Pierpaolo Piccioli and Angelo Flaccavento

In early April, we sent the following request to a broad range of fashion designers.

Given the current situation, we would like System’s next issue to focus on long-form interviews led by designers – conversations recorded via video conferencing.

Now feels like a particularly relevant moment to focus on designers, as the industry looks to you to lead fashion towards the future, to capture the moment, and, perhaps above all, to enable us to dream.

What would you talk about? It’s not for us to dictate this, because we feel the project could have an inherent Warholian quality – anything that you say becomes valid when placed in the time-capsule context of this document of the moment.

Many wrote back, saying they’d like to use the opportunity to connect with a friend, a colleague, a confidant, a hero, or another designer.

We’re extremely grateful that they did. And the least we could do to return the gesture is give each their own System cover.

Photographs by Juergen Teller
Creative partner, Dovile Drizyte

What do we talk about? Pierpaolo Piccioli and Angelo Flaccavento - © System Magazine

In early April, we sent the following request to a broad range of fashion designers.

Given the current situation, we would like System’s next issue to focus on long-form interviews led by designers – conversations recorded via video conferencing.

Now feels like a particularly relevant moment to focus on designers, as the industry looks to you to lead fashion towards the future, to capture the moment, and, perhaps above all, to enable us to dream.

What would you talk about? It’s not for us to dictate this, because we feel the project could have an inherent Warholian quality – anything that you say becomes valid when placed in the time-capsule context of this document
of the moment.

Many wrote back, saying they’d like to use the opportunity to connect with a friend, a colleague, a confidant, a hero, or another designer.

We’re extremely grateful that they did. And the least we could do to return the gesture is give each their own System cover.

‘In times of doubt, uncertainty
and darkness, it is independent
thought that provides the keys
to new beginnings.’

Pierpaolo Piccioli and
Angelo Flaccavento in conversation,
10 April 2020.

Angelo Flaccavento: Where are you right now? How do you structure your days?

Pierpaolo Piccioli: I am at my house in Nettuno with my wife, Simona, and our three kids. These are really intense days, full of video calls. I’m keeping the work going: we are working on the collections on paper, the drawings for all the collections and menswear, couture and pre-collections. When I am not on video calls, I draw and paint. I have several work teams, and so I am active on many fronts with many collaborators. I realize, too, that at this moment a lot of people are orbiting around me, so I try to be as present as possible with everyone; I don’t want them to feel destabilized. I am aware of this responsibility: to be there, to be the centre, to try to be enthusiastic and give everyone a bit of energy.

Angelo: Do you find that you have to be a cross between a team coach and an emotional punchbag?

Pierpaolo: Certainly. You can’t ask people – and I never have – to do only clothing. I have always tried to share broader thoughts on how to approach the collections. So being together, sharing difficulties and physical closeness makes it easier to talk and give life to it all. Now it’s a little more difficult due to the distances involved, and these distances need to be filled, by force, with chats, and shared elements and images in order to express an array of sensations. It’s also about how we confront this moment, because I know that many members of the teams are very stressed. You might be working on jackets, bags or overcoats, and not having a vision of the bigger picture or where we are headed can be alienating. So by necessity, I am also an emotional punchbag for everyone because I want to tell everyone what is happening and get them involved. I have to say that, right now, I can feel the unity in the company. I feel that everyone is really present and has a desire to belong to something. I really feel that everyone has a sense of belonging and I like that a lot.

Angelo: Are there times at the moment when you lose your patience or get angry? I am asking this out of experience. Yesterday, I was watching television and I saw this ad with a guy and a girl eating a pizza together over a digital connection, and the ad’s slogan ‘Distant but close’ really pissed me off, because it’s just not the same. We are living this reality right now, and it’s just not the same.

