MIDO Eyewear Show

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

While you might not have heard of it, Italy’s Mido Eyewear Show is the leading event for eyewear professionals. It’s an exhibition during which major international brands present their new styles and innovations for prescription specs and sunglasses—and, while it might sound like it’s purely for industry members, it’s fascinating for anybody interested in fashion and design.

The show saw some 1200 exhibitors last year—two-thirds of which were international. Mido president Cirillo Marcolin says of the 2016 event, “We’ve been working hard to renew the traditional concept of a trade fair. For this reason we have abandoned the classic idea of ‘trend area’ and we have created The Design Lab and More. The first focuses on niche brands and independent productions, while the second will be animated by seminars and conventions about the evolution of the markets.” Of the many designs and designers Marcolin is excited about, he tells us, “Recently we’ve discovered a young producer who uses old vinyls to make eyewear, and in Munich we have spotted spectacles made of real leather… It is not just about pure creativity and prototypes, since what you’ll see there are actual production pieces, maybe handcrafted, but ready for the market.”

Marcolin offered us a sneak preview of Mido, and there were many stand-outs worth mentioning. Of the most notable, Lapo Elkann’s Italia Independent will unveil the next designs to come of their collaboration with Adidas Originals. Color is the main event—with ’80s vibes and tropical patterns featuring heavily—while retro shapes match. Another favorite hailed from Boston Club, whose spectacles are completely made in Sabae, Japan, despite the misleading name. Their designs are vintage-tinged, yet their use of innovative materials (like Japanese acetate Takiron) and unexpected colorways keep them current.

“Storm,” the debut collection from the brand Gabe, is made up of wooden frames that boast a screw-less horn hinge the brand calls a “snap-joint”. There’s a delightful blend of natural materials and structural development at play here. As for Fakoshima, designed by Konstantin Shilyaev, their offerings are purely conceptual and utterly extreme. Their “Kabuki” collection reveals a theatrical edge—sunglasses become a mask. Influenced by art and avant-garde, Shilyaev will also unveil a collaboration with Indian-born fashion designer Manish Arora at Mido.

Finally, Movitra‘s mission is simple: to protect lenses from shocks and scratches. With this in mind, Filippo Pagliacci and his team have developed and patented a special system that allows the sunglasses’ arms to rotate and become a barrier for the lenses. Not only is it a logical yet innovative concept, the designs are ultimately wearable.

The 2016 Mido Eyewear Show is on this weekend, 27-29 February, at the Fiera Milano Convention Center, Strada Statale del Sempione 28, Milan.

Sergio Rossi FW 2016/2017

“My shoes are Rossi, Sergio Rossi”. Here’s what we could be saying next winter.

The FW 2016/2017 collection designed by Angelo Ruggeri is almost completely black and clearly inspired by secret agents, spies, soldiers and trekkers.

This is going to be the perfect line of accessories for a charming man in need to go to an exclusive party, run away, fight, catch an helicopter jumping from the terrace, climb a mountain, kill the evil guy and then lay in front of a fireplace.

Maybe this is not daily life, but for many a daily dream.

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Costume National FW 2016/2017

Costume National is synonym with black, New Wave, rock’n’roll darkness. Until now.

The show we saw a few days ago in was Milan truly a surprise. Despite  it felt undoubtedly “Costume”, this time around Ennio Capasa painted his dark canvas with sporadic touches of flashy colors like fire engine red, cobalt blue and chlorophyll green. Not to mention the artisanal “couture” touches, intricate embroidery as well as an elaborate use of studs.

Like in a rock show, the colors acted as spotlights, and spotlights make you discover something that was hidden, underlining once again the mysterious power of darkness.

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Paula Cademartori SS 2016

With the current SS collection Paula Cademartori is showing that she’s not just an “emerging designer” anymore, but a full grown-up creative and entrepreneurial mind.

Bags, shoes and small leather accessories are slowly and inexorably creating a real fashion world, ready to be expanded in several directions. Her vision is clear and her approach is that of an established brand.

It’s not anymore just about color and fun, but here we’re seeing style, class, elegance, irony, something pretty rare and unusual in the landscape of young fashion.

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Making Louboutin

A few months ago I was in Naples for a rare occasion to visit one of the factories that make men’s shoes for Christian Louboutin. I love to witness the making of things, in particular when it comes to handmade stuff.

In the past few days the official Louboutin Homme Instagram account is showcasing some of the pics I took at the factory. Seeing those wise hands at work, in the act of transforming those precious materials into pure beauty, makes me live once again those wonderful days. And understand why #CLLovesNapoli.

If this is not enough and you want to read the full story I wrote for Cool Hunting, just follow this link.

