Interview: Sugarkane Studio


My new article for Cool Hunting.

In the few short years since forming Sugarkane, Milan-based duo Nicolò Cerioni and Leandro Manuel Emede have come to work with some of the most esteemed names in entertainment. The passion with which they take on any project—from music videos to photography to editorial content—has undoubtedly contributed to their early success, but their diverse backgrounds also play a part in their multi-pronged approach to creative thinking. Manuel Emede studied advertising and music video production in California before directing short films and documentaries at La Sterpaia, and Cerioni studied fashion and design in NYC and Milan before refining the image of several artists for EMI, Sony Music and Universal Music.

Made exclusively using Kinect and RGBDToolkit, Sugarkane created an incredible music video for the new single “Quand’ero Giovane” from Franco Battiato, an Italian songwriter recognized for his enduring commitment to experimentation. To understand the intricate design details of the innovative project, we recently spoke with Manuel Emede.

Can you tell us about the genesis of this project?

A few months ago we were asked to make a video for the new single by Franco Battiato, specifically the third single from the album Apriti Sesamo (Open Sesame), which actually was already playing in our studio on loop, since we have always been great fans. Thinking of a video for the song “Quand’ero Giovane” (When I was young), well, this was one of those requests that makes you incredibly happy.

We knew the song very well and we both came to the same thought: the song is too descriptive, too precise, and we must do something completely opposite to what you listen to. Hence we thought of making the text futuristic and intangible, since it’s full of memories and real places.

From a technical point of view, how is the image generated in this video?

The video image is generated by connecting a simple camera to a computer, which is also connected to a Kinect. The computer receives the two data—the two-dimensional image of the camera and data concerning spaces and dimensions generated by the Kinect. These two components, combined through a software program, create a virtual space in which we could move around in a second moment.

The union of these two instruments requires a very meticulous process of alignment and has been fundamental in the collaboration of the guys at Studio Sumatra, Maicol Borghetti and Francesco Basso, who often collaborate with us for the setup of experimental productions. They are very good in everything related to 3D and motion graphics.

Battiato is well known in Italy and abroad for being a great experimenter. Since the ’70s he’s been working with electronic sounds, world music, rock and dance. What was his role in this project?

It’s true, Battiato is always a great experimenter. For example, a few years ago he created and directed a work about Bernardino Telesio, completely read aloud by holograms. As soon as we proposed the concept of this last video, he immediately showed interest. He was fascinated by the process from which a two-dimensional image can be turned into three-dimensional space. Working with him is always a pleasure as well as an honor—he is the innovator par excellence.

In the past you have worked with extremely analog effects, such as vintage lenses found in a flea market in Los Angeles. Now you switch to a fully digital dimension. Is there a link between the two choices?

Yes, we love to experiment. For each video we try to go beyond our knowledge by drawing on various techniques. We spend a lot of time on the internet to look for new and innovative things, but every time we go to some photography or video store we comb between the offers and dustier shelves. Often we found media devices completely out of fashion but that, when used for a video clip in the right way, can become super interesting and cutting edge.

Then we range from super advanced technology to craft shooting, in both cases, however, it’s the idea and the desire to experiment that counts. For the video of Maria Antonietta, “Saliva,” we had attached two filters from the ’70s with adhesive tape. In the case of Battiato, with the tape we attached the Kinect.

Can you tell us about any future projects you may be working on?

We are currently working on next summer’s stadium tour of Lorenzo Jovanotti and other very interesting things, but we can not say more. But be sure that you will see a lot of cool stuff in the near future.

Interview: Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima


My new article for Cool Hunting

Launched in September 2012, The Printorium is the latest project by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, founders of MinaLima Design. Mina and Lima met on the set of the Harry Potter films and, after working for almost 10 years in defining the graphic identity of the saga from props to posters, decided to open their own creative firm. MinaLima is centered on graphics for films, but they’ve also worked on editorial, web and other special projects.

The Printorium is the natural evolution of their design process for Harry Potter,which led to a license from Warner Bros. to print limited-edition designs from the set. Made in London, the signed prints feature book covers from Hogwart’s Library, the first page of “The Daily Prophet” newspaper, The Marauder’s Map and a poster for the 422nd Quidditich World Cup. We recently met Mina and Lima at their studio to talk about their latest venture.

How did you meet and why did you decide to work together?

