My dream as a teenager was becoming a music journalist. So, when I first started writing, I began doing a lot of interviews with bands and musicians and I also used to write review of live gigs. As you may imagine it was great fun since I was able in this way to meet some wonderful bands.
Yet for some kind of reason I always lived rather bizarre adventures while covering music festivals in Italy.
For some mysterious reason festival organisers often tried to hide from you the exact location of a press conference, obviously sabotaging in this way the band/singer/musician in question, sometimes allowing only to journalists from the main Italian papers to interview them.
I vividly recall a rather adventurous trip to a Nick Cave press conference in Arezzo with two good friends of mine from a local paper, Andrea and Stefano.
As the years passed and I attended different scheduled press events, conferences and interviews that didn’t involve any surprise locations, car chasings and other assorted thrills, I forgot what it meant running after people to interview.
Thanks to the people at the Pitti, though, I finally remembered what it felt like taking part in a press conference in Italy.
A couple of days before the Giles Deacon event, there were a few rumours going around about a mysterious press conference, location unknown.
The location remained unknown until, casually switching on my mobile phone at 9.05am on Thursday morning, I found a tip off message from a Pitti insider saying the press conference was taking place in less than ten minutes’ time at the offices of the Fondazione Pitti.
I wasn’t staying too far from the street where the offices are based, so I went out basically thinking I would have given it a try, but not bothering too much as I was probably too late anyway.
While walking towards the Fondazione’s office I saw a couple of taxis, one with Giles on board, so I realised I was on the right way and still on time.
Flashbacks from my trip to that infamous Nick Cave’s press conference came back to me as the taxis left me far behind, making me even more determined to reach my goal.
Before she even answered I raised my eyes and saw behind her a lift closing with Giles inside.
Luckily he saw me (or maybe he noticed the exasperation in my eyes…) and kept the doors open to welcome my dishevelled self.
I explained (still out of breath obviously…) that I was going to his press conference and he said he liked my toy car necklace (see “Automotive Fashion” post).
In the press conference room there were already a few journalists, most of them from major Italian papers (some Italian newspapers have spies who work for them that’s why they usually manage to arrive earlier at secret press conferences; others are usually contacted on time by the event organisers because they are respected and revered; freelance journalists, bloggers, random members of the foreign press and people from independent publications are usually considered as dangerous anarchist, so, if they ever arrive, they are usually late...).
We were finally explained that the conference had actually been arranged at the last minute since Giles’ staff had arrived late because of the snow in the UK.
He then proceeded to explain how the pre-collection presentation was going to take place at the Richard Ginori factory in Sesto Fiorentino where eight installation featuring fifteen models and some giant mounds of broken plates were going to be used as the settings for his pre-collection.
Confusion ensued at this point as one journalist attempted an unlikely comparison between Julian Schnabel’s plate paintings and Giles’ presentation (NB in Italy many journalists - especially from the main papers - love to start debates and literary disquisitions during press conferences without caring about what's going around them and at times also start the occasional fight, this routine should be used by the members of the foreign media as an entertainment moment or a free training session for journalists preparing to head to war zones...), then somebody asked Giles why he came up with the slaughtered Bambi prints in a previous collection (“I thought it was funny! And anyway in cartoons the heads grow back again…”) and eventually we became more serious with questions that mainly focused on the pre-collection and on the Pitti event. Here they are:How did you choose the location for the event?
Giles Deacon: Everybody knows the incredible palazzos in Florence and all that kind of history, but I was interested in another side of the city, its industrial heritage. So, when I came to look at the venues within Florence and saw the Richard Ginori factory, I thought it was really amazing. I saw it like a different take of what Florence is about and I thought that it perfectly showed that this place is not like a museum city, but it’s a really vibrant, modern, living and working city and I’m really interested in this concept. When I saw the factory I was struck by the industrial mood and after that I did a lot of research about the components of industrial machines and about tools such as monkey wrenches and spanners and eventually made some super large and graphic prints of those, creating also 3D-like jacquards of bolts, nuts and clips.
Do you feel that having your collection produced in Italy by Castor has influenced your work?
Giles Deacon: Totally. It has opened up a whole new world of pieces that we could have never produced in London because, in the UK, we don’t have that kind of access to those techniques, quality, knowledge or ability. For example, in the past we were never able to make well-cut trousers, but now we are and this is why this collection is much broader. At the moment we have a business and sales orientated plan with Castor for the next two years: we really want to take the collection further to other stores and countries and also develop an accessory line within it.
