“Teach me how to meow”
Andrea Renosto is a peculiar character. When you meet him you cannot help but feel that he would be perfectly at ease brushing the glittery mane of a unicorn. After graduating in fashion design from IUAV in 2013, he was, only a few months later, working as a consultant to several Italian brands.
His degree collection is, in his words, a self-portrait. The narrative dimension of the collection takes us through the diary of a turbulent teenager, whose many varied interests have no apparent connections with one another. The collection provides the fil rouge that helps us to read this diary and make sense of the hoard of sub-cultural references.
Fun, provocation and bad taste are the leading forces behind his inspiration and designs as Andrea examines Kitsch in two very different cultures, the American and the Japanese.
The result is an irreverent collection; made with improbable fabrics and full of clashing colours it recalls Sailor Moon and American Cheerleaders. Andrea submitted his work to the Jury of the prestigious H&M Award in 2014, and made it to semi-finals. A strong and precise artistic vision hides behind his carefree and cheerful appearance.
Deploying his storytelling talent, Andrea let us into his ‘room of memories,’ a world made of china cups, nice cats, candies and, of course, a true ‘passion for fashion.’
Andrea, can you describe your collection to us?
‘Venus: enséname a maullar’ (‘Venus: teach me how to meow’) examines 90s clichés of American and Japanese popular cultures. It makes reference to the characteristics of the stereotypical ‘American Blondie’ and Japanese kawaii aesthetic, showing how a dialogue is possible between these macrocosms.
My keywords are play, provocation and fun. Bad taste played a key role in the design of both the silhouettes and the details. Dutch Delft Ceramics inspired decorations and embroideries, which were then treated as tribal tattoos and early 2000’s video games graphics. Fabrics play on contrast: technical neoprene and nylon on one hand, crunchy wool and glowing silk on the other; all mixed with synthetic fur in pastel colours, sparkling mirrors and iridescent leathers.
If I had to turn my collection into a story, the beginning would probably sound like this:
Tokyo, 1995. The blonde 3D-videogames-warrior Sailor Venus is kidnapped and catapulted into Beverly Hills, side by side with her kitten Artemis. The heroin will have to make her way through the glossy college hallways of California, full of spoilt hairbrained cheerleaders bullying her. Which blonde-beauty will be the queen of the prom?
What has your collection got to do with you and your identity?
The collection tries to articulate who I am as a designer. My clothes make a statement about my identity. To a certain extent the inspiration has been my own personal background: my tastes, my passions, my personal story. The collection is a summary, a “Dear Diary” of an important chapter of my life full of nostalgic memories, favourite places, friendships, crushes, loves.
My clothes want to be fun, entertain and amaze. It is the same for the story they tell. I wanted to make clothes that get relate to who wears them. I want my clients to feel ridiculous, and yet at ease. The collection is the free expression of my identity, but without ever losing sight of marketability. My clothes just want to be pop (ular).
Is there anything you might change about your collection?
No. I always get to the point where I think I could have done something differently, like shorten the hem, enlarge the collar or extend the neck. After these small crises, I move away from the clothes for a while. After a while I find I love them more than before. In my room I have a rack on which I like to hang some of my creations, periodically taking some off and adding others. I like to look at my clothes, carefully consider all their details, features, and their finish. I like to see it as my private little showroom.
Is there an experience you felt has influenced you in the creation of this collection?
My project was born in Spain, in Barcelona’s Carrer D’Elisabets in one of those quintessential historic rooms. A balcony overlooking the street, high ceilings, stucco and boiseries, and a myriad of colourful tiles ordered as geometrical mosaic. Four months in a new city and a bedroom. It all started from there. It was a rebirth for me, to move to complete autonomy in a city so unknown to me. I became a new version of myself.
The bedroom was my lair, carefully furnished and customised. The room itself was a “me 2.0”; Bed sheets decorated with the motifs of Delft Blue pottery, vases, scented candles and biscuit tins in pastel colours. After four months I had to go back to Italy, but I could hear the call of Spain form a distance. The design of the collection began just after this journey, and for me it was natural to use this experience as a starting point.
How have you put your experience in your collection?
Even before the iconographic research, the collection developed around the idea of a project involving digital printing. This project then became the moodboard of the collection itself.
I ‘flattened’ my bedroom and transformed it into a print. The protagonist of the pattern is the Japanese ‘Lucky Cat’, Maneki Neko, a glittering ornament in golden tin, present on a bedside table in the centre of my Spanish room.
The Lucky Cat is surrounded by other elements, such as the Pokémon Starmie and the iconic red bow of Hello Kitty. The graphics of the Delft Blue pottery, whose motifs were printed on the sheets of the bed in the middle of the room, served as a filter for the prints. I scanned the sheets and then edited them, using their precise colours to digitally manipulate the cartoon elements I was obsessed with.
It is from that story that I developed a new one. Not a tale of intricate emotions and memories, just a simple fairy tale. A compelling story that keeps you glued to the television with a cup of milk and marshmallows in your hands.
Have you had other chances to show your collection, apart from the graduation show?
Aside from my graduation show, I was lucky enough to be selected for the semi-finals of the H&M Design Award 2014, where I presented my collection and told my story to the judges and the brand’s creative team. The H&M team was lovely and I was honoured to be among people with such talent and ambition. The Italian press were also interested in my work, and I got the chance to talk to some newspapers about my collection, and about myself too.
What have you been up to since graduation? And what about the future?
After my degree I returned to Barcelona where I had done an internship with Krizia Robustella and pursued consulting while doing freelance projects. Back in Italy, I worked as an assistant stylist for Diesel, and am now collaborating with Antonino Valenti. I’d like to find a job or an internship abroad and broaden my horizons.
If you weren’t working in fashion, what would you be doing?
I can’t see myself in any other occupation, if not in the fashion world. If I had to choose any other job, I’d probably sell ice-creams. Or maybe I’d be a pop star… a pop star singing about ice creams.
Is there something of your training that you remember in particular?
I remember my first six months in university fondly. Having come from studying humanities, which is all theory and no practice I could now occupy my time with what had previously been just a hobby. I remember my first day very well: the worktables were scattered all over the classroom, in groups of five. I was looking for a place to sit, and I felt like the new kid in a 90s American films. Luckily, no one said “you can’t sit with us,” and there were no catfights.
After two hours I had a needle and thread in my hand, sewing a series of slots onto a piece of cotton. They were so crooked, big and gritty. Sewing was not easy for me. Thankfully I did get better. Everything was so exciting! I would pay to go back and repeat all the nights spent sewing with friends at my parents’ house.