Dondup’s name comes from a Tibetan lama, Mingyar Dondup, whose motto was “all men were created equal; color and religion mean nothing.” At first, one wonders what this has to do with a denim company based in Fossombrone, in the peaceful Marche region of Italy. But, as Dondup’s creative director, Manuela Mariotti, explained, jeans are by definition “democratic and ecumenical,” a universal flag of freedom and self-expression that everyone can wear. Mariotti is an experimental spirit: Branching out in a field already crammed with zillions of different versions and proposals, she wanted to bring about a sense of research and innovation. So she came up with a perfectly anatomical fit dyed in a shade of indigo made from woad, a plant used in the Middle Ages to create an intense purplish blue, which is grown and harvested in sustainable mode near Dondup’s headquarters.

The brand, which launched in 2000, has expanded into a full-fledged ready-to-wear line, becoming a favorite with Italian music stars and TV starlets, some of whom were in attendance during the presentation of the Fall collection. Mariotti’s inspiration was ’70s rock ‘n’ roll, with some ’90s grunge thrown in for good measure. She designs with an independent, confident woman in mind, someone with a strong personality like her own. Eveningwear was given an urban spin: A long sheer skirt was paired with a tough-looking leather biker jacket or fastened to an elegant tuxedo worn over studded, ripped black leggings. A rough-textured wool sweater in oversize proportions topped a pouf ballerina skirt—it made for a cool and modern look.

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