the NFContainer project

The New Fashion Container project is born as a reaction and an alternative to expensive and time-consuming fashion weeks, fashion fairs and fashion exhibitions. The containers are existing pavilions, rooms, or galleries where people can reflect, sit together, to think of a better world. The NFContainer project is a team project, a unique new approach for a global (fashion) platform that will connect people, ideas, inventions and innovations, stimulating local projects that can become global thanks to the digital.

The NFContainer project will connect all creative industries working in fashion in a less formal way. The platforms are more informal and open-minded, creating a realistic dream, creating spaces where we invent the future. Fashion is a fast-growing industry, but let’s slow down to study quality-based research on values lost in greedy consumption. We are living a digital way, connecting globally.

THE MANIFEST

Fashion must become a global healthy industry. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world; therefore, we have an enormous challenge to redesign, to rethink together with the different players to reset this industry. We have a dream to create a world with improved ethical behaviour regarding poverty and natural resources, a world that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Starting from using sustainable textiles, producing less but better, we can reduce the carbon emissions; we can reduce our traveling and reduce expenses of fashion events abroad; we can show fashion in all its different aspects to millions of people using digital technologies; those are only a few solutions the NFContainer project is proposing. 

This project does not talk about the past but about the NOW and the FUTURE respecting conservation, education and communication of fashion values related to creativity and commercial success. The NFContainer project is global and updated in real time; it is a manifest against old concepts of Biennales where budgets are too high and transport costs enormous. It is a new concept for failed Fashion Weeks, traumatic fairs and costly fashion exhibitions focused on extravagance making fashion superficial activity. This project wants to address the back and the front (stage) of fashion in a contemporary, performative way. 

[ Curating ]

EXHIBITION CONTAINER

TRANSCRIPT EXHIBITION CONTAINER

IN CONVERSATION DOBRILA DENEGRI & MARLO SAALMINK

ICEBREAKERS

Hello, Dobrila, hello Marlo,

Dobrila, you are an art curator, you are very interested in fashion and you manage to bring those two worlds together beautifully. You directed an Art museum in Poland and you also did a beautiful project “Transfashional”, that interprets fashion as a performance and as an interactive dialogue to an audience that might feel attracted to what fashion could be, (not only the boring fashion system that for the moment, we are hating and loving). Can you talk about your work of the past years, what you’re doing, what you are planning to do in the future?

DOBRILA DENEGRI 

I’m glad that you brought up “Transfashional”, because it was a project that engaged me for the last three or four years. And to be honest, when I started, I couldn’t imagine it was going to take so much and that it was going to grow so much as it did in the end. In the beginning it was like a leap into the void; I was leaving the museum that I was running and I was really eager to work without the framework of the big institution. I was trying to create some sort of “mobile” and “nomadic” platform, which would be made of a partnership between different educational and cultural institutions. I was lucky to work with the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, London College of Fashion as well as several other universities and museums in UK, Sweden, Italy, Poland and Austria. When I say that initially it was like a leap in the void, what I mean is that first of all, it was, in a sense, that I didn’t wanted to have a concept that was somehow pre-outlined. I wanted that “Transfashional” was a guiding line, as it’s a word that I invented, we could say it was an empty signifier or some kind of term that could become what we wanted it to become. So, the question was, how can we go beyond the notion of fashion in its more conventional terms? And therefore, I challenged artists, fashion designers, fashion practitioners, all these, let’s say “Transfashional” people to do something together and to make this term acquire a meaning. In the end, I think, we reached that point where it was possible to say that there is something that we could call a fashion-based art or a practice that produces a discourse about fashion rather than something purely functional, a production of ideas about the today and tomorrow of creative worlds, not fashion only. Creating a world on a large scale is something that was the outcome of this journey of three or four years.

LINDA LOPPA

And also, two beautiful catalogues.

DOBRILA DENEGRI

And two beautiful catalogues. Since the whole project was like a perpetual process of editing and re-editing through the format of an exhibition, it seemed important to document all these stages. We did it through the web platform https://transfashional.com as well as through the books. I was really keen to formalize everything in the form of the book and I’m happy that we had contributions from Hussein Chalayan to Lucy Orta, to José Teunissen to everybody actually who took part in this project, and most of all those who were part of the exhibitions. The second volume had a subtitle: Post/Inter/Disciplinary Lexicon and it functioned as an attempt to create a vocabulary of terms which can be used to define and describe all these liminal, experimental and “transfashional” practices. The exhibition was almost like a domino; what you left as the last mark in the previous exhibition would be the starting point for the next exhibition. So somehow it developed from one site to another, from one museum or a gallery to another to a kind of situation that not only presented artifacts, but created a community. I remember, in the last exhibition, when we were all together in Rimini, almost a year ago, that there was the common feeling that we managed to create a community, an “enlarged” family of likeminded people of artists slash designers slash researchers – I think it’s always difficult to frame them in one term – in the end, they told me we never believed that we will feel that we have a family, finally, that we have a place where we feel fitting, because usually they feel they do not fit in either category because they are not commercial enough or because they are not artistic enough, or for any other reason. Existing categories didn’t seem appropriate yet to embrace this type of research and this type of creative work. So, I think this was one of the outcomes that I learned from this project, that we need new categories, we need new languages, we need new terms. We really need to reassess because multidisciplinary and creativity just brought us way beyond respect of where institutions are; many are still somehow not catching up entirely what people in the creative field are doing.

