An Interview With Marco Zanini

An interview with Marco Zanini of Zanini, November 2020

 “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever” - John Keats

I have to start by saying that it was love at first sight. I can easily count the very few times I’ve truly fallen in love with clothing. Zanini is among those moments when I felt that the clothes were made for me, not just to wear but more like a hidden dream come true. I felt that his designs would allow me to be more me, a better me.

We are thrilled to be able to share this beautiful vision with our customers at TIINA the STORE. The world needs more designers like Marco. A pure vision from the heart. - Tiina

What initially draws or strikes one with your collections are the silhouettes and garment’s profile – the shoulders, the waist, the sleeves. Where do the shapes originate from and how do they interact with the wearer?

What I do in my work originates mainly from my deep love for textiles: with the often generous proportions of my silhouettes developing – also from my wish to indulge with an abundance of beautiful fabric. How a fabric falls informs my designs, and how a fabric feels tickles my imagination, and possibly helps me offer the wearer a pleasant experience. The proximity of the fabric to one’s body is something that I always take into account when I design, and the very idea of luxury to me is closely linked to the feeling that a fabric can evoke. Speaking about the shapes I favor, of course there’s also my love for history and tradition that needs to be considered… Traditional men’s tailoring and certain silhouettes that I find quintessentially feminine are always a reference for me because I trust they inspire the comfort of a reassuring feeling of timelessness. I also think that certain volumes enhance one’s dignified posture.

All aspects of your work are exquisite – as noted by Grace Coddington “Designers like… Marco Zanini… always think about the inside of a garment.” How important are the fabrics, their fabrication and the garment’s fabrication in creating Zanini and your collections?

Ideas are important, but I believe they’re not enough: their execution is equally relevant and meaningful. As a designer, I appreciate the discipline and the expertise involved in the craft of making clothes. There’s beauty in accurate knowhow. I like things to be bien fait because I think that a garment poorly finished is sloppy, and to not learn how to recognize a good fabric from a mediocre one, is just lazy. I address what I do to a consumer that is aware of the difference and to someone whom, like me, seeks authenticity and longevity when she/he chooses what to purchase: to buy less but better is not only a highly cultivated habit, it is also a practice at the core of the discourse on sustainability, which makes this approach ever more modern and pivotal nowadays. As in life, the best feature of my profession lies in its never-ending learning process. It’s like an education, and the same should be said about the way we consume.

How does your previous experiences within fashion shape and have directed you in creating Zanini – your own collection a truly autonomous creative venture.

I had the great privilege of a terrific training in fashion: I started to work in the industry at a time substantially different from now (the good-old ‘90s), and along the way I learned first-hand the complexities of a very articulate profession from people who were, and still are leaders in their own field.

Along the way I also witnessed the accelerating pace of a system I inevitably started to question. Without hesitation I grabbed outstanding opportunities, and I had my fair share of highs and lows, until I became increasingly skeptical in regards to how the industry managed the balance between quantity and quality, dangerously lowering the second while increasing the first in order to reach impossible goals of staggering numbers in a market that, alas, in the meantime became over-saturated… At the same time I started to recognize the perils of certain changes of attitude towards my profession - and in general towards the role of creativity - in a system that regretfully started to consider designers as disposable goods, if not at times even scapegoats to someone else’s failures. All in all, utter chaos and general confusion seemed to represent the status quo of an industry in which I weirdly, sadly and suddenly didn’t feel comfortable anymore.

Since I’m not the person who likes to moan, I decided to actively do something more consistent to my passion and to my beliefs: I launched a line I could call my own. After all, to search one’s own voice is a natural instinct of the creative mind and an important step in the process of becoming an accomplished adult, no? I felt the time was right for me to sing out of a chorus that, quite frankly, sounded to me way less angelic than it initially did 20 years ago! I knew that to sing my own tune, with my own true timbre, I had to launch ZANINI independently.

Inspiration – where do your references come from, and how do they join together?

As anyone doing a creative job could tell, inspiration does come from literally anywhere. The idea of a color, of a line, of a detail can come from anywhere visual, and sometimes even from a purely abstract intuition.

The eyes of a creative person serve as a sponge: over time they capture zillions of images (moving or still) that personal taste help to store in an ideal tank of ideas, a sort of comprehensive hard drive of references that ultimately is the most powerful tool a designer can have.

Somebody might call it culture, somebody else awareness. I simply call it knowledge of what I like, and what I don’t.
While growing in one’s profession, this initially very broad database, turns more selective with time, and one’s creative individuality becomes more specific and more focused. In rare cases sometimes, even original.
How a creative mind joins apparently disparate references together with harmony is perhaps a mystery: imagination after all is utterly irrational. At the end, the importance of this apparent magic is that a group of like-minded people will find an appeal in the - more or less rarefied - resulting language. 

Your photographs and the books you make for each collection is a journey with and into the world of that collection. Tell us a little about these visual representations of your collection and vision. You take these photographs – how is Zanini structured in its scale that your vision and control is involved with all aspects – what does this as a creative enable and has done for Zanini.

My urge to produce a printed catalogue with each collection I make, comes from my perception of fashion as some sort of story-telling: from my personal point of view fashion is an articulated language that expresses itself through images.

Fashion gravitates around desire, no question about that. We identify with the ideal of certain pictures, with their essence (we want to belong to that group of people portrayed, we aspire to that aesthetic, we instinctively get certain cryptic references, don’t we?); other pictures repel us just as strongly and irrationally. Fashion is complex, utterly emotional and visual.

In this stage of my career I don’t feel the need to stage a fashion show to communicate or to sell my ideas (God forbid!), but still I understand the importance of a vehicle for those same ideas. I love to look at things, hence I like to take pictures. Without even thinking, I found myself in the surprising, unexpected role of photographer, choosing the model, styling the looks and taking the pictures of my own collections: nothing could be or feel as natural as that. It was and is about adding another layer to the story I love to tell.

My approach with ZANINI is far more intimate and personal than anything I ever did in the past: a printed book seems to me more coherent with the very soul of my current approach. After all a book is a labor of love, a valuable and tangible object that lasts. My clothes are meant to endure, like a good book, voilà.

The Zanini woman – is envisioned in your presentations, and a Zanini woman is seen in Tiina’s images on our website. Tell us more about the Zanini women who influence, you design for and wear Zanini – taking it into real/everyday life.

It is not easy to put certain visions into words, and it’s complicated (if not tricky) to define who your audience is. To cut a long story short, I would say that generally speaking I’m attracted to a thoughtful kind of beauty, and I’m always inspired by the intelligent woman: the kind of woman that through unpretentiousness, clever wit and serene self-consciousness manages to be elegant in every circumstance, formal or otherwise. I’m inspired by the type of woman (and, as a matter of fact, by any human being) that effortlessly do not conform to trite clichés, quietly and without theatricality, with intelligence. That attitude is irresistibly sexy too, to me. I hope to give to that woman (person) something to express her true self, perhaps with amusement and ease, in a subtle way that will allow people to notice her first, and only secondly what she’s wearing.

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