Factory Visit: Christian Louboutin

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Since setting up his eponymous label in 1991, French designer Christian Louboutin’s shoes have become synonymous with power, prestige and class thanks to their sexy, edgy design and extreme creativity. Lesser known is the fact that Louboutin produces men’s footwear as well—something that should be on the radar of all shoe enthusiasts.

On a very hot day this July, we had the chance to visit a factory in Naples, Italy, where skilled artisans create these rare, esteemed objects. This area is already known around the world for the production of high-end footwear, continuing a tradition rooted in the 19th century that exploded culturally after Word War II. The production process behind Louboutin shoes is entirely led by hand and consists of a minimum 30 steps. Fine leathers and precious fabrics (like cashmere and grosgrain) are cut, sewn, shaped and combined—but everything starts with a drawing.

Louboutin and his staff’s sketches are fleshed out into shapes and turned into a tridimensional design. The pattern-maker obtains a series of flat pieces that will be used for prototyping and—once the final prototype is approved by the designer—for production. The cutting process is key and is also done by hand. Depending on the piece of leather, the single parts are carefully positioned and cut in order to leave as little scraps as possible. It takes almost 15 years of experience to become a professional cutter and it’s incredible to see how fast and precise their hands work.

Precision is of the utmost importance when it comes to working with precious materials such as alligator. In this specific case only one animal skin can be used per shoe. The leather is chosen very carefully in order to make the two shoes as similar as possible, since each animal is unique. Once again it is a matter of fine eyes and expertise. The pieces of leather are flat after cutting, but soon take the shape of the part of the foot they will hold. The curvature is obtained by using machinery that combines pressure and temperature.

Stitching takes place next. The different pieces that will form the upper unite meticulously. “One single upper can be made of 12 different materials,” reveals one of the production managers who took us through the production lines. The artisans focus on their sewing machines with intensity as each stitch is a matter of millimeters, especially with Louboutin’s complex designs.

A red sole acts as a declaration and Louboutin’s signature. Interestingly, this color is obtained not by tanning, but with a secret lacquering process. “This complicates the process quite a bit,” the production manager shares. The soles arrive to the factory from a different production facility and, to avoid scratches, they are protected by a transparent film. It is only removed before when the shoes are boxed.

One artisan spreads a special mix of cork and glue onto the interior of the sole before it’s joined to the insole and upper; this padding will make the shoe much more comfortable. This (also secret) blend is kept inside a yellow tin with the logo of a very famous French champagne house. We asked if the blend includes chopped champagne corks, but the Louboutin staff simply smiled without an answer. The phase of sewing the sole consists of making several tiny passes—also rather complex. The hands of the artisans seamlessly switch from cutters to brushes, from cogwheels to wax sticks. Their elegance recalls that of a skilled classical musician.

As soon as the shoes are fully assembled, it’s time to polish. Leather is carefully and repeatedly caressed with pure cotton cloths for almost one hour, using French polish and other potions. Alligator leather, however, comes to the Louboutin factory in white (these blank skins are called “crust”) and it’s not dyed until the shoe is complete. As a final step, the artisans imbue a cloth with the color and literally paint the white upper, very rapidly and with extreme precision. This process guarantees deep and intense shades of color, since the pigments have never been warmed up or even touched during production.

Before leaving the factory, the shoes are inspected and all the edges painted tone-on-tone with a marker, making the shoe sharp and visually uniform—the process comes full circle with more drawing. It’s a gesture that truly feels like a signature by the team of these Neapolitan artisans—and a bond with Paris and the creativity of Christian Louboutin.

Rest in peace, Elio Fiorucci

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Yesterday, 20 July, one of the most colorful lights of the international fashion faded away. Elio Fiorucci has, for decades, been a reference for those who consider fashion as a synonym for freedom, color, fun, love. Fiorucci could seek and understand trends before there was a business around that practice; a creative mind able to transform his passion for beauty into a global enterprise. He was always looking for inspiration from the streets in each form, from art to fashion, food, design and anything that has to do with the total independence of thought.

In the early ’60s Fiorucci often travelled from Italy to London and get a glimpse of the goings-on in Carnaby Street, King’s Road and Portobello. Thus, he decided to set up in Milan (his hometown) a store that would resemble what he saw in London. On 31 May 1967 the historic store in Galleria Passarella opened—in the very heart of Milan. There, he sold shoes made by the family business and clothing and accessories from England, France, USA, South America and Asia.

His own creations have always been eclectic and influenced heavily by pop culture. Icons of his store were a hot pink jumpsuit, overalls made from machine-washable paper, plastic sandals (aka Jellies, designed by a young Manolo Blahnik), platforms and clogs covered in flowers, sock-boots and—perhaps most notable—his super-bright galoshes.