Pierpaolo: No, there aren’t any angry moments within the workplace. Outside, there is the goody-goody thought going around that ‘we all needed this moment to reflect’; it’s not true. I didn’t feel this need to reflect. It was very clear to me where we were headed, and I have always tried to follow that path, even if at times it has been difficult because of the market or because the rest of the world said otherwise. The other day, in fact, I spoke about how I think that in the past two decades humanity – the artist, in particular – has become decentralized relative to marketing. In the art world, for example, gallery owners have become almost more central than the artists themselves. In music, producers are more central than musicians. In fashion, CEOs and marketing are more central than the designers. This does not work. It is a system that has no future, and today more than ever it is a reality that all of us have to confront. For me, I have never thought about changing the way I do things when the rules of the game change. I have always played the game this way, so, in that sense, ‘let’s all reflect and we’ll all be better people’ bothers me; I don’t believe it. I think those who are incapable of creating fashion will remain incapable of creating fashion; those who have placed marketing at the centre of their companies will not change. I do believe that it is the moment for a new humanism, though: we need to put humanity back in the centre of the value system. We’ve lost that, to a certain degree, haven’t we? Don’t we seem to be living in a kind of Middle Ages? Certainly, times are very different. Nowadays, we don’t talk about centuries, we talk about months. But it does seem like the dark period before the Renaissance, but before we get to the Renaissance, there is humanism. The Renaissance is the artistic production of humanism. It is its consequence. Humanism comes before everything: a return to certain values and the placement of humans at the centre. And, in reality, even a large company like ours has to be managed with a personal, genuine and authentic approach.

‘I saw this ad with a guy and a girl eating pizza over a digital connection. The slogan, ‘Distant but close’, pissed me off, because it’s just not the same.’

Angelo: Do you think that would be hard to achieve? How can humanity be placed back at the centre when the fashion machine has become so gigantic?

Pierpaolo: First, I think we need to put creativity at the centre. We need to talk once again about the unspoken rules that are already in place, because in order to change the game you need to demolish it from the inside. The storytelling and all that other bullshit have simply been packaging content that has been disappearing, which then makes their existence senseless. We need to return to content, which has to fit the way it is communicated. If they don’t correspond, it will be a problem. This is imperative. The public wants to be moved: everyone understands that there is no need to own yet another anonymous object. When you hear ‘distant but close’, it’s saying that people are fundamental. People are what’s missing. I don’t think that we will want another object that’s the same as the ones already in our wardrobes just because the price tag and logo are different. I think we will need objects that move us. I don’t know if this will really happen because the market is governed by certain rules, but it always has been and will continue to be so.

Angelo: How do you situate yourself in relation to change and being forced to change perspective? Is it something to be suffered or does it excite, stimulate and surprise you?

Pierpaolo: I have always found a change of perspective to be stimulating. Our company is not used to having as big a budget as some others. We are a big company, but not big enough to travel around the world with a thousand people for a show, so we are kind of used to working with smaller budgets and situations. Right now though, the situation has really changed. It’s no longer just a question of budget, so that aspect stimulates me; it’s interesting. At the moment, for example, it is clear that we will need to immediately approach things in a different way: the advertising campaigns, couture and the runway shows. After months of isolation and social distancing, it may be July or September before we return to runway shows with 1,000, 2,000 or 8,000 people all together in a room. We need to come up with other means and formats that are not just a surrogate of what was. I don’t like nostalgia; I like to conceive of things in a different way. A real change of perspective.

Angelo: I have noticed in your working process that the moment of thought coincides with the act of drawing. It is not a common approach among creative directors nowadays who, in general, hand down ideas that are then developed by others. Yours is a truly humanistic approach because it is tied to the classic working process of art: drawing as the basis for everything.

Pierpaolo: Drawing is the starting point for me – put something on paper and it stays there. Yes, it’s true that I’ve done that in moments of change in my personal life, too. Like for my first solo runway show as a creative director, when I started drawing with a pencil again because it’s an instrument that helps me think, reflect and be alone. It allows me to get to the bottom of things. That is to say, throwing off operational concerns in order to be able to think in a free manner, allowing thoughts to flow, feeling things through in a much more fluid way, without preconceptions or strategies. This is, in fact, the way I am confronting this moment; my haute-couture ideas, for example, come from there, from drawing differently, while thinking of diverse things and media. So yes, the drawing is always a bit of a new departure for everything, because it is a way of starting over again from within myself. It helps me to think, reflect, and be by myself. It’s like a personal stream of consciousness.

