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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 ]

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 ]

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