issue #30: The power of instinct
Caleido’s interview with Carolina Castiglioni, fashion designer and founder of Plan C brand, is the cover story of Issue #30, entitled: The power of instinct. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here.
Diary of: @plan_c_official
1. Many designers are inspired by various art forms to create their collections. What are your main sources of inspiration when it comes to designing?
The main inspiration comes from everyday life: from books, travel memories, vintage pieces found in a flea market, from an unusual combination of clothes, or even just from a small print that, when blown up, can become something else entirely… If, on the other hand, we speak of specific references to the world of art, regarding colour and colour combinations, I am very affectionate with the work of @ellsworthkellystudio and @alexkatzofficial… For shapes, geometries and sculptures, however at @richard.serra. As you can guess, mine are inspirations that are born and raised in a physical and tactile dimension. Then there is a more digital dimension, which I use for research, i.e. to find new references and materials… physical.
2. In reference to the word transformation, is there a process that has become its ritual over time?
Indeed yes… In everyday life, I take a lot of pictures, for example when I am on holiday with my children. These shots, which crowd my private archive, are then transformed into prints or colour-block geometries. The ‘Ritratti’ project for example, which I presented at the Salone del Mobile 2023, saw an evolution of these photos into sculptures and carpets. My work on images is incessant, and also very physical: it always starts with simply zooming in and out of the image, to make it more conceptual, more abstract or more figurative, depending on what I want to represent… There is then a work of material transformation and re-transformation: a photo can become a pattern for a knitwear and then perhaps a sequin embroidery motif on a skirt. This is how a two-dimensional portrait acquires a new dimension.
3. Can we say that you are a person who loves collecting? Is there anything in particular that you like to collect?
Photographs are a kind of collection, they sediment memories that are more instantaneous, spontaneous. I also have a collection of miniatures, which I am very fond of. In particular, I have a collection of Vitra miniature chairs that I have been collecting since I was in high school. I was at art school and went on a day trip to the @vitradesignmuseum and that’s where I bought my first chair, an orange one. I’ve always been interested in design – especially chairs – and that’s where my collection came from.
4. Still speaking of collecting, Caleido started out as a diary in which to (digitally) paste clippings that you want to collect for future memory. Have you ever kept a diary?
If we are talking about a diary in a traditional form, no… but, come to think of it, there is so much of the concept of a diary in @plan_c_official. I am thinking for example of two portraits my daughter Margherita did when she was 3 years old: I really liked them for their simplicity, geometry and impulsiveness (she did them in a few minutes). Figuratively speaking, I glued them onto the pages of this imaginary diary.
5. Let’s talk about aesthetics: what are the connotations of your personal idea of beauty (both in fashion and architecture)?
When I design something, I immediately think about colours and the combination of the various components: the way I choose these two things is totally instinctive… Maybe I go to @mercanteinfiera_parma, I instinctively like something and I pick it up, without thinking much about whether it will go well with the rest. Somehow it will fit in! Speaking for example of my new house in Milan, it expresses my style and tells of a new facet that I explored, thanks to this project: it was the beginning of a lacquered world, made of white metal and steel. Before, I was actually much more oriented towards the 1950s, but I have been bored with that for a while now… Now I’m much more attracted to white: we redid the showroom and it’s all white, I redecorated the chairs for the dining room and I wanted them white, the cabinet where I put the miniatures is white metal… So, if I had to sum up this new inspiration, it’s an addition of white and steel in a warmer world of saturated colours: it’s this contrast that I like. It was a bit of a discovery, and for that I have to thank instinct again.
6. A refined eye for colour has always distinguished you. What makes your approach to colour unique? Are there any unusual colour combinations that you have experimented with and that have influenced your creative vision?
When designing the house, the starting point was ‘I want a colourful house’. And, since the three main rooms are separate but communicating, the challenge was to find three colors that would match well together. The wish I was not willing to give up was the colour of the kitchen, Big Babol pink, combined with steel. Then I added goose beak and aubergine, because I always try to make colour and material combinations – think of the combination of different textures such as marble, ceramics, cementine, terracotta – which seem strange on the surface, but then work. This is always the case in Plan C’s collections too! I believe that there should always be a balance between things, and often it is the contrast that makes them work. Like, for example, juxtaposing vintage furniture in contrast to perfect lacquered walls, or in a play of imperfect sculptures in a glossy location.
7. In terms of creative expression not necessarily related to fashion or interior design, is there any other creative form you would like to explore that you would like to try your hand at?
Photography as an instinctive language. It is something that takes you back to a precise moment, to a fragment of a memory, to a precise emotion. Or capturing a contrast that may have always been there, but had never surfaced. My ‘Ritratti’ project, presented at the Salone 2023, is a kind of new exploration of this world. After its official start in Milan, we took it to New York during Freeze, in September to Tokyo, then to Berlin, then in December to Miami. So it’s an evolving project. A bit like me…
8. What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received? What advice would you give to a young designer who is embarking on their own path in the fashion industry?
Being instinctive. Mum [Consuelo Castiglioni, founder of @marni] is definitely the one who taught me this concept, always leading me to do what I felt inside. Being consistent with yourself allows you to express and do things that come from your deepest self, and I believe this is also perceived by those around you. A brand with a strong identity is the thing that makes you different from the flood of alternatives out there, and I internalised this with Plan C: the place where we only do what we feel like doing.
9. Thinking about this entrepreneurial project, even compared to a big company like Marni, another big difference is a different relationship with time and the number of collections to be produced. What is your relationship with time?
The relationship with time was one of the first cornerstones of the Plan C project: we imposed on ourselves to do ‘only’ two collections a year, not to do fashion shows, to embrace a much simpler concept. Stopping for a moment allowed me to understand that you don’t have to do what everyone else does: with a well-structured collection you can cover six months of sales very well, and ensure several drops during the season. This approach gives us more time to work out the concepts and, at the same time, minimise production waste.
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Would you send us a photo taken by you?
Definitely a colour-block chaise longue from the 1980s, which I placed in the house.
All images are taken from the interviewee’s Instagram account, and are an integral part of the interview’s editorial storytelling. See the interviewee’s Instagram account for full credits.