Along with the latest Milan Fashion Week, the ninth edition of Pitti Super, a fashion fair dedicated to women’s accessories and RTW (ready to wear) was also hosted in the vibrant Italian city. From the 25th to the 27th of February, the mall at Porta Nuova, Varesine played host to this renowned platform for scouting new talent, especially known for talent discovery since the establishment of the “Super Talents” category, in which the most interesting and prominent creatives on the global scene are discovered. The protagonists of the latest edition of the fair, selected in cooperation with Sara Maino of Vogue Italia and Vogue Talents, come from emergent developing nations like Thailand, China, and Portugal, but also include fashion scene mainstays such as Russia and the United Kingdom. As it was the opportunity of a lifetime, we just had to pay a visit to speak to these talents and discuss their vision for and thoughts on fashion culture, its diversity, and what offerings the world of fashion will have in store for tomorrow.
Alexander Arutyunov, Russia
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW/accessories? I was born in Georgia, but left there for Moscow in order to pursue my studies. After studying fashion design, I began work in the industry, and started the creation of my collection. This was around ten years ago. About five years ago I also started work on accessories as part of my collection.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? Some of my previous collections were inspired by culture, for example, the Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani, or Armenian cultural influences, but now I keep my collections simpler, sportier and without any particularly strong cultural references.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from the western European fashion culture? Our fashion culture is quite different. It’s not as stylish or as beautiful as the western European one, so I try to keep my collection different from typical Russian fashion.
How do you envision the future of RTW/accessories both specifically in your home country and in general? I’m hoping for some changes to occur in Russia, because as of right now we lack good materials. If I, for example, want to make glasses with particular shapes, or bags with beautiful handmade beads I have to go to another country to find materials. In addition, the quality of production is better outside of Russia. I hope, in the future, that this will change, and that in addition, we will be able to dress any way we want, mixing and matching styles even more frequently than we already do.
Inês Torcato, Portugal
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW? My journey into the realm of fashion design was rather short. After high school, I went to a university and majored in fine arts, but then quit, and only then considered studying fashion. After this I attended ESAD in Portugal, entering several contests during my studies, and winning a few of them. One of these competitions, in particular, gave me the chance of presenting a whole collection with many outfits and that’s how I got my start. Going with RTW was something that came naturally to me. I’ve always wanted to do RTW, for both women and men, and complement both lines well with accessories.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? My father is also a fashion designer, and even if I didn’t start in design until later in life, that was obviously an influence. I also personally try to marry a sharp and classy aesthetic with a more romantic, but melancholy feeling in my design, something characteristic of Portuguese culture.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from other European countries’ fashion culture? The fashion industry in Portugal is still quite young, and now we have a lot of people trying to get into the field competitively. There are different viewpoints and different visions about fashion even within Portuguese borders, let alone from the outside.
How do you envision the future of RTW both specifically in your home country and in general? I think Portugal is a lot more accepting of RTW, rather than simply an avant-garde demeanor by the general public after the crisis a couple of years ago. The market is growing again, but beyond this, I have no idea. I can’t really state any particularities, so only time can tell.
Caterina Bortolussi and Francesca Rosset – Kinabuti, Nigeria
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW? Francesca: Caterina always wanted to be a designer and create her own label, and eventually we found ourselves in Nigeria and decided to start an ethical nonprofit social enterprise under the name of Kinabuti Fashion Initiative with the aim of using fashion as a vehicle for the empowerment and development of communities around the country.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? Our work is like a bridge between west Africa and Italy. We use African prints and fabrics produced by the communities we helped develop, in combination with the Italian production know-how we have, resulting in an Afro-urban style, wearable anywhere.
How does the fashion culture of Nigeria differ from European fashion culture? It’s totally different. In Italy, the fashion industry is well organized at every level, from production to distribution, while in Nigeria it’s entirely dissimilar. It’s all at an artisanal level and the European way of production doesn’t work there, so we learned it was better to encourage already existing abilities and techniques. We helped by aiding them to start their own small businesses and they became our collaborators and suppliers.
How do you envision the future of RTW both specifically in Nigeria and in general? We hope that fashion will become more relevant for Nigeria and we already feel it is a bit more important here. For example, there are fashion shows, but it isn’t feasible as a major economic driver yet. The problem of high unemployment plagues Nigeria, and by itself the fashion sector really can’t create enough jobs to sustain the budding Nigerian industry. It’s our hope that, with our nonprofit venture, and our designs, that we can get the world to pay more attention to Africa, and that there will be more investment into its development.
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW? My background isn’t even in fashion design. I decided to create my own clothing because I couldn’t find anything I liked in my home country. I started doing this for myself, but later took my clothing line outside of Belarus to share it with people who would enjoy wearing it, as my countrymen didn’t care too much for my fashion.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? They really don’t. My creations have no real inspiration from or reference to my own country’s culture. The economic and political situation in Belarus are dismal and people don’t have time or money to put into buying clothes, or to think of style in general, though I’d love to change this situation.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from Western European countries’ fashion culture? There isn’t really a proper fashion culture in Belarus. There is a “Fashion Week” but it’s only a few days long because there aren’t many designers who can show their collections. There aren’t many showrooms either and the situation is difficult to change. Either you study in Europe and bring inspiration with you back to Belarus or the clothes will remain simple.