Angelo: Is drawing something you always do or is it characteristic of transitional moments?

Pierpaolo: I draw in any case; I always draw. But I draw with a particular passion in moments when I need to think on my own, above all, if an important change is happening. I have been thinking about this recently; finding myself alone in the position of creative director was in fact a moment of great change, and I started drawing to try to find the sense in it. In that moment, I probably had to understand what I wanted to keep as a basis for starting over. And it’s the same now, to some extent. It’s just that this change isn’t personal; it’s clearly more general, but I am living it a bit like a moment of great change and relaunching. It’s like being on a desert island and having to decide what I want to hang on to, don’t you think? I think this period could help to define identity, help to redefine the essence of things. Drawing in this quest is one of the things that helps me the most because I am able to clearly visualize what could be an image, a vision that should bring many other things along with it. It is a way of thinking.

‘It’s like being on a desert island, having to decide what you want to hang on to. This period could help to define identity, redefine the essence of things.’

Angelo: I imagine that going from the big studio in the Palazzo Mignanelli [Valentino headquarters in Rome] that you have all to yourself, to your home – a big house, certainly, but with your whole family there – has been a big change. Are you able to make time and space for yourself or is there some struggle involved?

Pierpaolo: No, not at all. I am able to find my spaces, because I am always outside in the garden. I stay outside where I have my little drawing table that I set up and take down every day. I have this kind of tray that I bring with me from place to place. So every time we eat outdoors we disassemble everything and put it somewhere else.

Angelo: Are you experiencing these moments as a kind of back-to-basics, focusing on the things that are truly important?

Pierpaolo: Absolutely. But those kind of life choices had already started. I can’t say that this is a departure; I had already set out along this path for other
reasons. Maybe because I am managing the same company in a different way or because the market changes, or perhaps because I don’t agree with certain market rules that don’t align with my way of thinking and for which I had already decided to change direction. If anything, this is a way of reaching a point where we can be sharper and more precise about certain ideas.

Angelo: Thinking about that idea of starting off again from the concept of uniformity, the collection you presented in March feels almost like it was a premonition of things to come. From the collections I saw this season, I found two to be prophetic: yours for its reset to a common clothing language, for both men and women, and Marni because there was that idea of escapism, like going to a rave in a crack in the pavement and coming out all glittery. I know this sounds silly, but you creative people have antennae that pick up on tiny particles. You couldn’t have known that this would happen, but all the same you were onto that line of thought. There was already something in you that was pushing in a new direction.

Pierpaolo: Without a doubt, I was already totally convinced that the only thing that mattered were emotions. I wanted to start by resetting the barriers of thoughts and forms that had become redundant. I wanted to take everything away in order to arrive at that reset: a new departure equal for everyone, and tied only to people; the diversity of individuals in their depth, not necessarily in their form. Every time I think about a collection I don’t think about the clothes I want to make, but rather what I want to tell. And I make clothing that best expresses the story I want to tell, that best manifests that idea within the limits of certain rules. After all, Le Blanc, the September collection, was to some extent the same thing in another form. The idea of using uniform to glorify diversity was already there: using a white shirt, a universal element, in order to talk about individuality. I think that I was more extreme in March. I sort of like that extremism. I think that at this moment you must be more extreme to be more incisive.

Angelo: Absolutely. Do you think that these times call for a new radicalism? I can’t wait until it all becomes more radical.

Pierpaolo: Me, too. I think that there is a need for a new radicalism, for taking precise stands and offering clear perspectives, unequivocal points of view. In times of great doubt, uncertainty and darkness, it is independent thought that creates change and provides the keys to new beginnings. There are no rules to this, and so intuition, ideas and creativity will surely count for more. When there are rules, some people are better at following them than others, so the rules end up making the system. When the rules are no longer valid, ideas and creativity take the lead. So, yes, I think that there will be new, radical ideas that will change reality. During humanism, the post-war era and the punk period, it wasn’t money that changed reality. Neorealism grew out of a desire and an urgency to say something, not from a production company that decided to invest in, I don’t know, young Italian directors. It was a hunger for expression, an urgency that should be the principal input of any art form. Independent thought will be worth more than uniform thought.

