romeo Gigli is creating in Marrakesh. Credit…Yassine Alaoui Ismaili for The New York Times

The Magic of Gigli

Mr. Gigli, 74, cuts a distinctive figure in clothes of his own design. When I spotted him in Marrakesh’s labyrinthine pink medina, where tourists shop for rugs, silver and pottery amid languid cats and scooting motorbikes, he was wearing an exquisitely fitted navy jacket over a waistcoat and his reinterpretation of traditional Moroccan harem pants, the proportions rejigged and made up in fine Italian wool. Those garments will form part of the collection he’ll create for a shop at Riad Romeo, the boutique hotel and creative space he is to open here in March.

Visitors to Riad Romeo will be struck by Mr. Gigli’s flair for drawing on divergent influences to create something familiar yet new. A childhood steeped in reading his father’s antiquarian books and travels to places like Pompeii is an enduring influence. When his parents died months apart when he was just 18, he traveled “to forget,” he said. “I traveled for a long time.”

Collecting textiles on visits to India and Morocco, he developed a personal style that led to studying fashion. In 1985, Browns in London and Joyce in Hong Kong bought his first 25-piece collection. His spring 1990 debut in Paris memorably included the model Kirsten Owen in a skirt formed from hundreds of clinking Venetian glass drops.

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