10 topics of conversation, approached from different perspectives, to explore reality through a kaleidoscopic vision
1. You come from Bari, more precisely Putignano. Which aspects of your homeland have shaped you the most? If you imagine exhibiting your collections all together in one room, which cultural elements would emerge most strongly and consistently?
My home place, Putignano, is certainly a very important place in my journey. On the one hand, I grew up next to my grandmother, who was a seamstress, and so the approach to the world of clothing was, thanks also to her, a natural path. In addition, here in Puglia there are a lot of big fashion production companies. All this has certainly influenced me, because this is what I have breathed since I was a child, at least until the nineties. The visceral bond with my land is something intrinsic in me.
2. What did it mean, at the beginning of your career, to be a fashion designer in your Country? Are there any episodes, worthy of being recorded in a Diary, that you remember with greater intensity?
Certainly the link with the territory and my personal relations have played a key role. I like to define my work almost as a hobby. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been obsessed with outerwear, so much so that as soon as I could, I would sneak into my dad and grandfather’s rooms and open their wardrobes. I’ve always wanted to redesign the wardrobe to my own taste, a bit like when you go into a shop and don’t find anything you really like. Then, of course, the question of my homeland and the people who live there also had a big influence… The most intense memory is of my first collection, when local seamstresses, friends of my grandmother’s, helped me make the clothes… It was wonderful! If I had been born and lived in a big city all this would certainly not have happened, and consequently it would have been more complex to approach this world.
3. What do you think are the most profound changes the fashion industry is experiencing today? How is the new generation of talent contributing to these changes?
Before I started working in this sector, I worked in the music industry for 8 years: I had a club and organised concerts. In fashion, exactly the same thing is happening as in the music industry years ago, where the “overbearing” presence of digital has revolutionised the whole system. Technology and social media have reshaped, for better or worse, a bit of everything. Social media certainly help you to maintain an active contact with consumers, and to develop your brand, but otherwise I can’t find any other positive aspects, on the contrary… We creatives (and artists, if we’re talking about music) are becoming numbers, and often our value is calculated in relation to our social numbers… it’s madness. According to this logic, great talents – I’m thinking of Margiela, who has made non-sociality his mantra – wouldn’t even be considered today. This crazy criterion of judgement is killing the quality of our product: what you believe in, your creative vision, no longer has any value, but everything revolves around trivial figures. This digital-only model is a very dangerous one for fashion, because it shifts the focus onto communication and appearance, whereas if we are talking about clothing, to give the right value to a product, you have to touch it and try it on, not just see it through an image. In this scenario, physical retail therefore has a huge responsibility for the survival of young brands, because it is only through shops that a small brand will be able to make its real value known, to be valued for the quality of its products, and thus find a place among the big brands. I had idealised a different concept of “progress” in my head, I imagined it as something positive in absolute terms, but it is not, I have the impression that it is taking something away from us.
4. What do you think are the strongest social issues that contemporary society is facing? Are there any battles that are closest to your heart?
In addition to speeding up and digitisation, which we have already discussed, I think we need to talk about the behavioural issue. I remember what a dear friend of mine, who is no longer with us, used to say about his students (he was a university professor): “Technological evolution is sometimes directly proportional to cultural involution”. Thanks to technology, everything is faster, more accessible, more ready to use, and this takes away the value of things. I hoped that Covid could take us back in time a bit and slow it down, that it could take us back to our origins in a way; in some ways it did, we rediscovered the desire to cook, the slow rhythms of life. But this only happened in the “older generations”, I didn’t see the same change in the younger ones.
5. One of the most important issues in today’s discussion is the sustainable approach to fashion. Not only given by the naturalness of fabrics, but also by an approach that results in production processes, ethical or social content. What is your approach to this?
I think that sustainability is now a (commercial) macro-trend… I don’t want to discredit the concept, but I simply want to say that, like all things, when they explode we tend to “abuse” them. I think that true sustainability has to come from within each one of us, from our own little big choices. In my own small way I can tell you that I have been a vegan for many years, I have decided not to drive a car and to limit the use of plastic as much as possible. If, however, I have to talk about sustainability in my sector, things get complicated because they have to be analysed from all angles. So yes, it’s true that using sustainable fabrics is certainly an important step for fashion brands, but it’s not the only one: we should start even earlier, analysing the environmental impact of companies producing raw materials. And then we need to understand the impact of diffuse production, logistics, the question of returns… But we have to start somewhere, and I think we need to start with two things: 0 km production, and limited production, to reduce the waste of unsold goods. We need to revise the sales system, perhaps returning to the old production model of the shop, where products are made to order.
6. Your work is steeped in cross-cultural references, making you a talent to follow. If you had to identify 5 references (even outside of fashion) that describe you, to search for on Instagram, what would they be?
Here are their profiles on Instagram:
7. Recently, a guest at Caleido said that in today’s world there is no longer a need for new “symbols” (which have always been central to fashion): what is needed is for creatives to focus on finding effective solutions to protect the environment and nature. Do you agree?
I disagree! What we do NOT need is new symbols based on old principles, but it is possible to create new symbols based on new principles. I have always had a dream. I know it may sound funny, but inside me there has always been the desire to build a city from scratch, imagining it with new eyes, without pre-conditions. I would certainly build it in the midst of nature, and I would make sure that the houses would play a secondary role compared to the greenery, I would adapt the houses to the trees rather than vice versa. The big challenge would be to create something new, something that fits in with the land and doesn’t disrupt it. The problem is that this will only happen when we are forced to do it. We have to give nature back its space, that is the real challenge. Albert Camus used to say that mankind’s biggest problem is that he has forgotten where he comes from. I agree with him, we are mammals and we think we are the undisputed owners of this Earth. If we had had the respect for it, many things would not have happened today.
8. As a new generation of creatives, what definition would you give to the concept of luxury?
On a material level, there is no need to philosophise about luxury. Luxury has always been linked to the quality of a product and to raw materials that are prized and difficult to find. I would sum it all up in one word: uniqueness. But if I think of luxury from a non-material point of view, for me it is quality of life: being able to do what you want without having to answer to anything or anyone. We talk a lot about freedom nowadays, but we are not realising that we are being deprived of the most important one, that of expression. We tend to stereotype everything. Every now and then I think of ancient Greece, of the role that the Agora (square) had, of the ART of confrontation. All this no longer exists.
9. How would you define romance? And love?
For me, love and romance mean observing, feeling. I think we should fall in love every day. You have to dwell on things, look at them very carefully, come back and discover beauty. For me, love and romance are linked by a common thread, that of beauty, both external and internal. You have to be able to grasp it, appreciate it, discover it and then distribute it in the world. We need to take a step back into the past and start appreciating things again that are no longer considered.
10. What is one 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?
One item I would not give up is the handmade paper pattern of a dress from Vìen’s first fashion show made up of more than 500 hand-sewn triangles.