Danilo Venturi is a global consultant for fashion and luxury companies. He’s also teaching brand management, art directing, strategic marketing and innovation management at Polimoda (International Institute of Fashion Design and Maketing based in Florence, Italy). His strong background in underwear (he worked a lot with La Perla) and concept stores, coupled with passion for music and cinema, a taste for exploration of inner and outer territories, his research on the relationship between man and technology, show an interdisciplinary, creative and visionary approach to the fashion world. Danilo Venturi’s book,Luxury Hackers, was recently published in Italian, and we hope that soon will be available in English, too. I think the book is much more intriguing as it is written by a fashion insider, a real “practitioner”.
I’ve interviewed Mr.Venturi, in order to get a glimpse of his particular vision on contemporary fashion design:
With “Luxury Hackers” you have coined a new fashion term. The metaphor refers to a genuine creative passion. How does it challenge the world of luxury design?
I think that for too much time luxury has meant to update a heritage, the legacy of a name, the shapes of the past, which means commonly going forward looking back. Final outcome: lack of inventiveness, repetition and massification, dilution and saturation. The time has come for going back looking forward, which means, instead, finding the primitive sense of creativity and recontextualizing it in the current spirit of the time. It’s not about going back to the dead origins but to bring originality back in life. We don’t need re-edited fossils but to edit the archeology of the future, we have to think to new patterns but also to new patterns for thinking at them, we don’t need mass zombies but massless ghosts, not solid branded products but ideas, concepts and dreams becoming real and authentic, subjects more than objects.
Can you name any “luxury hacker” of our time?
Being a luxury hacker is not nominal, it’s an attitude made of competence, consciousness passion and critical sense. I think to some journalists like Suzy Menkes and Kathy Horyn, who are describing luxury without complaisance, just showing it for what it is in its ganglions and wondering how luxury could still break boundaries in a world without any. I think also to good researchers based in some fashion institutes. Then, I add the impertinence of some big names like Lagerfeld and Armani who are not mincing their words when necessary. I think to the many works of deconstruction and reconstruction by the avant-garde designers. Above all I think to the new generations of designers, global digital natives, having a new sense of time and space, and putting out primitive products with advanced meanings. Andrea Incontri’s bags are not made for bringing cumbers to a final destination, but for enjoying the waiting moments during the journey. It’s outer stationarity. Giulio Parigi’s design is redefining the cartography of luxury, it’s a trip mixing Afghan costumes and tartan fabrics, a journey taking place only in his mind. It’s inner mobility. It’s about minimal revolutions or maximal evolutions that make the difference, conceptually, practically and commercially.
You also have a strong subtitle: “dal fordismo al tomfordismo e oltre”- it’s an exciting pun! Is Tom Ford a landmark in your book? Is he an emblematic figure for some reason?
Yes, Tom Ford is a central figure for the contemporary luxury for different reasons. First, because he had the courage after the experience in a major brand to re-introduce himself with his own name and face, without logos, just connecting brain and hands, being the archetype of his own customer, like the fathers of luxury used to do. Second, because he escaped from the idea of linear production and distribution, from the industrial patterns of massive seriality, but also from the taboo of the “made in”, which in the global era is “sold in”, and for him “sold only in”, without compromising the quality. Third, because he introduced in the static world of luxury a certain dynamism typical of fashion, e.g. when he used metrosexual models wearing übersexual dresses, or when he understood before many others that in a world where avant-garde is becoming the new mainstream, being conservative in the dress code can be innovative. After that, the subtitle of the book is “From Fordism to Tomfordism and beyond”, because if for him luxury is the best money can buy, for somebody else it can be the best money can’t buy. So, beyond Tom Ford we open a world of possibilities to be seriously considered.
You proposed the “power of the aesthetics” instead of the “aesthetics of the power” in order to redefine the contemporary luxury. Do you think it’s too much branding and less creativity?