LINDA LOPPA

I see Marlo saying yes, because he’s doing it in another way, bringing a community together thanks to a strong identity, a very specific eye and a very specific aesthetic and an open mindset to education, to magazines, to print, to galleries, to designers from different parts of the world. What I like in your website is the division in “analog, catalog and dialog”, and because I’m a very conceptual thinker, I would ask you to explain those three words.

MARLO SAALMINK 

Well, everything Dobrila is telling us is very relevant and very true, we need new categories. My whole idea of not being online and not having social media and not joining it is because we are born before this time; I remember a time when internet was not an obvious thing and phones were not an obvious thing, and still now my phones are secondary. So, for me, that analogue living makes a lot of sense. We’re based in the countryside now. This was a deliberate choice in a country that has no fashion history, none. Everything that they knew historically also was important from, you know, the Dutch traders, for instance, or even from the French empire, from Rococò. For me, editing REVS magazine, or writing for Fucking Young, or doing some slash things in magazines for a long time, you’re outside the inside all the time. And I like this very much. I think this is also, next to categories, a very important thing, that also in architecture, we can pick up the dialogue between in- and exterior, like a lot of artists do. I hope we can discuss some later, play with this idea, looking at identities which I don’t think can be created online. 

I think a lot of young people struggle with the expectation of self-curation constantly, imposed by others; a kind of expectation to join and to photograph and document themselves. I think we can be more critical on that, so, hence my analogue position on my website is very understated and has been so for years. I think that it’s important to understand the tools we have today. The whole physical part, the knowledge, the research, I think it’s got to beimportant too. So that’s the part I do, input to the projects, working with the artists, as a curator, is like the physical part. I like the books, I like the literature, I like to open up academic debates and not narrow them per se, and to allow all people from all walks of life to come in. 

Indeed, we need new categories. I think for the fashion system, this is also needed. For a long time, you have had an elite gathering in Paris in a certain way that has not opened up and opening up is not putting on-line fashion shows that everybody can watch, but having a dialogue with your customers and your consumers, with the curators, with the creators, and this dialogue has disappeared. It was there in the eighties and the nineties when magazines had more power and maybe more identity, in my opinion. But today it has faded very much to, you know, a culture of influencing, it became kind of flat. So, I like the analogue, I like the print. That’s why I do two print magazines. I think it’s important to maintain these. I think it’s important that we try to have dialogues in different settings and that we try to involve young people and give them the tools. We, in the studio, say to them, okay, don’t go online when they present a portfolio, don’t give me Instagram posts, but show me books, but we need to also give them the opportunity to show them where to look and how to look and understand that they don’t come from a past where entertainment was not TV. It was books for instance, or it was watching a film, really watching it, which I still do. So, this dialogue I think is very important; that’s why it’s very understated, I would say. 

LINDA LOPPA 

Let’s talk about the museum and the exhibition concept, that in my document, I describe as quite old and tired. What I was thinking, when I hear you speaking is that we should open up to other cultures, other cities, to other neighbourhoods. We are all three fascinated by doing exhibitions and that’s what I personally, love the most. But how can we find a new way to make it more interesting globally? Dobrila.

DOBRILA DENEGRI 

This is a big, big question. And to be honest I think, what you have started to outline through the first draft of the “New Fashion Container” project, is potentially one of the replies to this question. When you said, I replied with a big enthusiasm, it’s true, because what I recognized in this idea of what you call “anti-museum” is a kind of a rhizomatic structure, which can happen in a big urban centre, as much as it can happen in any other space or any other place, which has its life in that particular moment with that particular event and has its kind of echo in this zone that we are dwelling in and out of – the digital zone. 

But nevertheless, this has a kind of reciprocity; on one hand, things are happening and happening in real time, in real spaces with real people, with real audiences and are connected through the network of contacts, through the web was for me kind of interesting and I think for sure it is an important idea to try to bring it up more into life. 

What I liked about the structure you created with the NFContainer project, was that it was envisioning a type of format which would be polyphonic, agile, nomadic, fluctuating, decentralized and most of all human-size. So, there are many different containers, many different spaces, which might be physical or might be interpreted in other forms. And they coexist, they live in continuum and they are present on and offline. At the same time, it’s a model that is decentralized so you don’t have to have one single space and this is the space, the museum. I think this idea of decentralizing, the idea of fragmenting, the idea of introducing the nomadic and mobile way of doing things in different places, which somehow are connected through the digital realm and interchange the information about each other is very interesting. It looked like a dream, sure, but also it resonated with a sense of urgency to rebuild a tissue of our creative worlds starting with the feasible formats and direct human contacts. Taking, sharing, caring… Just doing…

For me, that’s one possible example of how it could be done. And honestly, again, I don’t think this is something that hasn’t been practiced. I think these ideas of the grassroot movement existed in various fields, in art and elsewhere, but it never became mainstream. Mainstream is remaining very much about models based on the power structures, big centres, a lot of money, harsh competition, verticality. So, envisioning the possible alternatives, as you did with NCF for me was very fresh and encouraging… optimistic I would dare to say. So, the question is, when are we going to change our mind? When are we going to look only to those institutions that are part of the mainstream? And when are we going to look to other places and find ourselves in these neighbourhoods, in these other, more, let’s say human-size events and endeavours?

