Since the rise of streaming, music has been “liquid” because it is pervasive, universally accessible and quickly consumed. But perhaps it has always been. Few other artistic forms have the same ability to interact in such a harmonious and, indeed, fluid way with other creative disciplines, enhancing their expression.
While for some people music is a pleasant soundtrack, for others it is much more. It is the very source of their creativity. The latter is certainly the case of Marco De Vincenzo, 45 years old, of Sicilian origin, and since last year creative director of one of the great Italian fashion brands, Etro.
For De Vincenzo, inspiration starts and is then supported by a musical suggestion. Music is the fundamental ingredient of the character of a collection, as well as the success of a fashion show.
With the latest Milan Fashion Week, the creative director went even further, having a young emerging band, Santamarea (also Sicilian), create a song for the Etro runway. “Acqua Bagnami” provided the perfect sonic extension to the lines and colors of Etro’s “Nowhere” collection, presented on Sept. 20 in Milan.
After the effort of Fashion Week, Billboard Italy reached out to De Vincenzo to talk about the tight connection between music and style that defines his work.
You recently curated Spotify’s “Runway” playlist. What kind of music inspires your creative work?
I discovered many songs that make up my playlists on the radio. As soon as I hear something I like, I save it. Otherwise, I’ll rely on Spotify’s suggestions, doing a sort of scouting. My taste could be defined as “indie”, but I have playlists of various genres. There is no formula. I am a “headphones” person: I like listening to music to lose contact with the surrounding world. I prefer the two-way relationship with music.
You said, “Music is more than just a simple ingredient of the creative process: It is the foundation of it all.” Could you explain how?
When I start a collection, I’m open to any possibility. Music defines a state of mind and therefore leads me to make choices. Some collections were sad or joyful because of the moment I was going through and that the music supported. I’ve never made a collection that didn’t have important music behind it. When I choose the music for my fashion shows I never want to rely on DJs who don’t know my personal taste. I have always surrounded myself with friends who knew me, until the experience with Santamarea, which was the first time with an unreleased song created especially for the occasion.
As a brand, Etro has always been inspired by the idea of travel, by influences from the world and other cultures. The latest collection is also based on the concept of travelling, but with imagination. This is exactly what music stimulates, isn’t it?
That’s why it is an ingredient. If there is a perfect way to travel non-physically, it is by listening to music. The collection that we presented in Milan is called “Nowhere” for this reason, because the imagination takes you to places you don’t know. The more you let yourself go to this unknown flow, the more interesting the result is, because you haven’t put boundaries on it.
How important is the musical component for the success of a show like a runway?
It’s very important. When the music is not perfect, the show gets penalized. Music manages to connect all parts. The reason for the success of this collection is partly due to the atmosphere that the music created. This hasn’t always happened. Sometimes I regretted the choices I made because they weren’t consistent. These are mistakes I learned from. Thanks to live streaming, runways are no longer a show for the elite and, if the music is wrong, you tell the wrong story. Images and music become one and have the same importance.
Despite its cosmopolitan influences, Etro is one of the symbols of Italian style. Do you also want to convey an idea of Italianness in your work? From your point of view, how are Italian designers considered in the world today?
I always remember what a friend of mine used to tell me after my fashion shows: “You’re so Italian,” probably meaning our predilection for decorum, for maximalism. But that happened ten or fifteen years ago. Today, Italianness has more to do with craftsmanship, with the whole artisanal supply chain, which is a treasure to be protected. As for the taste, it’s all very mixed. I’m careful to look around a lot, not to make Italianness an excessive look at the past. Today, “Made in Italy” is nothing but a voice of global fashion. Luckily there are fashion weeks that are flourishing around the world in addition to the four big ones. They have local designers who produce abroad and have a strong point of view. Given that we bring a lot of our culture into our work, clearly if you are Italian you have an approach that cannot resemble that of someone who grew up in Camden Town in London. I was born in Sicily and moved to Rome at 18. My experience is entirely Italian, but I always keep an open door to look elsewhere. To answer the second question, I think that today Italian designers have some more difficulties than foreigners because Italy is a nation that relies heavily on the past. Young Italian designers find themselves a bit swallowed up by the big names. Today there’s a whole scene of talented young designers who deserve more space. The Italian industry should open up to new things.
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