By 1977, the artistic direction of the house was to be managed by a group called Ufficio Dxing. While Fiorucci himself was overseeing, he gave lot of freedom to the team. The structure wasn’t hierarchical and was based on what they called “visual tourism.” Research was constant, and members of this creative group were constantly traveling on buying trips—seeking new, interesting products and artifacts from every possible field. Some were simply collected, others became part of the collection on sale at Fiorucci’s stores. Ufficio Dxing was also in charge of the conception of signature clothing and accessories, labels, shopping bags, store design and events. It could be said that they systematically reread the history of fashion since World War II, and this work has given rise to a map entitled How to Read Fashion, which summarized and compared the basic stages of fashion, film, art, music, historical events and customs.

Fiorucci’s work during the ’60s was intrinsic to some significant changes to the fashion industry. Several factors at play were altered forever: comfort (his jeans were among the first in Italy to be developed with stretch materials), youth (in his stores young people were catered to with magazines and loud music), nudity (his posters became advertising icons with almost-naked girls featured).

In the years to come, Fiorucci started legendary collaborations with the likes of Madonna, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and many others. Whether they were emerging artists or superstars, Fiorucci just wanted them to have something to say about the future of fashion and creativity. Despite his stellar career, Fiorucci remained incredibly humble; it was incredibly easy to talk to him, and he was often spotted on the subway in Milan. His passion for discovery and innovation, his eye for style and authenticity, and his desire to surprise have carved out a historic and important position in the history of fashion.

Venice Biennale 2015: Swatch Faces

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

With 15 artists exhibiting across two pavilions for seven months, “Swatch Faces”—the Swiss watch house’s contribution to 2015’s Venice Biennale as its main partner—is impressive in numbers. In person, it’s even more so—from glowing flowers to large-scale photo works, sound projects and more.

One pavilion was entirely conceived by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos and is located in the area of Giardini—the historic heart of the event. “Il Giardino dell’Eden” (or the Garden of Eden) is an inflated silver plastic structure that hides a beautiful garden. Inside, hundreds of plastic flowers glimmer thanks to a complex system of lights and optic fibers. At various times each day, visitors might come across a performer (also covered in lights) who dances through the labyrinth.

The second pavilion is full of work that has resulted because of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Part hotel and part artist residencies, it’s a place where over 150 artists have worked. Carlo Giordanetti, Art Director at Swatch, explains the connection between Shanghai, Venice and the brand: “Back in October in Shanghai we put together the ‘Faces and Traces’ exhibition, to show artists who came to the Art Peace Hotel. This first exhibition, my first as a curator, turned out to be a great exercise. When we saw the interest of the art world we understood it could work at Venice Biennale too.”

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Another one of the artists on show is Chiara Luzzana, a musician and sound engineer who created “60BPM” for Swatch. Chiara doesn’t play an instrument, and instead uses recording of sounds emitted by objects. “Because the seven notes are not enough for me,” she tells CH. She decided to approach Swatch regarding a sound project. “Each watch has a different sound and the smallest have the stronger voice. I recorded the sound of each model with a special stethoscopic microphone I have invented. I also recorded the sounds of the Swatch factory in Switzerland. The watch hands have become my guitar,” she says. Luzzana collected 2400 different sounds and culled it down to a total of 114 to create her stunning six-minute soundtrack.

Also part of “Swatch Faces” is Alec von Bargen‘s photo project, “Man Forgotten”—a black and white image of a person walking on a stormy beach, with splashes of transparent, metallic red. The image is divided and displayed along the wall and the floor. “My work in general is broken up into panels, because I don’t see memories as something made of one image; it’s fragments,” von Bargen tells CH. “This series, it’s a continuation of my research into the human being trying to find its place in the world—from political refugees that are forced to escape to just trying to find your place,” he continues.

Yan Wang Preston‘s project began in 2010, when the artist followed the Mother River (a sacred river in Chinese culture) from source to mouth, taking a photo every 100 kilometers. The journey took Preston from rocky cliffs to frozen valleys, providing truly grand views. The final 62 pictures and a map tracing her journey—with thumbtacks marking the location of each photo—create a stunning narrative of an adventure.

The 56th Venice Biennale theme is “All the World’s Futures” and runs through 22 November, 2015.

Studio Visit: Paula Cademartori

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My new article for Cool Hunting.

Constantly surrounded by architectural and natural beauty alike, Italians sometimes need someone from abroad to remind them of their exceptional surroundings. This may happen when friends and family visit or when some talented creative mind falls in love with local processes. The latter is the case of Paula Cademartori, a Brazilian fashion designer who can be counted among the ambassadors of the “Made in Italy” movement.

Cademartori studied design at Istituto Marangoni and business at Bocconi University, after which she moved to the Marche region (east of Florence on the Adriatic) to work at Orciani for one year. Here she learned what it really means to produce leather goods, the secrets of tanning, cutting, assembling and realizing unique crafts from start to finish. Then she moved back to Milan for two very intense years designing accessories at Versace.

