Interview: Gabriele Chiave of Alessi

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Gabriele Chiave is a storyteller. A designer for AlessiDaineseFoscarini and more, Chiave has lived everywhere from Dakar to Caracas, Rome and Amsterdam. Not only is his own existence rich with stories, each one of his works has its own. “For almost every project there is an anecdote or an interesting unexpected story to tell,” he tells CH.

“Within many of the projects I have done, there is a deep sense of intangible symbolism and at the same time, familiarity. I believe that design is fluid and, therefore, is subject to so many different descriptions,” he explains. Chiave inherently understands that design is open to interpretation and can be deeply personal: “My goal with each design is to make a connection between consumer and concept. To create an unconscious relation between object and user which is built on common memories. In doing so, my work possesses duality as well as complexity.”

Chiave is adept at finding the language to describe his process and his pieces. He notes, “I think the language I would gravitate to most are words like ‘accessible’ and ‘experiential.'” This approach is evident in his final products, which are oftentimes ironic and light—even surreal—but he never ignores the importance of function. “For me, the creative process must be very fluid and natural. I have found over my career that the imagination and thinking that goes into one project may not necessarily be what is best for another. My extensive experience with Italian industrial design is the anchor which guides me to intermingle form and function, so this, along with balancing technology, innovation and concept could be considered my process. It’s like drawing a circle, and when it closes then you’ve reached the optimal result. Everything makes sense,” he says.

Chiave recently applied this fluid approach to a range of Alessi products: a pillbox in the shape of a chestnut, a clever toothpaste tube-squeezer that recalls a classic belt buckle, and a cheese grater inspired by a cowbell. While seemingly whimsical in concept, each final product is a clean, stylish creation. When describing Chiave’s work, Alberto Alessi has used terms such as “metaphor,” “figure of speech” and “allegory”—echoing the concept that these entities are more than just things; they have substance and significance.

Like all his pieces, the Alessi collection has several stories behind it—each more charming and amusing than the last. “When I was checking the prototypes of Buckle [the toothpaste-squeezer] with Alberto Alessi, we had several tryout tubes laid out on the table—from toothpaste to mayonnaise and ketchup. All of a sudden, after one enthusiastic try, the content of one of the tubes spilled over and the table was full of ketchup. At least the prototypes proved to work very well!” he says. “Cheese Please also proved troublesome, but this time during the photo-shooting. I wanted to attach the bell to a real cow, a situation which ended up being much harder than I had thought. So we had one afternoon to ‘convince’ the cow to be a model.”

Chiave explains that Chestnut (the pillbox) has a much more sentimental and personal story attached to it. “Chestnut symbolizes the tradition my grandmother had—an old Italian tradition saying: a chestnut in your pocket will keep the cold and flu away. Therefore a pill-holder shaped as chestnut is a paradox and funny translation of such form and function,” he says. While design can seem whimsical on one end of the spectrum, or entirely mathematical on the other, Chiave’s approach shows that there is a middle-ground that blends form, function, nostalgia, personal history and emotion.

Annunci

Milan Design Week 2015: Lee Broom’s Department Store

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

At this year’s Milan Design Week, British designer Lee Broom is presenting his largest and most mature collection to date. Known as “The Department Store,” this installation consists of 25 of Broom’s newest pieces—from furniture to lighting and accessories. It’s an incredibly accurate reconstruction of an ideal (and surreal) department store, divided in sections such as millinery, beauty, perfumery, bookstore, wine shop, accessories and so on. “The reason for using this kind of theme is that the collection is separated into kind of mini-collections,” Broom tells CH. “I was trying to think about a kind of show that would present them in an interesting way. We always try to do more with the theatrical experience than just a general presentation.”

Inside, the “Wow!” effect is all but guaranteed. Gray blankets the entire color palate—from the walls to the curtains, the props to the mannequins. That is, everything but Lee Broom’s collections which are punctuated by splashes of acid yellow and lacquer red. As Broom himself explains, “I was quite inspired by photographers like Horst and Man Ray, whose works have a beautiful kind of shadowy black and white image to them in a very surreal way. I wanted to have lots of references to a department store, but I didn’t want it to take away from the pieces, so I decided that all of the pieces should be in the finishes that they’re in, and then all of the environment should be in a gray tone.”