Mina:Twelve years ago I started working on the very first Harry Potter film as a graphic designer and on the second film Eduardo joined me, kind of by serendipity. We met through a mutual friend—Eduardo is Brazilian and wanted to come and live in London, and that friend was literally the only person he knew who was doing graphics.

Lima: In fact she told me: “You should call Mira, she’s doing graphics for a movie about a young wizard or something.” It simply happened.

Mina: It just worked out, it was one of those lucky coincidences. For 10 years we were committed to the Potter world and we used to joke about having our own studio together one day. We had been working freelance for almost 10 years as individual crew members that were hired out each time. Though exciting, it is also difficult to maintain coherence when you are freelance as everything tends to dissolve at the end of each film project. Since the work environment was rather temporary we were never really able to make roots, to have a permanent creative hub. What happened through the years was that people kept coming to us with little projects, and we couldn’t really do them without our own studio.

After a while the idea of the studio became a reality. When we looked for the space, we really wanted it to be a member of the team. The studio kept growing and now there are seven of us, working on three or four different projects at any one time. We are not really experienced in running a design studio but our film art department grounding has helped define our method. We are constantly learning!

How was The Printorium project born?

Lima: In the Harry Potter films we designed all the graphic props, like the books, maps and newspapers, and since the end of the films we’ve been designing lots of merchandise as well, like books, packaging for DVDs, online catalogs, basically things that require the aesthetic we had created for the films. Everything was done following specific design conventions which had been established in the films.

Mina: With all this body of work that was designed for purpose, we thought that we could elevate it to make a collectible, graphic art project. A lot of work wasn’t seen in the films, or is seen only in the background so it exists as a part of Harry Potter’s world. More importantly, we wanted The Printorium to be a complete design project, capable of representing our passion for typography, design, composition and period ephemera. We had the freedom and good fortune to fuse all of this in the Harry Potter films, and it seemed a shame for the substantial body of work to stop there. Warner Bros. was keen to strengthen the brand, and encouraged us to develop this idea as part of their collectible line. The result is a high quality unique art print, collectible not only for the Harry Potter fan. Plus, it is completely made in England, with a Brazilian touch!

Do you have any kind of relationship with the fan base?

Lima: Last August we went to Chicago for the Harry Potter convention, LeakyCon. It’s the biggest convention of this kind with over 4,000 visitors. We took some of the prints and showed images of the original props in a keynote talk. We were expecting a couple of hundred people, but in the end we found ourselves in front of 4,000 fans! Our initial anxiety about delivering something interesting to these loyal fans was quickly tempered by their extraordinary interest in all things design-related. It was very humbling to witness our designs getting applauded one after the other!

Mina: Thanks to the fans we have been made aware that this is a very special project for a designer. We didn’t really realize at the time that together with the rest of the art department we were forging the shape of the visuals of something really important for a lot of people all over the world.

Is The Printorium going to be centered on Harry Potter only?

Mina: The name of the project itself was intended to give a nod to Harry Potter because that is where our creative union was born and what we are primarily selling. It should resonate the old-fashioned allure, the craft, the British origin. However it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase and sell our other work, because now we have the infrastructure, the space and the machinery to do so. The idea is to be constantly evolving!

Lima: The core of The Printorium is Harry Potter. We’ve got more than 200 designs ready to be printed. Everything we print was actually designed for the films and it appeared at least once, even though sometimes only in the background. For example the fictional book “Hogwarts, a History” is mentioned a lot in the film, but you don’t actually see it even though we designed and made it.

You use both computers and traditional printing—can you define yourselves as “digital artisans”?

Lima: What is central to our way of designing is to marry the digital with the analog. We are constantly collating original material, be it textures or old books which are then scanned to our archive. We draw by hand and age our props with coffee and sandpaper, or have to find original ways of cutting. Handwork is still very much part of how we work and on most occasions is the critical beginning.

Mina: This is what we’ve learned on the set: the props may need to look unique, but we usually had to make multiples of them. And we always had to design knowing that everything must be manufactured on an A3 photocopier! That’s what we love in film—you are constantly challenged by having to combine craft with other techniques. In spite of the importance of craft, we are aware that without Photoshop we simply couldn’t have done a great part of the work. Another important role is played by research—it’s paramount in our work and it’s also great fun. At the center of everything is making sure we absolutely enjoy what we do—we need to be smiling!