Angelo: Do you think it will be possible to maintain that sort of independence for a while? Even if you don’t envision a necessarily radiant future, which seems a rather silly prospect. That ‘let’s care about each other’ line is rather rhetorical.

‘I think there’ll be new, radical ideas that’ll change reality. During humanism, the post-war era and the punk period, it wasn’t money that changed reality.’

Pierpaolo: Exactly. Because, even if we try to imagine a radiant future, it’s obvious that the longer this situation drags on the more it will be difficult to recover economically. I feel a certain responsibility for a company with 5,000 employees resting on my shoulders; a lot of people depend upon my work. I do not live in my little world with my flowers and scented candles, not thinking about what will happen. I do think about it, and it’s important that, in this historic moment, I react, accepting my responsibilities, while being distracted by the weight of it. My work consists of both delivering a kind of dream, and having the ability to reflect on practical questions. Creating a kind of empathy with people will be fundamental, and so I don’t think it is a question of dreaming of radiant futures or of being a goody-goody, but rather a question of trying to impart lightness, of not being too weighed down by this historic moment. It is such a difficult moment.

Angelo: Does your interest in the individual make you a humanist? Humanism is a trait tied to our Italian culture. How would you talk about that today to someone who had not shared it from birth? And how can you apply such a thought, based on classical culture, to making fashion?

Pierpaolo: Humanism is talked about in relation to art workshops, and, in my mind, the haute-couture atelier is a kind of art workshop, a wholly Italian tradition in which the maestro teaches the assistant. They weren’t called teams, as such, but that’s what they were. At work I have a team, and there is a team in the atelier. These are art workshops, too; it’s just that in Italy, unfortunately, the tradition of these workshops has been lost. That’s why fashion has become the story of single designers, with scented candles and flowers, without a team, without people around. I have always respected everyone’s work and this is something that I think is evident, as a matter of practice, not rhetoric. I think that everyone’s work is fundamental to the process. That is a part of the art workshop that we have lost in Italy. The French appropriated this because, as we can see, the embroiderers in French maisons such as Lemarié or Lesage have themselves become companies. They are almost brands due to the emphasis they put on the art-workshop model. But the model is actually an Italian tradition and I want, as I have done and will continue to do, to restore our Italian art-workshop tradition in the collections and in fashion. It is a matter of culture, not just craft. I don’t like the idea of high fashion as merely, ‘How many hours? How much does it cost?’ If someone is good it can take them five minutes. It’s not a question of how much time it takes, but of talent, culture and know-how in rendering an idea. I’m not interested in technicalities. I have never been interested in the solely technical aspect of production. What concerns me is what comes out of it. Above all, I am interested in how the most complicated thing to create is often something that seems simple, as if it comes directly from the sketch. The whole process must hide the effort required to arrive at that kind of lightness. If it doesn’t, it is simply production and the representation of something technical. In my opinion, that’s not interesting. Fashion must be magical, meaning you aspire towards a dream in which you forget about the effort, the months of work, the cost, and enter into a moment in which you create empathy, and, through a piece of clothing, make contact with people. It becomes a kind of passport through which others are able to project themselves. Otherwise, it simply becomes virtuosity and know-how, and I am not interested in that. Infusing a company with the art-workshop culture in a society that, in theory, has a more digital logic is a whole other ball game. I believe that humanness is still felt, the human touch is still perceived when it is present.

Angelo: Do you think that the human touch will become ever more important, given how we have lost it in this digital distancing?

Pierpaolo: I think so. Very much so. It is what I think all of us will want more than anything.

Angelo: Humanism places individuals at the centre of every value system, and therefore calibrates everything based on their needs. How does this differ from unrestrained self-centredness?