The music that plays is also meant to reflect the black and white vibe, with classic tunes from the ’40s and ’50s. The result is a dreamlike energy that permeates the large space. “The Crescent Light [which is the light that features sort of slits] is a good representation of the surreal pieces. It’s taking something that we’ve seen before, this very classic kind of Art Deco globe, but then doing something very simple to change it and make it look different.”

Materials, too, are juxtaposed in unexpected ways—marble in particular. Broom tells us, “I like the texture and the quality of marble, but I was wanting to do something different with it, so lighting seemed like the obvious thing to do. When I did the pieces with the lighting, it was to try and get the translucency of the marble and really those pieces are so impossible to make, especially the Marble Tube Light. We had so many issues with trying to make it that length, it was a combination of finding the right craftsmen, the right polisher, the right machinery, the right marble and to be constantly persistent that we would get it right.”

Once Broom had success with the lighting, it fueled his creative urges to continue working with marble. “I wanted to do some furniture pieces. That’s why I introduced the ‘Acid Marble Collection,’ which starts from taking the white marble, but adding a real kind of splash of color. That was designed for the show rather than the other way around, because when I started having the idea of everything being grey and having this kind of black and white movie feel—I then wanted to inject lots of color in the other pieces. Normally I shy away from color in our pieces, so I kind of pushed myself to do that. The yellow glass and the black and white marble I think is a really beautiful combination. Again, it’s a bit surreal, you know, having the yellow glass with the marble.”

Every piece in the show is sleek and refined—it’s difficult to understand the complex technique, and trial and error behind them. Broom explains, ”I want people to engage with my pieces; not in the same way that somebody engages with a piece of art necessarily, but there should be an element of that where you don’t see everything straight away the first time you look at it. And that’s what makes these pieces exciting.” It’s an untold, secret story that lives in each item’s history that makes many of the pieces extra engaging—not just their present state.

Ultimately, as with most design, Broom’s goal is to tell a story and make something that lasts—something significant. He says, “It’s the idea that we’re creating permanent things that will also have this story and have a craft behind it. And we don’t have to scream about how something is made—that people start to ask questions and then they really connect with the piece, I think [that] is really lovely.”

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser has some interesting ideas about fashion, and it’s getting clearer and clearer with each collection.

For the next Autumn/Winter he’s proposing a delicate balance of lengths, balances, volumes that really feels out of time. Who cares about the main trends, who cares about the season, who cares about moments and occasions. Arthur (who is also competing for the LVMH Prize) shows there’s an independent and alternative way to get things done, without dramas, chocks and peacock-like costumes.

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Arthur Arbesser AW 2015

Inside Italy’s Growing Sneaker Expo, Ginnika

My new article for COOL HUNTING.

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Works by Phil Toys

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Works by Phil Toys

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Works by Phil Toys

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Works by Phil Toys

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Installation by Phil Toys

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Nike Air Mag

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Nike Air Mag

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Andrea Sibaldi

Phil Toys

Phil Toys

Sneaker culture is varied and constantly evolving. It’s a world in which art, music, sports, fashion and of course shoes, all play a part. It generates passions and manias, as well as interesting connections between different places and people that may not otherwise mingle.

This is also the story behind Ginnika, a rapidly expanding event born in Rome in 2014. From now through 25 January, Ginnika is presenting a new edition in the northern city of Verona, while Perugia and other Italian cities are to be announced soon. We had the chance to visit the venue, look at some of the 600 sneakers on display, listen to some of the 48 hours of DJ sets and, most importantly, speak with founder Andrea Sibaldi. Together with Simone Strano, Vito Castellano and Michela Picchi, Sibaldi has turned his lifelong passion into Ginnika Posse, an ever-growing group of people from different backgrounds, united by the love for all that sneaker culture encompasses.

“We knew what it was all about,” Sibaldi tells CH, “but it was not our intention to limit everything to a range of shoes on display.” And that’s clear when we experience the latest edition, between Arena Studio d’Arte art gallery and Move Shop, an authentic cult store in town. “We (Ginnika Posse) are all guys with jobs away from the world of shoes or clothing, but we see this project as our safe heaven where we give in to our passions,” Sibaldi says. “You know, when you grow up it is not easy to be able to play, but with Ginnika, we can still enjoy ourselves very much.”