MARLO SAALMINK 

I think, you know, when looking at fashion this past year, just in general, before we get to exhibitions, the big miss was a kind of societal comment or any digital reflection. I’ve seen very few fashion brands thinking or using this opportunity for a dialogue, for something new to – indeed – think about new targeted audience or anything else. 

And when I look back at artists that you can easily connect to fashion, like let’s say Bruce Nauman, for instance, who always said, “art should raise questions”, right? Where are fashion exhibitions that are raising questions, where are exhibitions explaining the craft of fashion to people who don’t know it, because don’t forget that fashion can be extremely intimidating for people. If you look at popular media, you look at films, big Hollywood productions Devil wears Prada, these kinds of films, they portray a perspective of fashion that is very one-sided, perhaps very elitist, very exclusive, but fashion is not that. It’s about actually enveloping, it’s about expression and it’s about going somewhere. 

And I remember an exhibition I saw last year in Holland at the Nieuwe Instituut which was about the hoodie; the hoodie sweater and they centralized, in a kind of young perspective the whole exhibition historically, but also thinking of subcultures and going back to the symbolism of this garment, that a lot of people wear for different reasons, right? And this was such a simple artistic premise without an over academic analysis of it. It was very clear to the public because it showed a lower threshold to coming into fashion and understanding it. And the same goes in Japan, where I’ve seen so many exhibitions dissecting the craft. I remember Yamamoto, talking about how we make a sleeve and how far you can go in the shape, the length, the proportions. This kind of elements, looking at subcultures and looking at why garments are worn a certain way, can be very relevant instead of just putting them on display, I would say.

LINDA LOPPA 

I feel that we must bring fashion to a higher level, especially culturally because it’s a hybrid culture, it’s a culture from different countries, different body cultures, different expressions of body culture. I think we need to have a new language, new parameters to express ourselves to see how fashion can evolve. We have to act and do something in smaller neighbourhoods, in smaller cities and bring other people together in a new language. What do you think Dobrila?

DOBRILA DENEGRI 

Yes, I definitely agree. We were just discussing recently this feeling that although de-colonization became a buzzword, and museums and other institutions are claiming that they are “decolonizing” themselves, we are still mostly confronted with West-centric perspectives, especially when it comes to big, blockbuster exhibitions, conceived as touring spectacles which should create fascination and awe among massive but also quite passive audiences… I really liked your idea about the need to invest something in highlighting local creative communities as a complementary project which goes along with big spectacular displays of exhibitions divulging Western histories. 

One question is this: how do we incorporate other types of visions? And on the other hand, I think, and I would really like to reinforce what Marlo was saying; what is really crucial is the dialogue. I think this is really what somehow is missing, especially in these big exhibitions, they are big monologues, really. Somehow you see that everything is a part of a very elaborate and sometimes really beautifully done outline that visually is compelling and of course works for a great amount of people who want to be amazed and want maybe just to go through this experience, which is in a certain way unreachable. If I think about Dior or Alexander McQueen, these big blockbuster exhibitions, they are extraordinary for what they are, but at a certain time also, I think now we are more starting to be aware that it’s not only about being a passive perceptor in the exhibition, but it’s about being active there. 

So, instead of biennials happening every two years, organizing events that happen over two years, every two weeks, every three weeks, every five weeks with the people, with the workshops, with the conferences, with the dialogues, with the examinations where audiences are together with artists, curators, participants, and so on, I think that’s a kind of interesting model or module which creates a kind of a disruption of this idea that there has to be a big event, a big thing where we are just numbers who pay tickets and the rest is, you know, just almost like what you have on the screen, something that you cannot really touch. So, I think it’s a little bit about resizing everything and bringing everything into a new dimension.

MARLO SAALMINK 

I completely agree, obviously. And I think what you say Dobrila about the perspective, it is, indeed, very Western, very often. I’m curating a show with Ugo Rondinone now, opening in January, and this is also a superstar artist, but you know, you’re bringing him to Norway and nobody knows him in this museum, nobody knows this man. But the dialogue with an audience is there, we strip everything away; there is no screen, nothing, just a small little pamphlet inside the room, except for the dialogue between you and the artworks, because I would like the audience to define it. 

I think it’s very interesting that you’re saying when you go to a big couture show in a museum space, for example, to the Met Gala, all these things that are maybe not culture, if I may say it very loudly, and maybe they’re not so cultured, but what is so interesting for me is that a new audience can discover fashion in different ways. I like to hear different opinions. I like to hear people who don’t necessarily have all the baggage to understand how a suit jacket is made. I like those people too. I would like them to tell me how they experience things, which is also what we’re doing with Ugo Rondinone. We all know him, the three of us, you know how famous this man is, but people don’t know him. There are four artworks that I curated that are very big. Let them go in and have an interaction with them on their own. I made the room with a door and this is new and people get very afraid. I can close this door and you’re in the gallery. I cannot lock it, that was one step too far for the Scandinavians. But the point is to be in the room with these works for a little moment, allow yourself to start a dialogue. 

