Interview: Sugarkane Studio

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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.

Muà Gelatieri d’Italia

My new article for Cool Hunting.

On a recent trip to Istanbul we got to experience that magic mixture of Europe and Asia—the harmonic balance of historic venues and international retail chains, the reflections of lights on tiles and the Bosphorus, the best aubergines, the young crowd on Istiklal Avenue. We did not necessarily expect to find good ice cream, so were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon Muà Gelatieri d’Italia.

Muà Gelatieri d’Italia is a recently launched small chain of Italian gelato shops. The first to open is located by the sea in the hip Yeniköy neighborhood. The design of the interior is based on the playful contrast of white and pink colors, with the omnipresent logo of a shocking pink mouth miming the kiss that inspires the onomatopoeic “muà” name. During the warm season, clients can also enjoy a nice outdoor space.

Florentine entrepreneur Elena Pallotta decided to quit a well-established real estate career in order to pursue her ice cream dream. “After finding a group of investors,” Pallotta tells CH, “I left my beautiful house in Tuscany, moved to Turkey and started from scratch. At the beginning I had to take care of every aspect, from construction details to the search for the perfect ingredients.”

Every flavor is naturally prepared in the adjacent laboratory with strictly seasonal ingredients and without preservatives or chemicals. Some of our favorites include hazelnut (made with the Turkish staple), chocolate (which comes in two choices, with or without milk), locally-sourced banana and kaymak, a Turkish version of clotted cream. Passing on Turkish dondurma—a kind of gummy ice cream—the young gelateria is already being hailed as the best frozen treat in town. In addition to gelato, Muà offers coffee and cold desserts, freshly made from recipes merging Italian tradition with Turkish taste.

The second store is located in the Göktürk Merkez, while a third will be opened on the 4 July 2012 in the trendy neighborhood of Cihangir.

L’F shoes

My new article for Cool Hunting.

L’F is a line of unisex shoes from Licia Florio and Francio Ferrari, a fashion designer (Florio) and artist/photographer (Ferrari) who also live together. Wanting to create something together the couple came up with L’F, which is comprised of one style for men and women. The shoe comes in combinations of up to three colors, with various details available like studs and hooks. The fresh take on a classic, says Ferrari, was something that could “fully represent our identity.” We caught up with him to preview the Spring 2013 collection and talk more about the brand. Check out the interview below and the first line of L’F unisex shoes online where they sell from €215.

How was your collection born?

We started by hacking some bowling shoes, but eventually they all looked bad. So we decided to focus on something more elegant like a classic brogue—we removed tongue, laces and we started to wear them. We saw that we liked it and our friends started asking were they could buy them. So we entered the world of Italian footwear production, previously unknown to us but very fascinating. We got to work with talented craftsmen—genuine people with dirty hands, but who are able to create the masterpieces that everyone knows.

You are not a heritage brand—how did you want to approach an iconic object like the brogue?

We chose irony. Ours is a very serious shoe in terms of quality and production, 100% handmade in Italy by shoe manufacturers that make shoes for large international brands. They’re very comfortable shoes you can wear all day. However, the colors and materials and their combinations allow us to be fun and give our customers the opportunity to have fun every day. Then we took out the laces and in some models we filled the holes with removable studs, which can be swapped in and out.

We think that people should be brave with accessories, not only with our shoes. We noticed that L’F wearers pay much attention to socks (without the tongue they’re more visible) and tend to shorten their pants hem, to show their styling. We’re happy when our customers have the chance to have fun!

Who wears L’F?

We discovered we have a very wide target, without age limits. It often happens that mothers buy our shoes, and then their daughters steal them. Licia’s grandmother is a big fan of ours, but she just wants the studded ones.

What’s new for the next season?

Spring 2013 is our second official collection—we continue to work on the same model and reinvent it more and more, working on materials and soles. We have four soles: one white and one black “tank” sole, one sports Vibram sole and a sole with a band of microfiber between two layers of leather. In some models we included a hook taken from mountain boots, where you can put rubber bands instead of strings. Then there are different variations of pastel colors and metallic leather monochromes, purposely for fashionistas. We are aiming at extreme yet elegant shoes to give the wearer more fun and joy.

Let there be dark

Lo scorso ottobre ho passato due giorni a Tokyo, inviato da Cool Hunting per seguire un progetto di Heineken. In una notte, mi hanno fatto visitare cinque tra le discoteche più belle della città.

Oltre a scattare centinaia di foto, ho girato qualche video, che ho montato fino ad ottenere questo corto.

Moda Sociale

Qualche giorno fa, il mio amico Stefano mi ha invitato a partecipare a Social Fashionista, un evento della Social Media Week di Milano nel quale si parlerà del futuro della moda in Rete. Questa sera in Galleria Meravigli ci saranno un po’ di blogger italiani che si dedicano alla moda e si cercherà di fare il punto della situazione.

Ho la fortuna di lavorare con Cool Hunting da quasi due anni, di occuparmi di tendenze di comunicazione e  moda al Future Concept Lab da oltre un decennio, di aver frequentato un corso di perfezionamento a Bologna grazie ad un saggio proprio sul futuro della moda in Rete. E il cerchio si chiude.

Qualche anno fa (ormai 12…) scrivevo che la moda non aveva un gran futuro in quanto semplice commercio in rete, a meno che non si puntasse sui classici (mi compro in rete quello che non trovo in un negozio vicino a casa, ma soltanto cose che ho già toccato con anno) o sulle rarità (limited edition, vintage). Questo è ancora valido, anche se si sono aggiunti gli outlet (Yoox in primis) e i fenomeni di “commercio editoriale”, di pezzi scelti con cura e coerenza, come accade da Luisa Via Roma e Antonioli.

E per quello che riguarda l’informazione? Vale lo stesso ragionamento, ovvero puntare all’essenziale (con contenitori di informazione elementare ma necessaria, come Fashion Magazine), al raro (interviste, video, backstage, street style), oppure al grande lavoro editoriale (gli esempi più interessanti sono Nowness, Dazed Digital, WGSN).

Un altro elemento fondamentale per la moda sarà lo staccarsi da se stessa, l’andare oltre il proprio ombelico, pensare che oltre ad abiti e accessori c’è un’intera cultura dello stile, dell’oggetto, del design, della produzione. Forse dovremmo rileggerci con cura la definizione di stile e ricordarci che è fatto di cose concrete, tangibili, producibili e riproducibili.

E che soprattutto non è ne’ alto ne’ basso, ne’ elitario ne’ di nicchia: lo stile (come la moda) è semplicemente la meravigliosa, unica, originale espressione di ogni essere umano.