Skandals, Slogans and Civil Rights
How same-sex unions inspired a fashion sensation.
In case you haven't heard, Parascandalo is the Maltese fashion label all the cool kids are wearing. At this year’s Malta Fashion Week, it was the name on everyone’s lips and er, necks, thanks to the brand’s bestselling chokers.
And what a name it is! Surprisingly, label owner and fashion designer Marco Parascandalo himself shied away from using his last name as a brand name at first.
“People used to tell me that I should really make the most out of it and use my surname.” He tells Lovin Malta.
“But I found it too reminiscent of Italian brands. My aesthetic is much more akin to Tokyo or London… I ended up researching the heritage of the Parascandalo family name and found out that very few people in Italy actually had that as a surname there; the Parascandalos were mostly Maltese migrants living in Canada or Australia. So then it no longer became an "Italian" sounding brand name to me, I made it Maltese.”
Parascandalo's popular slogan t-shirts emblazoned with Maltese phrases have been a huge hit, gaining the brand a sizeable following and the attention of social media personalities, fashion bloggers and models. At the moment he's excited about the launch of Maltese electronic band Crux's latest video release which he designed for and styled, out on the 20th November.
Parascandalo even got the Prime Minister's seal of approval when he endorsed local enterprises at MCAST fresher’s week!
“The slogan t-shirts first came out in 2014, they’ve actually been around since then. When I first debuted them in my first collection at the New Designer Award at Malta Fashion Week, I wore a t-shirt with “Skandlu” across it, a play on my surname also meaning “Scandal”, of course. I closed the show wearing it, as my own personal t-shirt. I didn’t realize it would go down so well and that people would want one. The “Skandlu” t-shirt is still in production, as well as those original three. They’ve become kind of mainstays, sort of like the red logo Levi’s t-shirts, even though I only initially designed them for that season.”
When asked what he was trying to get at with his “Faqa' Oħt!” and “X’għarukaza!” t-shirts, Marco tentatively explains.
“The original slogan t-shirts came out around the time that gay marriage was legalized in Malta.” he says.
“So slogans like “Faqa' Oħt!” and “Ommi Ma!” were supposed reactions to that. I didn’t want to just be pinned down to down to the LGBT scene as a designer, but that’s how they came about, mela. Of course they can mean anything you want them to mean.”
The icons and symbols on the tees and patches are inspired by Marco's Vittoriosa roots, like the little stars you see on Regatta boats, whilst the mesh fabrics, leather and touches of metal harp back to the goth movement of the 80s and 90s, punk and bondage.
Apart from the basics, Parascandalo's AW collection includes cut sleeve jumpers which are sure to be a big hit this season and tassely dresses that come with a flash of fiery orange, making for a fierce colour pop to Marco's otherwise all black ensembles.
“When working with just black fabric you have to be mindful of different textures and shapes to create an interesting image. You can have a look that’s totally black but its features are the texture.”
Marco himself has long been renowned for his sense of style, and after years of experience in the retail and styling industry both locally and in London, he's honed his mannequin dressing and fashion merchandising skills down to a tee. He’s recently just celebrated his ten-year anniversary of working in retail, mostly under the Warehouse Group of companies in Malta, which is made up of brands such as Diesel, Levi’s and Fred Perry.
Parascandalo never went to fashion school and has no “formal” training, apart from a qualification from MCAST, which he avidly praises. His mother had a shop selling childrenswear and haberdashery items in Birgu when he was growing up, which taught him such things as how to fit a zip, and what “overlock” means.
He’s a perfect example of how taking the vocation-based route can, and does work.
“Working in retail has not only taught me about clothes, but business. When a customer walks into the shop I can immediately tell what they’re after, and I listen. I want to be a good businessman as well as a designer. When coming up with a collection you have to keep in mind what people want. There’s no point, in my case, in making things that are too ‘out there’ if they’re not going to sell. Of course, I respect other designers who are willing to do so for the sake of their art.
When I went to London in 2012 the plan was to study, but when I got there I started interning and freelancing as a creative director and stylist for shoots and it worked out well for me that way. I would also customize vintage clothing and sell them online, that was how it started really. There are people with fashion degrees not doing what they want to do. If it’s there ‘in you’, there’ll be nothing holding you back.”
Marco likes to mix his own cotton streetwear with distressed denim or luxurious textures like leather, faux fur and silverware. He accessorises with multiple rings, delicate pendent necklaces or chunky chains and small hoop earrings. He's a big fan of headgear and often wears a black SnapBack cap or a wide brimmed guy Fawkes hat to complete his look.
“The younger generation of consumers who’ve grown up with technology and platforms such as Instagram are more daring, it’s not as shocking anymore to see someone with a unique style locally, they know what’s out there from the images they’ve seen online. They’re more experimental, it’s getting there."
"I like to be different but not too out there. My aesthetic needs to be relaxed and comfortable, but with a sophisticated touch. For example, I’d team a suit jacket with loose shorts. When styling your look it’s important not to overdo it. When accessorizing keep that in mind- sometimes it’s best to remove the last thing you put on.”
When asked how he'd style his catwalk pieces off the runway and for everyday, Marco suggests pairing one of his sweatshirts over a shirt, or dressing up an otherwise casual fitted slogan tee with a pencil skirt and heels.
So there you have it, style advice straight from the guru himself! We’re sure we can plan on seeing a lot more Parascandalo on our streets, as the latest collection has now dropped online and in selected stores. His catwalk collection, slogan tees and accessories are currently stocked at a fashion pop-up in Valletta art gallery Studio 104, as part of their "While You Were Sleeping" exhibition. You can also get your hands on Parascandalo's iconic slogan tees from The Hanger in Valletta, Lee's Hair Stylist in Sliema and The Mad Tatter in Zabbar. Faqa' Oħt!