And I think in fashion too, when you walk through these big exhibitions, it’s very hard because you’re not allowed to touch, there’s nothing to engage. Again, it’s a display. And I completely agree that it would be very beautiful to have a new voice – it doesn’t have to be a younger one – but people outside this industry to create new dialogues.

LINDA LOPPA

For the moment, in many cities, you have so many shops empty, what can we do with all those empty spaces? What can we do with the small shops in all the cities who unfortunately, have to close? Can’t we do small exhibitions? We put one piece in a window and we do a little cocktail drink. We have a little party, might be nice. I think we could write a little book out of that evening. We could write to each other and dream about that little garment that we saw in a window in via Maggio here in Florence. I think that’s what we feel today, I guess, after a very heavy year. I feel like we need more lightness.

MARLO SAALMINK 

Well, I think when it comes to retail, you have a lot of experience yourself. I remember we had a store in Bergen, in Norway for about four years, selling the typical Scandinavian brands from Margaret Howell to Our Legacy, etcetera. But the point was that the locality was very important, the neighbourhood. It is very important to know your clients. Many of my friends in Japan, both in Osaka or Tokyo, they know exactly the clients. When they acquire a beautiful dress for their shop, they know exactly what clients will come in and appreciate this craft. They know how to display and play with this in an artistic way. So that’s kind of a hybrid between garments’ interaction and showing the storytelling, which is often missing. This is very important. For the high street shops, as they are very aggressive, they are also suffering, luckily, but for them to reset their minds, that will take a longer time. So, I think we should be rebels. I agree. And start to engage a bit more in our own way.

I think it’s very important that we can be a bit more rebellious there. Because, I remember in Norway in my store, when people wanted to buy a jacket, a raincoat, handmade, you need to explain why it costs what it costs. It’s a very boring principle, but the story, the culture around brands is very important. The same with printed T-shirts, when we had Gosha Rubchinskiy in our store. The kids who came in knew exactly what it meant, what the culture around this skateboard brand was, it was the same with Supreme and it started all those years back. Now it’s just merchandise, but so what printed t-shirts can we show, what do we put on them? Why? These are very interesting questions. 

And I think also museums, it’s a missed opportunity sometimes to always go back to the same – as also Dobrila said – stellar names and say, okay, they provide again, obviously we’ve had masters, we miss couture. We miss the emotion, right? We miss the poetry very often. I do too. But there are new voices that I like that are conceptual. Very small brands. If you look at Los Angeles, most skateboard brands coming up here and there make very fun, interesting takes that are positive. So, I agree with positive. 

LINDA LOPPA 

Talking about masters, I was thinking this afternoon about Jan Hoet, he was our master, my master in curating museum spaces and curating archives and curating ideas. Jan Hoet was very strong in putting a painting upside down next to another painting on the floor. And you could see that in another context then suddenly you said, “Oh my God, I get it, I understand”. I know it’s (im)possible, but we have to be more radical. 

DOBRILA DENEGRI 

We have to. I surely agree. Paradoxically there are now more and more empty spaces, as you mentioned, while on the other side artists and other creatives are suffering from abstinence of showing their work and discussing it beyond the format of a computer screen and a Zoom talk. So actually, it’s all just there. And sometimes things can be more simple than they look like, if we want them to be simple. I mean, I’m not ‘68, I was born in ‘70, but my parents come from there and they always tell me everything was simple, we were just doing things. So, a couple of months ago we were laughing about the difficulty today to just do things. I think this is actually what it’s really missed. So, I totally agree. Let’s put something in whatever space we have free and start a conversation from there. Remembering Jan Hoet and his seminal Chambres d’amis show in Ghent is a great way to trigger ideas about exhibition projects which would be born out of a mix of risk and goodwill, and which would be capable of restoring a sense of pleasure in doing things with a major degree of spontaneity, simplicity and unpretentiousness. These, our conversations, are actually the first step! We are already stepping on this road!

LINDA LOPPA 

Yeah. Last word to Marlo.

MARLO SAALMINK 

The spontaneity is very important. I just finished reading John Giorno’s biography, the famous poet and he speaks very vividly. Of course, there’s a lot of sex in there. A lot of rawness. It’s about this artist in the sixties and the seventies, coming to New York, just doing things. Dial-A-Poem, fantastic concept. I think that also the playfulness in fashion, we lost it a little bit. It became kind of elitist, kind of still, maybe a bit cold. And when I read this book, I got so excited again, also with my own work and like, oh, we are applying these things because I do, I like to engage, but I like people to come together. And I think they are an inspiration, some of his words. But the same goes for Jenny Holzer when she made, you know, her manifesto and all the statements that have been used by so many art museums to kind of frame contemporary art – there’s so much truth in these, they’re free. But the idea of getting us thinking again from a rebellious mind with a statement, this is totally true and I’m ready. I think we’re already there.

LINDA LOPPA

Thank you both for being my guests and the guests of the “New Fashion Container” project. I hope we will be able to do something together in the near future. Send me your slogans and let’s make a small magazine! 

MARLO SAALMINK 

Let keep talking. We have to. Thank you for putting us together. It’s really a pleasure.

