The nostalgic story of a never-ending love
One of the most powerful features of fashion is its capacity to tell stories. The best creators of fashion are able storytellers, who capture and enchant people with their ability to communicate stories through their clothes.
Even if young, Michael Zanuttini has demonstrated his ability to handle this talent with certainty. His graduation collection, Saverio 1931 – named after his grandfather, retraces the story of the love between his grandparents; a love made of strength and misery, of struggle and everlasting desire.
The collection is a synthesis of his family memories. Materials differ for origin and status; colours are both inspired by the musky tones of the forest and the bright shades of kitchen towels. The silhouettes are all but simple, but they manage to keep a refined dignity, while not loosing their power to astonish.
Talking with Michael has been quite a moving experience: he does with words what he does in his collection; confirm his narrative talent does not stand only on clothes.
Michael, lets talk about your graduation collection
I had to work around a keyword: heritage. My thoughts went straight to my family, my roots and my past. The entire collection is focused on hunting, on what it meant to my family. ‘We hunted for hunger, once there was so much misery. I used to pray to God your grandfather would come home with something in the bag’, my grandmother always says. I collected all the photos of my great-grandfather, grandfather and father dressed up for the hunt, examining all the elements, and then I started sketching.
The fabrics seem to come out from an old grandmother’s closet: raw silk, organza, wool and cotton. The colours are those of the forest, dark greens and greys, paired with the feminine patterns of the aprons.
Are there life experiences that inspired your designs?
While designing, I focused on the most vivid memories, flavours and smells of my childhood. One experience stays clear in my mind, I’ll never forget it: Sundays spent with my dad hunting.
We got out early in the morning; he was walking ahead, with a gun on his shoulders, and me, some way back with my little bicycle. His dream was to teach me the art he had learned from his father, shortly before he died. I had very little interest in that ‘art’: I felt like Snow White, submerged by nature and animals, and in my story he played the part of the mean hunter.
He knew that he would return home nearly empty handed with me by his side. As soon as he cradled the rifle I started singing stealthily. I hated the smell that clung to him in those wet and grey days. It was a pungent smell I couldn’t bear: it meant death for me.
Strangely, the part that I enjoyed the most was when my grandmother cleaned and plucked the game. It was a kind of wicked exploring that intrigued me: even if I was scared, I remained there with eyes wide open.
I knew perfectly well I would never carry a rifle, as did my father. Although I have never embraced this tradition literally, I feel it in my own way. I decided to start from there to develop my very personal idea of fashion.
Have you though about commercialising the collection?
The collection does not have relevance to a market. It brings to life the pictures of my grandparents in the 60s: my grandmother with her housewife dresses, and my grandfather wearing the colours of the forest to go hunting. I superimposed the two figures to make a single silhouette, recreating the story of my grandmother. She is my muse. She was widowed at a very early age, with three children, and had to act both as father and mother. I can still feel my grandfather in her eyes and in her words. With this collection I wanted to tell the nostalgic story of a never-ending love: the one between my grandparents Gina and Saverio.
What do you consider the strength of the collection?
The strength of the collection is in the tension between the severity and frivolity. I wanted to play with neat volumes and stylised silhouettes of animals, quilted on the back of the garments, swinging as trophies. I was happy to see that people remained pleasantly surprised to see these figures on the garments: it was something both new and unexpected.
Is there something you would change?
Just one thing: the choice of fabrics. Or even better, I would manipulate the fabrics I used: make these precious natural fabrics more technical and strong, giving some edginess to the femininity of the garments.
Is there something that has helped you developing your designs?
One of the most significant parts of the process was my roommate. He is incredibly thin and petite: he perfectly embodied the body of my muse: it was like having a real mannequin at my fingertips! He was a real blessing; right after finishing an outfit, I could see my clothes on a real body, in movement, and correct the defects. In the last period I used to wake him up in the middle of the night, and force him to walk around in the house dressed up and with heels!
What is the part of the process you found most difficult?
The thing that slowed me most was the choice of colours and fabrics. I changed a thousand times before finding the right combination for every outfit. Even while sewing I used to do last minute modifications on the original palette. When you create the toiles, there are no colours to match, and the weight of the materials is more or less the same; the moment you sew the real garment, everything changes; sometimes it falls beautifully, and you are really satisfied. Other times it’s a catastrophe, but it’s part of the game.
Any advice for who is about to begin to study?
The only advice I would give is to be ready to get into the game, and accept to go out of their comfort zone. Go beyond what you know, curiosity will be your real training.
Have you found obstacles in your academic path?
I trained in fashion since high school. The teaching there was very ‘old school’, with a very narrow and shallow comprehension of a world so vast and multifaceted. Before entering University, I used to stay just on the surface, with my ephemeral vision of glitter and dream.Rubbing off those preconceptions was not simple: it’s a challenge I still carry every day.
The most rewarding thing of this struggle has been becoming aware of what I am doing, and above all why. Excess becomes then a mature choice, a tool you can use to amaze. Being conscious of the boundaries in design means growing up, even in small steps; and this is worth more than anything in the world.