How do you envision the future of RTW both specifically in your home country and in general? I hope that in the future, there will be changes in my home country, and think that, in 20 years or so we will have new materials and new technologies and that style will change in a way that we can’t even imagine. Maybe we won’t even need clothing but will be using something quasi-material instead, like a spray-on or something?
Alan Buanne & Vanissa Antonious – Neous, UK
What is your background in fashion design? What made you choose accessories/shoes as your specialty? Vanissa: I am a fashion stylist and worked for Harper’s Bazaar in Australia and then in the UK, where I specialized in accessories as an editor. Alan and I met more than ten years ago in Sydney, as we are both from Australia. Alan: We were born and raised in Australia and moved to London later, where I started a career in footwear design. I worked with Nicholas Kirkwood for four years and then started to also work as a consultant. Later on, Vanissa and I thought it was a great time to start our own brand because we felt there was a gap in the market for handcrafted modern shoes with minimalist detailing for women to wear.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? Alan: It’s more of an attitude really, an approach to our work, as we hail from a country far from Europe, so there is this ambition in fashion, that is, you need to be prepared to work hard and learn in order to grow. A high level of curiosity is also very important when moving from Sydney to Europe, as everything is new and fascinating, and I believe our own inherent curiosity helped us out a lot.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from European fashion culture? Vanissa: It’s hard to generalize because there are many different attitudes in Australia. There are some people who are more relaxed, and others that love stilettos and I think that the attitudes in Europe are much the same way.
How do you envision the future of accessories/shoes both specifically in your home country and in general? Vanissa: I think there will be an outpouring of more brands and with that more variety; sneakers will be worn on one day and super high heels on the next. People will be taking more risks with their choices for accessories and their purchases will reflect their own unique individuality.
Percy Lau, China
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into accessories/sunglasses? When I was young, I thought I was going to either become a mathematician, a physicist, or a chemist. I studied science for many years, but then I discovered how much I loved art and design and made a decision to make those my area of study. I went to study at Central Saint Martins in London, where I focused on jewelry. During my last year at CCM I joined a competition called International Talent Support and won their YKK Award. After that I met several editors who suggested to me that I focus on a new idea for eyewear as my work with jewelry focused primarily on the eyes, and that’s how I started my brand.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? I grew up in Hong Kong and travelled a lot to and from mainland China, but I also lived in the UK and travelled around the world for the sake of promoting my brand, so I would have to say I’m rather multicultural and eclectic in a way that I want to convey with my eyewear. I wish to convey a different way of seeing the world, and feel I can do this through my eyewear.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from the European fashion culture? Hong Kong’s fashion culture is pretty commercialized and not very creative. I started my brand in the UK and know that European and Japanese customers like my product, but now we are trying to develop our brand more in cities like Shanghai and Beijing where there is a huge potential market.
How do you envision the future of accessories/sunglasses both specifically in your home country and in general? I really don’t know. Some people remark that my eyewear is very futuristic, so maybe I’ll be a part of that vision of the future. Who knows? We’ll see what happens when it happens.
Thakorn Wannawong – TAKARA WONG, Thailand
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW? I studied fashion design and graduated from the Bunka Fashion Academy in Thailand, as well as studying in Sydney. When I was in Sydney, I came across different subcultures which have had a great influence on my work. I decided to do RTW because I wanted people to start wearing less ordinary looking clothing.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? What influence me the most are some of the various subcultures, from skaters to punk, and I incorporate the aspects of these various subcultures into my designs.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from the European fashion culture? The culture in my country is very different. Fabrics are different; the way to sew and embroider is different. It is all very exotic.
How do you envision the future of RTW both specifically in your home country and in general? I think that in the future there will be fewer designers and that high fashion will transform itself into RTW.
Julia Seemann, Switzerland
What is your background in fashion design? What made you decide to go into RTW? I graduated with a degree in fashion design in 2014 from Basel and worked for a few designers, then I registered my profile on VFiles, the New York platform, and I was selected as one of the five winners to do a show during New York Fashion Week. At that time I wasn’t thinking about starting my own label, but after the show, Rihanna wore one of my outfits and some stores started to order my clothing so that’s when I decided to create my own label.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? I have different influences. On one hand, there are the different art movements like concrete art, like the work of Max Bill, but also Dadaism, and on the other hand, there are the different kinds of musical scenes like underground, new wave, gothic, dark, the early 80’s and 90’s music scene and even rave music from the 90’s and 2000’s. Workwear also is an important source of inspiration.
How does the fashion culture of your home country differ from the other European countries’ fashion culture? There are a lot of differences because in Switzerland the fashion scene is really small and there are only a few small brands. Furthermore, people are not very concerned about how they dress, and don’t care much about style. They lack a lot of individual expressiveness and are more conservative in their look.
How do you envision the future of RTW both specifically in your home country and in general? There are lots of changes going on in the fashion industry and I hope that more and more brands will feature collections that are more wearable and not just runway pieces.
Cover photo: cup studio