DOBRILA DENEGRI

Thank you indeed.

[ Uncategorized ]

the NFC: the Manifest

One day a ‘Container for Contemporary Fashion’ will open its doors; this container will not host an archive, it will not count its visitors, it will not program expensive exhibitions, it will not talk about the past.

[ MY HISTORY ]

CRITICAL CONTAINER

THE “NEW FASHION CONTAINER” PROJECT
THE “CRITICAL” CONTAINER – A ZOOM CONVERSATION JANUARY 14, 2021

LINDA LOPPA
Good morning, Anna, Good morning Angelo. I’m so happy to have you both here because you’re both writers and also in publishing. One of you is in fashion the other in architecture, but I feel that we have to discuss away from fashion weeks and away from fashion design weeks and talk about how life is now and how we are enjoying life and what is actually the main purpose of our lives today. So, we have to be critical and you, Angelo, are the critic of fashion. You have a pen that is full of spirit and critiques and therefore I want to start with you, Angelo. How are you feeling today and how is life without all those difficult and horrible fashion weeks?
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
I’ve been mumbling on about this all these months. For so long I was writing a lot about how unnecessary sometimes fashion travels seem to be for the system and for the whole ecosystem of fashion. Most of the time they were just a display of wealth by the fashion houses. I was just reflecting that exactly one year ago, I took my last intercontinental flight to Miami where I attended both the Miami design and the Dior Homme fashion shows. And at the time, I mean, December 2019, we didn’t have any idea of what was going to happen in just a couple of months. And it was like, okay, we are just traveling to the end of the world for another show. And in fact, I think that the whole system was a little bit redundant. It was just a display from the big groups of what big budgets they had. But for me as a writer and as a critic, however, I keep reflecting on how I greatly enjoy traveling because apart from the show that you’re attending, you’re coming into contact with other realities, with other ways to use clothing or to see fashion and to live in general. So, right now I’m missing my work done on the road in the sense that I miss witnessing something live because actually, as a fashion critic, I always say that it’s a bit like an art critic mixed with a theatre or cinema critic. You’re not just judging the manufacturing, the clothing, you’re judging basically the whole performance, the whole thing. And sometimes the narrative comes – nowadays more than in the past – from the package more than the clothing. So, I miss that part, but I know that when we will go back to normal, if there is something normal, it won’t be the same thing. Something will change. For the moment I’m very worried because what I see is that the big groups are getting bigger and more powerful than ever. And the whole thing that is happening is just putting the small brands into the corner. They are either super smart and come with some genius ideas with zero budget, or they’re just being swallowed up by the big brands. Tonight, after this conversation, I will “attend” the Chanel show as they’re broadcasting their Metiers d’art collection. And then there is Dior in a few days and Balenciaga on Sunday. I mean, the big groups are doing whatever they like whenever they like. Gucci did the TV programme two weeks ago. Which is fine, but if fashion weeks come to an end, I will be seriously worried. A fashion week is an ecosystem that supports the small through the big, because when we are in Paris for ten days, you attend Chanel, Vuitton and Balenciaga and whatever else, but you also see, in between, the smaller shows that sometimes are also the most interesting. If the whole ecosystem of a fashion week disintegrates into something like I do whatever I please, however I please, how will the smaller brands survive? How will the young up-and-coming designers have an opportunity to show to the fashion system at the peak moment of fashion? The other thing that I really miss is the interaction with my colleagues because fashion weeks are the General States of fashion: a global gathering moment. Basically, Linda, I started talking to you because I saw you at the Y/Project show or at Raf Simon show. Otherwise, it was always very formal. You just say hi, but then once you sit one next to the other and you just start chatting it’s very fluid and very democratic: all of a sudden hierarchies collapse. And you can talk with whoever you like and have an interesting conversation. I miss that a lot because basically now I am alone in front of the phone or the computer.
LINDA LOPPA
I see. Is that the same for you Anna? Do you miss also the architects around you, the performances, writing and making books, your editing, how do you feel today? Is it also a lonely feeling?
ANNA YUDINA
On one hand, it wasn’t a huge change for me as I’ve always been a dedicated remote worker. I definitely miss this possibility to just book a ticket and go somewhere to meet people or see an exhibition, but other than that, for me it was a good moment for – as banal as it sounds – introspection. A moment to focus on important things.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Was it natural for you to focus on the important things? I completely understand you, because I’ve been a dedicated remote worker all my life, too. As freelancers, we can work on weekdays, on weekends, we have no timing. Early morning, late night, whenever we want. But I found it a little bit hard sometimes to focus in these months because this kind of vacuum that was created all around me, in the beginning it seemed to help introspection, then at one point, introspection turned into anxiety. For me, at least.
ANNA YUDINA
I’m not there yet.

LINDA LOPPA
I’m not there yet either.