My considerations are based on a change in the spirit of the time. The same people attending fashion luxury are attending today also the mass merchandisers. They define their dress codes according their own taste, mixing and matching, making dichotomies such as precious and cheap, rich and poor, dressed and undressed, new and old, branded and unbranded, become syncretic. The metaphor of the pyramid has crashed with the political and commercial ideologies of the Berlin Wall and with the financial ones of Wall Street. Individuals are now “multividuals”, they can play with their costumes and roles, the pre-ordered total look is disappearing and the status based dressing system is leaving its space to style, to single style choices.
How do you see the migration of the luxury market to the East? Is this a sign of cultural decline, a crisis of the western values?
Yes it is. When a country is getting the economic power, sooner or later it will have also the economical one. It happened to Spain and Portugal when colonizing the New World, to England in the Nineteenth century, to the US in the Twentieth, now it’s China’s turn, we like it or not. What is to be regretted is we gave them all our know-how while going there for producing all the cheap objects filling our markets. Ok, now we sell them fashion luxury in abundance, but like every market in its evolution, they will become aware, then mature, then saturated. Before the last step, they will start to export, and like we had Japanese brands in the Eighties, we will have Chinese ones in the next decades, before simply as a new trend, then as a kind of cultural colonization. It’s going to be a faster process as we can imagine. It’s already visible from very simple signals, e.g. while Sushi is the new take away in our cities, Chinese restaurants are starting to go luxury, while our boutiques are empty, American ladies are taking flights to China and attend ateliers there, while our companies are failing, they are investing in Africa for developing a new territory of future consumption under their influence, while our middle class is disappearing, their middle class is increasing. On one side we need China to sell, on the other we are passing them our scepter. We all will die wearing a Chinese mask, I don’t know if for attracting or pushing the ghosts away.
What about the designer’s role? Do you think contemporary fashion is still made by designers, or are there other forces at work?
At the moment is not considered central but it has to be for the future. I mean, fashion without designers is not fashion. Design means to give a meaning. We can keep on making replicas for a while, but the day will come there won’t be anything more to be replicated. So, fashion is related to the figure of the designer historically, ideologically, conceptually, but also strategically, also referring to the previous question: we can survive only relying on creativity, not certainly working on quantities.
Do you believe in technological innovation, as a future fashion tool?
Fashion and technology have always been linked, the fact that we connect the idea of technology to the future time is coming by the fact that technology has always increased its potentials along time. And for a period, also fashion with it. Now, technology is still going on, while fashion has stopped. But pay attention, technological evolution doesn’t mean anything if there’s not a parallel evolution also in the values of the society, because every technological evolution applied to a product is changing its use and occasion of purchase, to also the identity of the final client, who is a human, at the end. Fashion and technology are similar, think to a computer, it has an hardware and a software, and think to a garment, it has the fabric and the meaning, the “hardwear” and the “softwear”. In fact, today we wear our iPods.
What about the niche design, the underground fashion, the anti-fashion, the unofficial textile experiments?
In fashion the ugliness of today has always been the beauty of tomorrow, the mainstream has always started as unaccepted, the amatorial has always brought new vital lymph to the corporate, the anti to the pro, the unofficial to the official. So, welcome.
Nowadays, we are witnessing the democratization of fashion: mass production, mass consumption, mass intelligence, mass creativity – too much talking & blogging about fashion. What do you think about it?
I go back to the representation of Kate Moss by Alexander McQueen, it was pure concept, spirit and emotion. That avatar was massless, but also mass-less, that means not for the masses. I think to Martin Margiela’s style, unfinished, so giving the sense of not being finished and because of this, escaping from the programmed obsolescence, being unfinished in the sense of infinite. The problem are not the bloggers, I welcome them, they raise the critical level, also with their mistakes and imprecisions, they push every system of production, fashion included, to be more active. Bloggers are not a mass, but many more single aware participative individuals. It’s not about democracy but about freedom. On the other side I see from some producers to the hypocrisy of selling products as “democratic”. Do you really think they care of the rights of the common people to wear fashion? Fashion is a personal choice, not a right. The “democratic” products are mass merchandising, the opposite of fashion. This is what I think.