Playful and artistic are the perfect words to describe the site-specific installations by Phil Toys, a street artist obsessed with paper and boxes. Robots inspired by the colors of famous sneakers are the companions of tiny lo-fi squared shoes. Toys also made a series of custom prints—a literal representation of his love for shoes—inspired by classic styles and true gems like the Nike Air Mag, which against many odds is in fact on display.

Though as sneaker culture continues to evolve and move online, some may ask if this kind of event is still needed. Sibaldi’s ideas about this are pretty clear: “If we consider other international events, Ginnika may seem like just another happening of which people did not feel the need [to attend]. But when we speak of Italy, all is to be observed under a different lens. Indeed Ginnika is the first national project dedicated to sneaker culture at 360 degrees, with shoes, sports, music, art, food, beverage, culture and lots of interaction. This gives relevance to a phenomenon that has spread around the world in such a hectic way, hovering between fetishism and the most trivial forms of consumerism. We really want to act as spokespersons, telling our perspective in relation to existing events. So Ginnika was truly needed—or at least, we felt a great need for it to happen.”

In the land where craftsmen and companies create some of the best shoes in the world, the goal of such activities is to create relationships between various forms of creativity, among people with different stories. If nothing else, Ginnika has changed Sibaldi’s life (and his group of collaborators), as he candidly admits: “Before Ginnika my life was only about my work and some nights out made of stories told among friends. But now we are a movement that has succeeded in creating new horizons and connections. This is for us to achieve an important goal, we have become “concept revolutionaries” in our country, and for that we perfectly embody the spirit of a posse.”

John Varvatos Menswear AW2015

Milan, 17 January 2015

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Costume e lingua

Come si pronuncia Costume National? All’inglese (Costium Nescional) o alla francese (Costüm Nasional)? Nel settore moda pare non ci sia una risposta univoca.

Anche alla sfilata della collezione uomo PE2015 si sentivano entrambe le versioni, pronunciate da fashionisti di ogni latitudine. Ma poco importa. Quello che conta è che anche questa volta Ennio Capasa è riuscito a parlare la sua lingua, quella di uno stile chiaro, netto, definito, preciso, focalizzato. Può piacere o meno, ma è uno dei pochi stilisti che abbia il coraggio di lavorare di fino, aggiungendo a ciascuna collezione un pezzo di percorso senza doverlo stravolgere ogni volta, senza scopiazzare tendenze preconfezionate o facendo – chessò – salti mortali dalla Sicilia alla Spagna cercando una giustificazione da sussidiario ormai scaduto.

Capasa parla la lingua di una trasgressione raffinatissima, che normalizza quello che una volta faceva storcere il naso, che sa cristallizzare la storia delle subculture e ce le fa vedere con occhi nuovi.

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MSGM in 3D

Subito dopo la sfilata della collezione uomo PE2015 di MSGM, mi sono chiesto come sarei riuscito a trasferire in fotografia i pensieri e le sensazioni che il lavoro di Massimo Giorgetti mi aveva provocato. Il colore prima di tutto, quel colore mai prevedibile, sempre calibrato di fino, pieno di riferimenti colti e/o pop. Poi le stampe, così dirette e chiare, nitide nell’idea e nell’esecuzione, capaci di parlare ogni lingua, con ogni mercato del pianeta.

Come esaltare colore e stampe? Come valorizzare la forte bidimensionalità della collezione? Cancellando proprio stampe e colore, passando dal 2D al 3D, all’esaltazione della forma dell’abito, ai suoi confini piuttosto che farsi distrarre da quello che si trova al centro. Ed ecco che sono letteralmente esplose le caratteristiche costruttive di MSGM, spesso nascoste dall’overdose creativa organizzata della stampa. E si notano meglio lo studio su dove debba cascare la spalla, l’ampiezza del collo, la lunghezza di giacche e pantaloni, lo spessore delle suole, l’ampiezza della calzata.

Non solo felpe, stampe, colore: Giorgetti e il suo team sanno fare ben di più. Come ha scritto Style.com, “MSGM may be the best shot Milan has to a next big thing.” Perché hanno il coraggio di fare quello che a noi italiani viene meglio, ovvero prendere un po’ di quello che ci circonda, trasformarlo e renderlo qualcosa di mai visto prima.

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