ANNA YUDINA
What was interesting is how the quality of time has changed. The pace of time seemed to be different this year. The inner and the outer sense of time feel like two parallel worlds. This by no means answers your question, but that’s what one starts thinking about [because of this prolonged period of introspection]. Then, before you notice, interviews, lectures and books about the nature of time start popping up. And, strangely enough, this begins to very much resonate with what I’m thinking about professionally as I continue building my course on cross-disciplinary thinking.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
I have to say that, Linda, my anxiety moment came mostly on a professional level because when this whole thing started, it seemed like it could shake the system from the foundations really hard. And then what I’ve seen over these months is that the big monsters – let’s call them that – are getting bigger and bigger, like a Goliath while the smaller are being beaten. At first, everybody was trying to feel super good and show that the fashion system was actually a system, a place where the big and the small come together. Now, everybody thinks of themselves and that’s it. Every brand is trying to eat as much as possible on the global plate and they don’t care about the rest. This makes me think a lot about how our sense of community is lacking at the moment.

ANNA YUDINA
And was there a sense of community before?
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
No, but there was a brief moment at the start of all this when I thought, okay, maybe this is going to evolve for the good. What I see now, what really shocks me is how much the big brands are showing off what they can do.

I was really shocked by how Gucci approached an idea that was, on paper, very interesting. A brand turns into a broadcasting company and produces not only the imagery, but the narratives that go with it, in film format, involving a cult director like Gus Van Sant. And in the end the outcome is a very silly kind of movie in which nothing happens. It’s basically an animated catalogue and it’s studded with stars like an art critic, a theatre actress and blah-blah-blah, but nothing sticks together. For me it was a waste of ideas and money. Another problem is that they don’t like to be criticized, and become very aggressive. Nobody likes to be criticized anymore. In fact, this is one of the reasons I’m really happy about this talk with Anna, because I think that over the years, the meaning of criticism in design or in fashion has been completely lost. If you write a critique, everybody thinks you’re just attacking. As critics we are not attacking a brand or a designer. We’re just showing what, in our opinion, does and does not work. It is an opinion, out of many: as simple as that. We are simply analysing a project from the weak and the strong points. Am I right?

LINDA LOPPA
I feel immediately back again in the system listening to you. Personally, I can afford to step out of the system because my life is different. Listening to you I suddenly feel as if I am back in January 2020 and it feels a bit strange.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
You’re right. Maybe it’s me that I’m stuck in there.
ANNA YUDINA
Maybe it’s just an idea of two parallel systems being created. Actually, one of them – the system that Angelo is talking about – has existed more or less forever and is probably not going anywhere anytime soon. On the other hand, there is an understanding that there’ll be no help from there, and so a parallel system should be built. The question is, what kind of tools we have and how it can be built.
LINDA LOPPA
I think there was always a parallel system because people were always working with hundreds of thousands of designers working together with artists, and they call themselves art directors, curators, creative director. There are, indeed, a lot of hybrid situations where people are very creative in the fashion field. I stepped out when I unpacked my luggage, on the 23rd of February, and decided not to go to Paris for the Fashion Week. I stepped out and now I feel much better. Lately I was running to shows, thinking, am I on the first row, the second row? Do I have an invitation? Am I going to the Balenciaga show there in the middle of nowhere? Now, I’m looking for new energies in different cities, in different communities, and I must say that I find them once in a while.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
I think that new energy can come from no money because I actually think that money sucks away most of the good vibes: as soon as it creeps in, it’s just a rush to make more money. Yesterday I got my copy of System Magazine and there is a long story on Mark Lebon, the photographer who created Crunch, a kind of collective. I’ve always been hyper fascinated by this kind of creative crossroads where people from different disciplines meet just to create things. Not to make money, not to conquer the world. I think that the system that is now collapsing is the idea that you should be at the helm of a fashion house to conquer the world and make all the money you can. That is so disgusting and old looking at the moment.
LINDA LOPPA
I agree, and they are waiting to buy up smaller brands because there is money there. Insanity is really high at this level and I think we should step out. We are today speaking about the critical container; I think we can speak critically about what’s going on today and help the other side of the neighbourhood – the people who are working here and there – by connecting with them. And so, I think we have a new message there, a kind of new responsibility.

ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Yes, absolutely.

LINDA LOPPA
Anna, is that the same in design and architecture, because I feel you are doing a lot of work with new architecture projects. Talk a bit about that.

ANNA YUDINA
I don’t even know where to start, because of course the systems, the structures are different. Architects are more independent on one hand and more dependent on the other. I think the important thing is that we’re now realising that the role of the architect can change and we are witnessing this gradual change. The way architects understand themselves within a larger ecosystem as someone who doesn’t just provide the design of a building, but creates the conditions for certain future situations to happen. And an architect is someone who positions themselves, by nature of their profession, at the intersection of different interests – those of the client, the community, the city, the users, the past, the future, the present … And it is your challenge as an architect to bring these interests together, to find these kinds of fields of connection between them, because sometimes those different groups don’t even understand each other. Because they really speak different languages, not in the linguistic sense, you know what I mean. Architects are in a position where they find these intersections and articulate them into not even a building, but a materialized situation that will be able to evolve in time, respond to the needs of the current users, but also to future changes. Maybe, this isn’t what’s happening for everyone in architecture, but it’s happening nevertheless. And some of the bigger architecture competitions, like C 40 Reinventing Cities for instance, are trying to look in this direction by bringing together multi-disciplinary teams that include all sorts of experts, communities, etc. And the architects, who are being the drivers of the project, try to not just understand the context themselves, but also bring together the different experts and other, different actors who will contribute to this context. Creating not just a building, but a condition, a situation – that, I think, is extremely interesting.
LINDA LOPPA
Could it be copied to the fashion industry?