Can you unveil some projects for the future?

Mina: We love paper ephemera and all those things that seem coincidental in life, the stuff that is seemingly unimportant or wasn’t designed to make a visual statement. We have plans for The Museum of Paper Goods. Watch this space! We are also working for the first time on a branding project, for an independent British Ale.

All prints are produced and printed in the UK using pigment inks on 300gsm Hahnemuhle fine art paper. Each print is edition numbered and embossed and comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity. The prints are available for for purchase online and at Harrods in London. Images courtesy of MinaLima Design.

Divina carneficina

Carnage è un gran bel film, senza se e senza ma.

Ha dell’incredibile come Polanski sia riuscito ad inventare così tante inquadrature in uno spazio piccolo quale il soggiorno in cui si svolge la quasi totalità delle scene. E ti sale a poco a poco una sensazione di claustrofobia che prende alla gola e allo stomaco, travolge e coinvolge, mettendo in discussione tutte le possibili relazioni tra persone: genitori e figli, marito e moglie, rapporti di cortesia ma anche di amicizia. Ci si trova schierati da una parte e dall’altra, sballottati tra un comportamento e il suo esatto opposto, tra chi dice che il mondo va salvato a tutti i costi e chi sostiene che si nasce, vive e muore da soli.

La sceneggiatura porta lo spettatore ad essere solidale con la vittima, ma dopo un attimo si applaude per il carnefice. E alla fine il cinismo coincide con la verità, facendo scoprire che in fondo, almeno una volta nella vita, siamo stati noi ad afferrare il bastone per rompere i denti a quel ragazzino. E ci è piaciuto farlo.

150 Years of Elegance

My new article from Cool Hunting

In celebration of Italy’s 150th anniversary as a unified country, the marvelous Reggia di Venaria is hosting the exhibition “Fashion in Italy: 150 Years of Elegance” in the recently restored and equally ornate “Italian Versailles,” a few miles outside of Turin.

The long journey through the history of Italian fashion is divided in two parts. The first is curated by Academy Award winning customer designer Gabriella Pescucci and covers the years 1861-1970. The second section was conceived by Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, which illustrates the birth of Italian prêt-a-porter and the contemporary fashion industry.

The exhibition not only covers the recent history of Italy’s transformation in taste, but it also analyzes the constant change in the social condition of women. The 200 garments on display span Risorgimento to the years of Italian Reign, as well as the Fascist era and World War II, continuing to the birth of a truly national style in the ’50s and the rise of contemporary designers such like Capucci, Albini, Valentino, Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce&Gabbana.

Most of the historic clothes come from the foundation for the celebrated costume atelier Tirelli Trappetti. Some are original items, meant for daily use or special occasions, while others are famous costumes from classics films like Luchino Viscont’s Il Gattopardo.

Architect Michele De Lucchi handled the overall display and settings, which are based entirely on mirrors. A symbol of vanity, mirrors also allow patrons to enjoy the clothes from every point of view and feel immersed in the the evolution of style.

To further enhance the experience, Laura Tonatto custom designed four different fragrances to underline the spirit of the different eras, used in the different room throughout the exhibit.

“Fashion in Italy: 150 Years of Elegance” runs through 8 January 2012 at Le Venaria Reale. See more images in the gallery.

Even more images here.

Excelsior Milano

My new article from Cool Hunting

Of the many upcoming events planned for the Vogue-sponsored global shopping push Fashion’s Night Out, the debut of Excelsior Milano might make the biggest splash. The work of Italy’s biggest fashion retailer Gruppo Coin, the new complex is located right in the heart of the capital of fashion in a former cinema that has been totally renovated by French starchitect Jean Nouvel.

We had the chance to visit the store before the opening to carefully observe every detail. The project is courageous and innovative; there’s a lot of empty space, proof of how the management chose to work on quality rather than quantity. Lending warmth and sophistication, the choice of lighting and materials, as well as the rhythm of volumes and surfaces, makes the space feel similar to a private art gallery.

Antonia, well-known for her taste and ability to mix avant-garde and business, is behind the choice of brands, clothes and accessories. As a result, Excelsior Milano perfectly balances the concept boutique with a department store.