Nevertheless, her dream was to create her own brand, and her first signature bag collection was launched in 2011. In just four years, she established herself as an icon among fashion devotees and buyers alike. We recently met with Cademartori to delve into her creative process and check out an exclusive preview of her new 300-square-meter studio and headquarters in the heart of Milan, where she works with a staff of 17 people. Like in her designs, the space is filled with sophisticated colors, upscale atmospheric touches and shots of pure energy.

“The beauty of Italy,” Cademartori explains of her decision to start the company outside her native Brazil, “is that you can design and then accompany all phases of the project. In a very small territory you have so many people so capable and full of experience that you can learn, discuss, and you always get to do something better than you have imagined. For me, coming from a different culture and a different story (even thou I’ve lived in Italy for the past 10 years) this possibility of direct exchange with all the craftsmen and technicians is always an enrichment.”

Cademartori was raised in Brazil and trained to be an industrial and jewelry designer. For this reason her methodology is far from traditional fashion design. She always starts with the realization of a very complete project (almost final), which then undergoes small changes in the factory. “Each one of my bags originates from my studio, where I have four designers. When I start with an idea, I need to plan it; to understand the user, which volumes and proportions she needs. When I get to the factory, ideas are already very clear, but then there can be a process of evolution. Some details are decided in production, such as the position of the seams in relationship to the inlay, or the use of the materials most suitable for a specific purpose.”

Her pursuit of beauty is punctuated with determination. “If you do not have a real purpose, it’s not enough that the object is beautiful. The aesthetic side matters, but the functionality and the market category are all factors that must be thought of first. My project is global and wants to reach out to all cultures of the world. For this reason, my range is now much larger, designed for women of all backgrounds and origins.”

Cademartori’s bags are extremely spacious yet structured so that everything can be easily organized and accessed quickly, without forcing users to rummage around. Colorful on the outside, they follow defined structural lines, so that one can make the most of space without overstuffing. For this reason they always keep the shape (the study of the structure is critical for the designer) and never lose the beauty of their unique proportions. Also the smallest of clutches have separate areas for smartphones and the bigger styles can hold tablets and other daily essentials. “Each bag is very easy to use,” she adds, “Petite Faye, one of our best-sellers, is full of pockets and is not very deep, so you can reach everything quickly. I love totes, but then you can not find anything inside.”

Since the first collection, Cademartori wanted all the small metal parts to be custom designed, including the recognizable buckle. “That is my logo as well. I put it on all my products and it tells who I am. When I launched my line I aimed at something fresh and new, but I also wanted it to look important. I did not want a simple logo, but a heraldic symbol, as if it were a family crest,” she says. “I started with Greek pi and worked on it, redesigned it so to get to the one we see today. My name you will see very little, since I don’t need to sign my products on the outside, but on the inside. My bags have to be iconic for their design, not because of the name that goes with it.”

Each Cademartori bag can be seen as a sort of base, a frame, a blank canvas upon which to give birth to an infinite variety of colors, materials and inspirations. Her enthusiasm rises when she talks creativity: “The funniest part of the design is when we say, ‘OK, let’s dress the babes!’ At this stage we think less to the design of forms and we freely work on the decoration, the choice of colors and combinations. And I can be a little obsessive with these things.”

In January, Cademartori will present a new line of small leather goods, with some products for men too. “I would like to create a philosophy, a real lifestyle. We started from the bags, but there is a world to be built,” she adds. Expect more surprises to follow, always colorful, always energetic and elegant. And of course—always from excellent Italian factories.

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Il Mediterraneo di Boglioli

Le immagini nostalgiche del turismo nel Mediterraneo negli anni ’60 e ’70 sono l’ispirazione della collezione PE 2015 di Boglioli. Durante la presentazione i modelli erano tranquilli e rilassati, nel cortile di un maestoso palazzo del centro di Milano, uno di quelli che ti fanno pensare di essere a Roma o a Parigi. Il set era ispirato all’Hotel Il Pellicano, storica meta turistica di Porto Ercole, in Toscana. E in pochi secondi ci si sentiva già in viaggio.

In questo contesto i colori (forti e precisi) e i materiali (ricchi e piacevoli al tatto) erano netti e definiti. I toni delle ginestre, tutti i blu del mare, i bruciati da macchia mediterranea in Agosto c’erano tutti, uno in fila all’altro, come un panorama da cartolina piacevolmente sbiadita. Una cartolina nella quale passeggiare con una mano in tasca, tra tagli impeccabili, qualche sottile sorpresa (la spalle più disegnate del solito), proporzioni magistrali, tessuti con i quali vorresti farci una coperta di Linus per averli sempre con sé, in ogni viaggio.

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