ANNA YUDINA
Well Angelo, what do you think?
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Oh, that could be very interesting.
ANNA YUDINA
There could be a central “conceptor” [author of a concept], who on the one hand has their own creative ego, of course, but on the other hand thinks how the final result can be amplified with the various others. Looking in very different directions and listening to everyone in order to understand what they want and seeing how to connect this.

ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
But not exploit them, which is a very normal fashion attitude. Exploiting the other interlocutors. Actually, nobody believes that a creative industry is made just by one person: dialogues are important. Yet still, the narrative of the ego is central to fashion. And so, all the dialogues are somehow exploited in the name of the big ego. I think that if a shuttering of the ego happens, it could be a very interesting prospect for fashion. Also, Linda, I was very taken when you sent us the notes before this conversation, because you are right in comparing criticism to poetry, in a way.

LINDA LOPPA
Yes, I wanted to come to that.

ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
My point is that the system of fashion today is lacking a soul. Everything has become so focused on money-making and fame-making and selling, selling, selling as much as you can, there are just a few projects left that have a soul behind them. I find it interesting that you talked about poetry because criticism basically means to deconstruct an idea, look at it from every angle and explain that to the public. And you can do that with a poetic tone instead of a harsh or analytic or dry tone, which is honestly my goal as a writer. Things that really speak to me really create an emotion, and I want the reader to feel an emotion, too, be it for performance or a building or a piece of clothing. That is always my aim also because I think that another important aspect – and I don’t know if you agree with me – is that sometimes being a critic is a very hard position because if you are too harsh and too severe, you’re in danger of putting yourself too much on the stage. For me, it’s never about telling the reader: look how harsh I can be, how pointed my prose can be, how severe I can be. It’s about trying to find the best way to communicate to the reader or the spectator about things that can excite us.
ANNA YUDINA
I very much agree with you on many different levels. On the one hand, it’s always important to me, and I think for every critic, to [do more than] just show how shrewd, how intelligent they are. In a way, there is some intellectual showing off … but to really ask yourself – and that’s valid in any endeavour – for the sake of what am I doing that? What do I want to convey to the reader? For me, another crucially important thing in terms of time is that when someone spends time with what I have written or the show someone has created, they pay for this moment of attention with the most valuable currency they have in their life. They pay with their time, which is irrevocable. So, what are you giving them in return? After having read this article, what do they go away with? That’s so important. This should not necessarily be something incredibly philosophically profound, but this should be something that creates a certain change that was worth those 10 seconds or 15 minutes spent with it.

ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Absolutely. And what is your takeaway for your reader.
ANNA YUDINA
Well, maybe it can be some kind of new understanding. It can be surprise … wow, I didn’t think you can look at this in that way, from that perspective! Every new facet that you can uncover, thanks to what you are reading, every new kind of opening, every new connection – because, again, maybe I’m deviating too far, but that’s something extremely valuable about each person, [the fact] that we are a unique combination of different memories, different experiences, and the way they connect with each other. Which makes [each of] us unique in what we can give out to the world. You have, of course, first of all, to understand this about yourself and what you’re capable of doing towards the world in terms of this uniqueness, and then move on in this direction … I think I’ve deviated terribly from your question.

LINDA LOPPA
That was the click when I read a comment of yours Angelo, the click, means I agree with that. I feel connected with you or with a certain vision and mentality and attitude. So, keep on doing that because we need this kind of voice in the desert. I also think, that there is a new generation that doesn’t care anymore about those big brands. And they do it in their own way. They say, I have my little company. working on little things and I have a nice group of people around me.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Linda, the thing I like the most when I publish my stories is to get feedback from readers. Today, you can get feedback from whomever because someone contacts you on social media or in other ways. And there is always this feeling of connection with other people, but it never happens with people from within the brands. I mean, you’re attacking the system or showing the weak spots of the system and nothing happens, while I think that a good criticism could be a very interesting voice even within the brands to give some kind of direction and soul to what they do and not just be a financially driven enterprise.

I’m always surprised by how big brands only perceive criticism as an attack on their big ego, to their big, powerful presence in the system. It’s very rare that they take criticism as a way to leverage change or evolution. It happened to me many times because, as you know, I’m quite outspoken in my opinions. So, when you say something about a creative director, who’s not doing that well, I mean, they get upset. They don’t invite you to the next show and things like that. And then the next season they fire the creative director because it was not working. In the moment they could have had a conversation with you as a critic, they shut things down, and that is a pity.

ANNA YUDINA
I think it’s because having a conversation is a kind of art [that one has to master]. On one hand, you have a neurotic system that has too much power over the people who play this game. I mean, the system itself is not built in a way that will let fair criticism flourish, just because, well, I’m saying a banality, but if you are dependent on fashion advertisers and on being admitted or not admitted to a show, you will probably think twice about what you’ll be writing … for obvious reasons. This doesn’t help. And then, I think there’s too much fear behind it all, the fear of this kind of open conversation, [the pressure of] being constantly under this public radar, sometimes imaginary; the fear of being less than excellent. All of this doesn’t help. And then there is this art of “listening for understanding” – something which is a half-lost art, I think. I can’t shut up but have to say what I think about it. Projecting my idea of what your position is, rather than really listening to your position, [and saying to yourself], maybe he’s not attacking, maybe he’s trying to help.