On the first floor, the focus is on contemporary American designers (still slightly unknown in Italy) such as Theory, Rag & Bone, Alice and Olive and Vince. Mixed in among the clothing you will find home design by Skitsch and the accessories of Globe-Trotter, Mario Portolano and Antipast, as well as a Borsalino limited-edition made exclusively for Excelsior Milano. Other floors will offer more in the way of the pursuit of excellence with labels including Christian Louboutin, Giuseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Sergio Rossi, Pierre Hardy and Repetto. Also look out for items by Givenchy, Proenza Schouler, Zagliani, Marni, Chloé and Manolo Blahnik.

The ground floor will house a bar (open until 2am), cosmetics, flowers, the luxurious Ladurée macaroons, the sophisticated L’Olfattorio bar à parfums and Tiffany & Co.

In addition, Eat’s space is a real surprise—an actual supermarket, with fresh food, meat, fish, vegetables and wines. The restaurant will offer three dimensions, “now” for the elegant take-away, “fast” for the bistro characterized by seasonal specials, and “slow” for the more traditional restaurant, regularly hosting renowned guest chefs like Davide Oldani.

Excelsior Milano opens Thursday, 8 September 2011, and in other Italian cities over the next few years.

More images here.

Biologia, Tecnologia, Ecologia

Avatar non è un film: è un (iper) testo che fonda una nuova religione. E’ un mito cosmogonico, la concretizzazione di un pensiero che rilancia una inedita visione sul rapporto tra uomo e natura.

In questo capolavoro Biologia, Tecnologia ed Ecologia sono la Santissima Trinità, Pandora è l’Eden, i Na’vi i le divinità, i marines i demoni, Jake Sully ne è il profeta.

Cameron usa i potentissimi mezzi a sua disposizione con una grazia e naturalezza che ti fa dimenticare dopo pochi minuti che stai guardando la produzione più tecnologicamente avanzata che abbiamo mai visto. Lo stile è una sintesi di Star Trek (la fantascienza umana), Full Metal Jacket (la guerra disumana) e Alla ricerca di Nemo (la natura sovrumana). La storia è la perfetta fusione tra Eneide e Pochaontas. Un pastrocchio? No, tutt’altro: qui dentro c’è tutto, ma non il suo contrario. Tutto torna, tutto quadra.

E dopo aver vissuto il film (questo film non si vede, si vive) ti resta il desiderio fortissimo di avere un avatar blu di due metri, il desiderio impellente di una vita oltre quella che viviamo da umani.

Tanto sappiamo che non succederà, ma forse un giorno…

L’essenza di Tom


A Single Man è la pura essenza di Tom Ford.

Un film per nulla emozionante ma meraviglioso in tutto, che ama indulgere sui dettagli e non mostra mai un insieme, per non distrarre dalla cura estrema di ogni particolare. Nulla è fuori posto: luce, materiali, colore, bianco e nero si succedono con una grazia magistrale. Ma tutto si ferma all’occhio, senza mai arrivare al cuore.

Tom Ford è un maestro di stile, del suo stile, che ha creato prima con il suo lavoro di Gucci, poi con la tappa da Yves Saint-Laurent, infine con il suo marchio che – non per caso – è partito da occhiali e profumi per arrivare ad una linea che è quella che conosciamo oggi. Con questo film ha realizzato un poderoso moodboard nel quale è riuscito a sintetizzare tutte le ispirazioni del suo lavoro, della sua incredibile creatività senza fantasia. Ogni scena potrebbe essere presa, separata dal tutto e vivrebbe comunque di vita propria. Sarebbe interessante provare a smontare e rimontare tutto il film, combinarlo come si fa con giacche, camicie, pantaloni e accessori: tutto è così coordinato e coerente che il risultato sarebbe comunque bellissimo.

Il bello: è l’ossessione di Tom Ford ed è anche la punteggiatura della vita lineare del professor Falconer (interpretato da un ottimo Colin Firth), che si completa per contrasto la vita da baraccona di Charley (resa indimenticabile da una Julianne Moore in splendida forma).

Facendo sintesi della sua moda, delle sue campagne pubblicitarie e del suo (primo) film, emerge chiaramente che lo stile di Tom Ford è fatto di citazioni calibrate, reminiscenze nitide, nostalgie purissime, regole rigorose, talmente cristalline ed essenziali da arrivare a congelare ogni tipo di obiezione o emozione.

A Single Man non è un film: è un profumo che non ha nessun profumo, ma che arriva nella boccetta più bella che ci sia.