Pierpaolo: Humanism is the opposite of self-centredness. It gives value to teamwork, not to dictators and big egos. I think ideas and creativity and the whole process of arriving at that outcome should be put at the centre. This moment in time is the total negation of the concept of ‘lifestyle’. For decades, ‘lifestyle’ has been the catchword to describe cool stuff. Lifestyle is just a group of people who have objects in common – cars, clothing, haircuts, everything – but community is the exact opposite. It is a group of people who share values, not objects. Today, humanism means creating community, sharing values and placing those values at the centre of the system. It doesn’t mean owning the same lamp or having a vacation home in the same place. It means being in different places on earth, like we are now, and united around ideas. I don’t believe that we really see one another on Instagram or on FaceTime to show each other how we all own the same lamp, because if you have it, fine, if you don’t, no problem. You come together if you have something to say, if you have shared values.

‘I feel responsibility for the 5,000 employees resting on my shoulders. I don’t live in my own world of scented candles, not thinking about what’ll happen.’

Angelo: You often associate humanism with punk. Whether they are in London, Melbourne or Busto Arsizio, punks all have an oppositional attitude towards the mainstream.

Pierpaolo: For me, punk means just that. It’s the first subculture to be born anarchically, isn’t it? I mean, as a result of independent thinking, and, in my opinion, independent thinkers are by necessity tied to the concept of humanism. Not identifying one’s self with tags or pigeonholes, and being beyond any constrictions is a way of being punk. Punk is the first movement to disregard gender. There isn’t a punk woman or a punk man; there’s just punk. That’s it. If you think of the mods, there were mods and modettes – there was always a gender distinction, but punk was the first movement to dispose of that idea of gender. I think it’s tied to the concept of humanism for its independence of thought – getting rid of gender and pigeonholes, throwing stuff off – because at the end of the day punk is not tied to lifestyle but to the idea of community. All subcultures are born like this. They are forms of culture that, in some way, are born outside of urban centres, right? Subcultures have always changed the decades that followed their inception, the successive fashion, art or other artistic forms that followed.

Angelo: Do you think that new subcultures will be born in this climate? It has been said for years that digital culture has nullified the possibility of new subcultures appearing because it has eliminated the distinction between mainstream and underground, and that everything is immediately pushed onto the scene.

Pierpaolo: I don’t know if new subcultures will be born. They certainly won’t be as easily decoded as punk, mods or other subcultures, because people nowadays are connected. After all, punk and all the pre-digital cultures needed aesthetic codes in order to be recognizable, but today you don’t need an aesthetic code to set yourself apart. The forms of recognition can be the photos you publish on social media or the kind of music you listen to. You don’t need to dress in black or put on spikes in order to say, ‘I’m like you.’ We recognize one another by other means, from what we have already chosen. That it will probably make it more difficult to decipher the communities that are formed and will be formed.

Angelo: Your work, Pierpaolo, even in its most radical expressions, such as in the latest runway show, always retains an almost palpable lightness as its defining, ineffable trait. In the past you’ve said, ‘Lightness is not simplicity nor is it simplistic.’ Does reaching the point of weightlessness call for a process that is, at times, much more complex?

Pierpaolo: I think of simplicity as an arrival point; it is never a point of departure. If you begin simply, you will never arrive. That is to say, you risk superficiality. Simplicity is when you are able to resolve great complexity in such a way that it is no longer felt, as if you arrived there from nothing, when in reality it emerges from a great depth of knowledge, which makes it the opposite of simplicity. This is how I am. You go on a quest for the essential, which doesn’t mean removing complexity, but rather resolving and accepting it. And so you get to the essence, made up of a balance of procedures, of personal and professional choices, that give you an identity.

Angelo: Is that an effort for you? Is it complex work?