Are there any Italian designer you particularly admire and what do you think about Italian fashion?
Giles Deacon: When I think about Italian fashion I think about the whole process, from designing to manufacturing which is really fantastic. Historically, I’m interested in all sorts of designers, from Simonetta to Capucci and I’m a huge fan of Donatella Versace and Miuccia Prada, I think they are incredible women. What really fascinates me about Italian fashion is the industry and the forward-thinking mentality they have. Italy’s quality and techniques are not based in the past, but are projected into the future. For instance, if you have an idea for something and you suggest it to someone but there isn’t a machine that can make it, they will actually make a machine able to produce what you had in mind and that’s extraordinary. I think this is the only country in the world that thinks and works like that and that’s why, from a designer’s perspective, it’s particularly interesting.
We then proceeded to have a look at a preview of the collection (that actually featured roughly 80% of the collection) with a cross-section including daywear and meeting pieces that looked rather interesting, especially the dresses and skirt suits with the giant paper clip motifs, the padded biker jackets and coats, skirts with padded hems, light dresses with prints of hardware and tools and dark brown tops with short sleeves covered in fish scale-like sequins.
I also loved the details such as the little eyes embroidered on the back of the garments, the round petal-like collars and small accessories such as grosgrain ribbons covered in paper clips and used as belts or little fur animals with metal spikes protruding from their heads.
The palette was mainly autumnal with dark and light browns and greys prevailing and pleasant splashes of coral red.
What struck me about the pieces was the execution: I have the nasty habit of checking little details such as hemlines, seams and stitching and they were simply flawless.
Tip for journalists/bloggers/fashionistas who want to go to a catwalk show in Italy: in some cases it’s probably easier to get an invitation to a catwalk show/fashion event if you are a terrorist from an extremist group than if you are a journalist. In fact I would suggest you to introduce yourself as the former rather than the latter avoiding in this way to try to explain who you are or why your editor’s email/fax/letter/reply/whatever to the press office didn’t arrive.
Tip for journalists/bloggers/fashionistas who want to go to a Pitti fashion event: in a town where scheming and assassinations were rife during the Renaissance, it wouldn’t be so bizarre wearing an explosive belt, in fact it may also help you to physically eliminate extremely violent characters from main fashion publications (read Vogue.com) who elbow other people and eventually try to get onto the event bus with no invitation card but simply shouting they must interview the designer in question (darling, join the queue...).
Stepping over the door of the Richard Ginori factory was a bit like being back in school and being taken on a visit to an industrial site.
The real surprise arrived when we were led to the main installation space through a corridor that had been created among the tables of the Richard Ginori workers and craftsmen.
Metal barriers separated the corridors from the tables on which quite beautiful porcelain pieces - elaborate vases, rather baroquish soup tureens and candle holders, Art Deco statues and dishes decorated with delicate images of fruit - had been left.
If you were a Richard Ginori/ceramics fan it was easy to imagine you had died and gone to heaven and, many of us stopped to take some pictures of the most elaborate pieces.
A local worker surveying the hordes of journalists explained me that some of the pieces on display were actually unique and that, often, during visits at the factory, people stop to take pictures of what superficially looks like the most interesting process in the elaboration of a ceramic piece, though actually is the simplest and most banal moment.
As we walked further we finally arrived at the main space of the factory where models were sitting on piles and slopes of broken dishes or standing on wooden crates.
Inside a grilled box a model put dishes on a conveyor belt that systematically destroyed them. The broken dishes ended up in a pile of broken ceramic debris out of which a pair of moulded legs stuck out.
In another section of the installation a group of models stood under a sort of mobile à la Alexander Calder made out of white plates and mugs.
During the collection preview we didn’t have the chance to see the evening wear so it was interesting to see Giles’ blown up paper clips applied to evening dresses or the pink corset like details on the back of a long fluid evening dress in grey decorated with a belt of paper clips.
Stephen Jones’ headdresses featuring monkey wrenches and oversized buttons looking like plates (Me: How does he manage to make those bizarre structure stand up on the head? Giles: By magic!) accessorised the outfits contributing to make them look even more extraordinary.
I would actually warmly suggest Giles to start a line of housewares with Richard Ginori as I'm pretty sure it would be fun and successful.