Being the director of IED Roma Fashion School means to be on the lookout for trends to come, watching from a vantage position the developing of languages and sensibilities
Milan, Italy. February 22nd 2021
Fashion’s a complex world, with exits and few entrances. Since 1966 IED has been a gateway to the business, when Francesco Morelli founded an enterprise that extended its reach abroad, in Spain and Brazil. One of their latest projects is Amphibia, a series of six fashion films (Gola, Crawled Ashore, Out.Create, Petricore, The Abstract Problem and Venus) focused on the concept of water. In order to discuss the student’s creations, we reached out to Paola Pattacini, Rome IED Fashion School’s director with an over-twenty-years career collaborating with the MaxMara group and Gianfranco Ferrè, for a talk that touched fashion film’s present status, grassroot approaches to recycling and caveat for wannabe stylists. Amphibia’s genesis traces back to 2020: «The project was conceived for an edition of AltaRoma held last year in January, before the Covid-19 emergency. We started with an open call to all our students in Rome, Milan and Florence. The projects were judged by a scientific committee in order to select six of them, which were then assigned to teams composed by different creative personalities, from fashion design, styling or visual communication». The teams, each one supervised by professors, had to work in a professional environment. Handling the budget was part of the trial: «each team had a sum to realize their vision. Without a budget you can afford mistakes, while having a defined amount of money to work with forces you to ponder each step, searching all kinds of shortcuts to reach your goal within an economical frame. The students succeeded in making the best out of these conditions, and we’re proud to say that some of their products have been selected by several fashion films festivals around the world like Open Art Week, Fashion Film Festival Istanbul and Milano Fashion Film 2012».
Fashion film is an amphibious language, without an official definition nor enthusiasts among the academics. Held high by some festivals while being looked down from others, it lives confined in a limbo alongside its older cousin, the videoclip. When asked about its status, Pattacini proved herself a connoisseur with a precise vision: «Defining a fashion film is a complex task: It’s a volatile creation, conceived as something to be done and destroyed. Its value comes from its allure, merging fashion’s sensibility with video’s appeal. It doesn’t want to challenge cinema on its ground but it plays its own game, aiming to communicate simpler meanings in a faster way. Right now, it’s one of the most powerful registers available for the fashion industry and, in order to develop as a language, it must remain within its boundaries: fashion films made by great directors are sure beautiful, but somehow defective. The ideal fashion film must be produced by those who make fashion, by those who breathe fashion, by those who live fashion, not by those who see it from the outside». Working with movie directors poses conundrums about creativity and self-expression: «One of the problems with the directors’ approach to this kind of product is their tendency of monopolizing the set. The stylist is the figure who suffers this situation the most, seeing his vision overshadowed by someone else’s: if anything, it would be the stylist’s responsibility to choose a director fit for the project and to collaborate with him, not the opposite. Here at IED we want to shape professionals that can convey a message in two minutes, as this is the goal of a good fashion film. We have to teach stylists to handle this language in order to shape a brand’s imagination, and Amphibia is an exercise that substitutes the core item of choice with the idea of water. The product is another cornerstone of the fashion film’s identity: remove it and the creation’s meaning will crumble, the narration is there to empower and enrich it».
IED’s video projects also offer a starting point for considerations about grassroot practices, which are running rampant in the fashion scene. Reusing trashed clothes to create new pieces is a display of post-modern sensibility, animated by the need to create an identity that’s not imposed from above but built from below. Instead of shaping itself around the stimuli posed from mass produced entertainment like Hollywood’s ‘tent pole movies’, the self is ironed by its contact with the debris of modern culture, posing reinterpreted fragments of the past as its foundations. This approach is spreading to other creative disciplines: «We’re dealing with this grassroot theme in every language we teach. Put a vintage piece in the hands of a twenty-year-old and he’ll create something new, they see opportunities where older generations see wares. The process of building identities with the scraps of the past, reinventing both in the process, is the key for the future: the new generations of fashion initiates do not want to be identified in something, even if it is the vintage product, they buy in a flea market. They change the fabric, the sewing and the parts, until it resembles something they can cling to. Whether it is high fashion or sportswear, actively reinterpret older outfits, even if it’s only a shirt sleeve that comes out of a cashmere sweater».
One of the challenges posed by sustainability is tuning the logic of circularity to economy’s orchestra, since creating a sustainable line on top of an unstable model of investment is a Pyrrhic victory. Entrepreneurs are focusing on the creation of clothes from recycled materials, but none has succeeded in remixing fabrics. «This kind of trend is not going towards the industry. We are talking about niche products that existed in almost all fashion’s history, far from the contemporary market’s reach since it’s almost impossible to create mass produced collections of clothes from scraps». Even if this trend cannot result in a business, it can still be undertaken in daily life, suggesting the rise of a fashion presumes. End users purchase clothes and modify them outside the market’s logic. Pattacini is skeptical about the diffusion of such a stance, identifying it as a trend limited to a niche of creative individuals, while the average consumer will keep following the rules that ensured the market’s survival for the last century: «The creative approach to fashion burns bright in the lady who knits a sweater at home as well as in Pierre Cardin, but those are corner cases: the majority of young people will keep coveting a ready-to-buy product instead of one that requires creativity and customization. This kind of mindset taps into the basics of fashion as social behavior, as every mainstream trend’s core is the idea of selling something that can reassure the buyer, confirming his beliefs about the world rather than challenging them».
IED’s students who want to create fashion must master its empirical basics, since in today’s landscape having a practical knowledge of your craft can make a difference: «We feel that we have to train young people to survive, even outside the system of the big fashion house, giving them the skills to be entrepreneurs of their talent. They have to work and not distance themselves from action because, without having control of the techniques used to realize clothes, every discourse about circularity is barren. In a world that is going towards the atomization of work a true creative must also be a good pattern maker, knowing how not to waste fabric. It’s only after you have mastered the empirical basis of your craft that you can aim to interpret the zeitgeist, and the great flow of fashion is made by a mass of individuals awaiting a code that can represent them, be it imposed from above, shared horizontally or crafted from below. The rest is easy: when you manage to create something that works you have a buyer; to those who say the market is sinking for the financial crisis I ask to explain the youngsters who camped out in Rome two nights in a row in front of Primark to buy a model of Nike. The most important thing to transmit to who approaches our sector is culture, both practical and theoretical: creating fashion is not dressing up as a freak».IMAGE GALLERY
Amphibia is the title of the exhibition that the Istituto Europeo di Design presented at AltaRoma with the main theme of water, a critical resource for humanity and the planet. For the première on January 24th (former Guido Reni Barracks – Cinema Room) a technical jury was entrusted with the task of evaluating the short films – Crawled Ashore, Gola, Out.Create, Petricore, The Abstract Problem and Venus – selecting the best project made by multidisciplinary groups of students from the Milan, Rome andFlorence campuses.
IED Amphibia is a collection of suggestions on this primary resource of the ecosystem, which generates and influences human life, representing one of its primary drivers. Birth, transformation, evolution, adaptation to the environment. This is the beauty of water, which in its continuous movement is never the same.