Pierpaolo: I am, by nature, complex, [laughs] so it is inevitable for me. In order to make myself understood by others I need to resolve complexity and get to the essentials. I have always been like that, so resolving and unravelling are daily exercises. I work with others, with ateliers, trying to explain to them what I want to express, and not just tell them to make a centimetre more or less here or there, or how many flaps I want on a piece of clothing. I try to explain to them why it is important to share a final vision with everyone, because the more it is shared the more focused the final picture will be. By necessity, I have had to try to resolve the daily complexities in order to talk with others, because you have to decode yourself so that others can understand you.

‘Punk was the first movement to disregard gender. It’s not punk woman or punk man; it’s just punk. It’s not tied to lifestyle but to the idea of community.’

Angelo: Does this lightness also find expression outside of work?

Pierpaolo: By now, yes.

Angelo: Is that an accomplishment?

Pierpaolo: Yes, it is. Of course, like all accomplishments, it’s something that you can lose from one day to the next, as you well know, so you need to remember constantly how long it took to achieve, so you must stay the course.

Angelo: Absolutely. Reflecting on the conditions of dislocation that we’re living in today, I thought about the fact that we both come from provincialbackgrounds. You have this routine of commuting back and forth from Nettuno to Rome, and I am from an island. Rome, by now, structurally speaking, is almost on the outskirts of the fashion system. But at times the provincial point of view is more useful, because it is as if things are seen from a distance, so that you can more easily distinguish weaknesses and strengths.

Pierpaolo: It’s important to have both a very distanced perspective and a veryclose-up, internal point of view that takes in detail. My dislocation is, in fact, part of my history; I grew up here and everything was always far away. The world seemed unreachable and distant. I never thought I would arrive at having all this in my life, which is why today I don’t want to fall into the stereotype of someone who has always lived like this. I like this dislocation and I want to maintain it. When I was little, it allowed me to imagine things in a certain way without actually seeing them, and the gap between my imagination and reality was the space where I cultivated my creativity and formed my creative identity. That gap formed my way of thinking and today it allows me to be different from other people. It allows me to think in a different way and not get trapped in stereotypes. As a creative director, I like to be distant. Dislocation keeps things in movement. It offers me the chance to be more elastic.

Angelo: You’ve maintained an awareness of where you come from and what you have achieved, so there’s no sense of condescension or the kind of satisfaction that can lead to smugness.

Pierpaolo: I think that self-indulgence blocks growth. I am never satisfied, not totally, so the mistakes in the last collection are always the starting point for the next. When I think that a collection is perfect, I look for the error from which to begin again. And I always find it! [Laughs] I am convinced that my way of working is honest, direct, clear, and close to who I really am. I would never accept compromises just so that I can work. I didn’t do that when I was 20 or 30; that never interested me. We are fortunate to do this work. I am fortunate because I seized an opportunity, but I have always worked in a serious and honest way. I have always thought more about the work than what it could give me. I don’t want to play the dumb designer, but fundamentally I am not interested in the economic aspect of this work, and, in some way, that allows me to be free. I am not an art collector; I don’t have 10 paintings in my house, so I don’t need the 11th and be forced to have to do this job. Fundamentally, I could do this work somewhere else in the world, in another way, because I don’t feel tied to that economic aspect.

Angelo: Do you often look back at your past or do you always move forward?

Pierpaolo: I always move forward, but I always want to be aware of the steps I have already taken. I think that Nietzsche’s idea of oblivion, to be aware of the past while forgetting it when you need to confront the future, is my way of moving forward without being tied to and weighed down by the past. Your past does define you; that’s why I want to look at the past and know who I am and that I am not rootless. You don’t get far with rootlessness.

Angelo: In this period we all have more time to contemplate and that can be a little bit scary. Has this moment made you think about any particular aspect
of your journey, some junction that has defined you?

Pierpaolo: Yes, but I must also say that my approach is to confront that every day. But, yes, there have been junctions: my first solo collection, which I called Umanesimo Punk [Punk Humanism, Spring/Summer 2017], was a moment of extremely personal reflection. There have been others. I am using Instagram at the moment to collect the salient points of my journey. I didn’t choose to show the most beautiful clothes, but chose moments instead that have meant something to me, on a personal or professional level or both. Usually both. I have chosen moments not for reasons of nostalgia, of which I am not fond, but rather with the awareness that all of this is me, and it has contributed to create what I am now. And then I have my children, who push me into the future every day. At home, I have never been treated like a designer or a creative director.

