Lit­tle won­der

Marco Zanini thinks small at San­toni

Wallpaper - - March - San­toni Edited by Marco Zanini, san­ton­

‘The small­est things are al­ways the most pre­cious,’ says Marco Zanini. He is used to think­ing big, en­gi­neer­ing a string of suc­cess­ful brand re­launches, but in late 2016, Zanini down­sized to de­sign for ar­ti­sanal shoe­maker San­toni.

On a sun­less win­ter day, he ar­rives at Milan’s Casa degli Atel­lani – a Re­nais­sanceera city land­mark where Leonardo lived while paint­ing The Last Sup­per – and opens the door to the whim­si­cally deco apart­ment of the late ar­chi­tect Piero Por­taluppi, which served as the in­spi­ra­tion for Zanini’s new­est col­lec­tion. Por­taluppi was a key fig­ure of early 20th­cen­tury Milan, and his style be­came part of the city’s fab­ric in build­ings such as Palazzo Crespi, Villa Nec­chi and the Lib­erty-in­flu­enced ren­o­va­tion of Casa degli Atel­lani.

Zanini, a re­mark­ably tall man, passes through Por­taluppi’s foyer, a room fres­coed like an arboretum with fan palms, lau­rel, ivy and cac­tus, and takes a seat in the liv­ing room. ‘Small means pre­cise. Small means ag­ile,’ he con­tin­ues, bend­ing his knees sharply to perch on a petite ivory couch. ‘Small was the very idea that gave birth to this project.’

The Milan-born de­signer, for­merly cre­ative di­rec­tor of Hal­ston, Rochas and Schi­a­par­elli, and an alum­nus of Ver­sace and Dolce & Gab­bana, turned his back on Paris and New York for a home-town brand.

At San­toni, Zanini’s purview has been the in­tro­duc­tion of a care­fully con­sid­ered hand­ful of de­signs – the top tier of the com­pany’s footwear of­fer­ings, but also its first lines of men’s and women’s ap­parel, a pared-down cap­sule col­lec­tion of time­less wardrobe es­sen­tials he calls Edited.

‘The beauty of this project is its re­duced di­men­sions. Be­ing lim­ited in scale makes the work more dy­namic and au­ton­o­mous than at gi­ant cor­po­ra­tions,’ he says, rolling his eyes sky­ward at the thought of past frus­tra­tions. ‘Now I’m free of cer­tain dead­lines. And I’m not con­tend­ing with 500 cooks in the kitchen.’

‘Less is bet­ter,’ agrees An­gelo Flac­cavento, fash­ion jour­nal­ist and Zanini’s col­lab­o­ra­tor on the Edited project. ‘To­day we’re drown­ing in prod­ucts that are mostly point­less. This project is dif­fer­ent,’ he says.

At a time when de­sign­ers com­plain of the fash­ion in­dus­try’s cycli­cal stric­tures and a cease­less pres­sure to pro­duce, the lim­ited scale of the Edited col­lec­tion al­lows the pair time to con­tem­plate and ex­per­i­ment.

At San­toni, Zanini kicks off each col­lec­tion not with sketches but with a vis­ual and ver­bal con­cept, put to­gether with Flac­cavento, that be­comes a book when the cloth­ing col­lec­tion is com­plete. ‘Re­count­ing a col­lec­tion this way re­veals Marco’s ideas in de­sign­ing it, with his uni­verse of ref­er­ences con­densed into a jacket or a dress,’ says Flac­cavento. ‘I could never de­sign clothes,’ he con­tin­ues, ‘but it’s im­por­tant to have not just a vis­ual per­son but a ver­bal per­son. And to be a cu­ra­tor, or to be a jour­nal­ist, is the same mind­set be­cause the start­ing point is anal­y­sis.’

The lat­est out­ing of Edited has drawn on Por­taluppi’s home, and the book fea­tures im­ages of his kalei­do­scopic mar­ble col­lec­tion that still lines wood shelves in the liv­ing room (the 1,500 lit­tle mar­ble slabs, all cut to the same size, were as­sem­bled by a young ge­ol­o­gist in Rome in the mid-19th cen­tury, who trawled the city’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites).

Ar­chi­tec­ture lasts. Mar­ble lasts. To re­lay the story of the clothes with these im­ages is a re­jec­tion of to­day’s over-evanes­cent fash­ion world, Zanini ar­gues. The hard­bound vol­ume is filled with quasi-psy­che­delic close-ups of stones: the blood-red veins of a rosy mar­ble and the painterly am­ber rings of a fos­silised wood, in­ter­spersed with very oc­ca­sional coolly moody im­ages of the col­lec­tion.

It’s un­der­state­ment as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool, but then Zanini is mo­ti­vated by re­jec­tion as much as cre­ation, hav­ing traded glitzier op­por­tu­ni­ties for the chance to cre­ate ex­actly what he wants: ‘an edit of things that don’t change ev­ery six months, de­signed to ac­com­pany the wearer in the long term’, as he ex­plains. There are no ex­tra­ne­ous de­tails, no wild cards in this soft-spo­ken, cere­bral col­lec­tion; only finely wrought ba­sics ren­dered in his sig­na­ture sub­dued pal­ette. In an in­dus­try shack­led by fast-paced pro­duc­tion and al­most in­stant ir­rel­e­vance, it’s the brave de­signer who aban­dons the lime­light to cre­ate what can en­dure.

‘The beauty of this project is its re­duced di­men­sions. Be­ing lim­ited in scale makes the work more dy­namic and au­ton­o­mous’

Marco Zanini with jour­nal­ist and project cu­ra­tor an­gelo flac­cavento at piero por­taluppi’s home in Milan

Small mar­ble Slabs – trawled from rome’s key arche­o­log­i­cal Sites – line Por­taluppi’s milan apart­ment (left). the ar­chi­tect’s home in­spired the lat­est edi­tion of edited (be­low)

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