LINDA LOPPA
Angelo can poetry change the world?
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Absolutely. I think so. The thing for me is that poetry can change the world. There is this misunderstanding that being poetic means being utterly sentimental, while I think poetry is more about making unexpected, even volatile connections, creating bridges between things by using language. Sometimes poetry can arouse feelings and maybe those feelings have nothing to do with the thing that poetry is talking about, but that feeling can bloom into something else. I believe, honestly, in abstraction and there is a lot of abstraction in poetry because – being sometimes very short and very sharp and very light – it doesn’t have an immediate connection with reality. And yet in those spaces and in those distances, some great things can arise. One of my dream goals as a writer is to write like super short, critical essays in the form of little poems: four or five lines just to give an illumination to the reader and maybe start something new from that.

LINDA LOPPA
I love the idea.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
In fact, I’m completely with Anna regarding the takeaway she would like her readers to have. For me, it’s the same. I would like the reader not to take away how sharp or how witty the criticism was, rather the idea that there can be another point of view, that you can look at things from down up instead, or from one side, or maybe read the whole thing just from the detail, not from the whole. It’s more a method than a content, I’d say: a way of looking at things. This is also the way I have been schooled throughout my academic career and then after, when I started working: what makes things different is how you look at things. We as writers have a point of view and a gaze onto things, and it’s important that this gaze changes and the gaze is what you give to the reader. And then the reader will have his or her own gaze onto things, but maybe you’re just suggesting a way to use it.
LINDA LOPPA
We need to dream again. We have to dream again. We can dream again.
Anna? Just a final word.

ANNA YUDINA
Going back to poetry, and also going back to the fact that you, Angelo, and I, are both people who have one native tongue and are writing professionally in another … Recently, I was really impressed by these words by a Russian … I think she’s a poet and a translator, and she answered the question of why sometimes you have this classic piece of poetry and its classic canonical translation of it into another language. Why then would other translators or other poets try to make other translations when this perfect translation already exists? Her argument was just incredible. She said that, no, no, no, this is not a translation. This is another version of the original. Because the poet, who is the first author, and all the translators – let’s speak about the good ones – they are trying to hear as clearly as possible the original and transmit this original. In this sense, this idea of putting your ego aside … I think it’s very important in poetry, because you actually are not “making” a poem. You are listening to it and you are transmitting it – trying to be as clear and transparent as you can.
ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
You’re just a vessel. You’re just a connector. I’m completely with you: putting this ego aside could be a very good step forward.

LINDA LOPPA
Let’s finish on that, I like it. I heard so many times the word connecting, and that’s what we have to do, to find a new language and step out of this kind of terrible moment that fashion design and big companies are creating. So good luck to you both and hoping that in the next Zoom we’ll speak poetry.

ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Absolutely. Thank you, Linda, thank you Anna.

ANNA YUDINA
It was a great moment. Thanks a lot.

[ Curating ]

ICEBREAKERS

NAM presents ICEBREAKERS, a series of conversations curated by Linda Loppa, one of the fashion world’s most influential figures, which connects speakers from all over the globe, from China to the USA, from India to Australia, from Europe to Japan. 11 containers, 11 topics, 11 pairs of speakers, bringing their innovation and expertise in their respective sectors of fashion, design, science, art, and literature. “The number 11 has a really important symbolic value, it represents the inner strength that can be found in all of us when we face moments of crisis”, explains Linda Loppa

ICEBREAKERS takes place within the frame of Living Room, a cultural space set up by Manifattura Tabacchi in 2019 to host conversations between figures from diverse sectors. In 2020, Living Room found new life as a digital format, evolving into a very real interdisciplinary programme, taking in cultural projects set up from scratch and following specific themes.

Every week, starting Thursday 14 January 2021, the public will get to experience of original and insightful dialogue, expertly guided by Linda Loppa, on the Manifattura Tabacchi website and Youtube channel, and on the NAM – Not a Museum IGTV. In a moment of crisis, where social, cultural, economic and political assets are being redefined, what role does cultural production have? This is one of many questions that will be central to the conversations, which the speakers will respond to by drawing on their own skills and experiences, demonstrating how communication and connections between seemingly distant worlds can serve to find innovative solutions.

Each container represents a conceptual space which will host a meeting of two minds, without placing limits on the ambition of their expression. ICEBREAKERS creates connections between people of different backgrounds and experiences, creating new digital spaces outside of the usual arenas and transforming them into places that can inspire new ideas and solutions.

ICEBREAKERS is part of the project The New Fashion Container, conceived and curated by Linda Loppa. As Linda herself explains; “The NFContainer came to life as a reaction and alternative to the excess of time and resources that render the global production system as unsustainable, starting with the example of fashion production. The ‘containers’ are pavilions, rooms, or galleries, where people can come together to imagine a better world. It is a collective effort, a unique approach for a global platform which can connect people, ideas, inventions and innovations, providing the stimulus where local projects can go global thanks to technology”.


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