‘I’m not treated like a designer at home. There’s a timetable for family meals; I could be talking to Queen Elizabeth, I still need to stick to the timetable.’

Angelo: Who are you at home?

Pierpaolo: Pierpaolo or Dad. That’s it. No fanfare, ermine cloaks, or anything like that. There is a timetable for our meals, and I could be talking to Queen Elizabeth, but that’s the timetable and I have to follow it. For them, what they do is as important as what I do: lessons, cooking and all the rest. Everyone has their own world and their own reality. And it is right that they do. If you live together, you must respect each other’s worlds, so that everyone has their own independence. In this protracted period of cohabitation you learn more about those worlds, which perhaps you had only observed superficially before. My children are from three different generations – they are aged 23, 20 and 13 – and it’s like being in contact with different worlds. It’s always been clear to me that I don’t wear a crown at home.

Angelo: I find this self-awareness as marvellous as it is rare in our system.

Pierpaolo: I think I am very self-confident, while often people who are looking for stereotypes and forms do that because they are very insecure in relation to what they do. Franca [Sozzani] always said that if someone worked in a very serious way, they had no need to take their role seriously. I don’t feel like the lone designer or the boss of everyone; I feel part of a team. The people who work with me are the coolest people around, otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen them, and I wouldn’t work with them. I only want good, strong people whose creativity is different from my own, and are not yes-people. I don’t only work with best; I also work with the youngest. I like to hear from everyone not because I am disenchanted, but because I am sure of myself.

Angelo: You know, Pierpaolo, whenever I read on the couch, I always cover myself with the blanket from that first collection in 2016 that has the ‘Love Blade’ motif created by Zandra Rhodes on it: the heart and the blade. I like that blanket a lot. It’s black with a red motif, and when I look at it, I think of you and of how much that pattern, not created by you but by another person, represents your work. There is the heart, which is universally recognized as a symbol of romanticism and sentimentalism, and the sword, which is stuck into the heart from above, and the heart is open. Despite being an almost violent piece of iconography – it could be a pierced heart from a horror film – it is extremely romantic. It is in this mess of beautiful contradictions delicately resolved that I rediscover the essence of your work. Do you identify with that?

Pierpaolo: I find myself totally represented in that pattern. That was my first solo collection and I took off again from my aesthetic roots: Piero della Francesca, that period from the end of the 15th century to the beginning of the 16th century, I wanted it to be a passage, a handing over of the baton. I thought of Bosch, who was a free thinker, because it’s truly difficult to define Bosch as a Renaissance painter. Bosch was a freethinker in the midst of a movement that was very different, and Zandra too is a romantic of punk. So the two were voices out of tune with the choir of the two movements that I consider to be fundamental: humanism and punk. So I asked Zandra to interpret Bosch and then pass the torch to me so I could make a collection with those elements that were, fundamentally, a part of my historical past. That’s how I feel; I am aware and also alert to that which is the past, my past, but not in a nostalgic way; the coldness of the blade together with the heart is what truly defines me.

Angelo: How do you live with time, in general? Do you feel its weight? Does it force you to move in cycles? Since I have known you I have never had the impression that you worry about being 40, 50 or 20 years old.

Pierpaolo: Deep down, I don’t worry too much about that stuff. I’m not interested in it. I don’t think about what happened 10 years ago. I prefer time as memory, in which the past, present and future are eliminated.

Angelo: My final question: if this conversation were to be sealed in a box for exactly a decade, what would you like the reader in 10 years to think about after reading this conversation?

Pierpaolo: I would like them to think that it had been written the day before they read it. If you believe in certain values, I think that you will equally believe in them today, in 10 years’ time, and 10 years ago. At the end of the day, it should all be the same. If something is too tied to a historical moment I think it is not deep enough and it doesn’t talk about you.

Taken from System No. 15.