Dear Shaded Viewers,
I met with Giovanni Bonotto and Cristiano Seganfreddo during Salone del Mobile to talk about the incredible duo they make. One is a textile company owner, the other a cultural maverick. Together they’ve ventured on a path of total design experimentation, giving birth to a collection of furniture under the name, Bonotto Editions. The collection is not constrained by season nor convention, as it catches your attention in its unexpected beauty mixing the marvellous print experimentation of Bonotto, and the all but ordinary vision of Seganfreddo. The Bonotto family is one of true fashion connoisseurs, holding unique expertise in the field of textiles. Their world renowned company is one that puts craftsmanship above all, beginning in 1912 as straw-hat production unit from which Ernest Hemingway famously ordered his straw hats for many years. Today, the company persists to work with old machinery from the 70s and 80s, achieving extraordinary results that could not be achieved with modern technology or digital printing techniques. Their manufacturing model, the 'slow factory', re-values the culture of the hand-made; it means producing less with the highest level of craftsmanship. The Bonottos brothers, Giovanni and Lorenzo work with their team of artisans to create fabrics for leading luxury designer labels, from Dries Van Noten to Saint Laurent Paris, DVF, Armani and Chanel. Seganfreddo is an expert curator of projects, events and exhibitions for major fashion and beauty brands, as well as being a contributor for the most important Italian publications, including Corriere della Sera. A renaissance man in its truest sense, Cristiano is the founder of cultural production platform, Agenzia del Contemporaneo, Director of revered Italian prize for innovation, Progetto Marzotto, and last but not least, he is the Vice President and Creative Director of Intertrade Group, the company that produces and distributes Diane Pernet's perfumes.
How did the project of Bonotto Editions come about?
GIOVANNI BONOTTO: My brother Lorenzo and I were always asking what we could do to expand our identity in other fields, and we brought this question to Cristiano Seganfreddo, our partner in crime on many projects. In response, he proposed the field design as a new area of experimentation for us. It’s a special thing because it’s quite unusual to see a textile company embrace a new path and produce something that still bears its own signature.
Where is it possible to find these pieces?
CRISTIANO SEGANFREDDO: Bonotto Editions aims to produce ‘small-scale archaeology of the future’ with products that are intended as samples of contemporary beauty to be experienced on a daily basis and handed down to future generations as if they were works of art. That’s why the distribution will be highly selective, such as in lifestyle department stores and art galleries. We are carefully working on it.
Why did you choose the two designers that developed the limited edition furniture and bags?
CS: The whole collection begins from the cloth, which is not normally seen as an instrument to make an object, so we needed to carefully choose designers that could be the right interpreters of our concept: timeless pieces that epitomize rarity, not only in terms of a limited edition production but in terms of cultural content. Matteo Cibic is a very versatile designer, working from food to fashion and art and design, so he knows very well how to mix the arts in unusual ways, while Cesare Fabbri has a unique vision on fashion, he doesn’t believe in trends and he is distant to common fashion hysteria. Together, they fully followed our brief to create something outside the box, with a little bit of poetry.
Which artists inspire you?
GB: Since I was a child, I lived with the masters of contemporary art, and they often looked after me as ‘special babysitters’ while my parents were at work in the factory. This allowed me to disarticulate my way of thinking and gave me 'fantasy glasses', so art has been in my veins ever since.. My father Luigi grew up in the avant-garde of the sixties and seventies. His friends included Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Yoko Ono, just to name a few. He became the Maecenas of the Fluxus movement and nowadays he is one of the biggest collectors in the world. We recently opened our archive of 10 000 Fluxus masterpieces with a special lecture by my dear friend Yoko Ono, who is for me a truely inspiring figure.
How is possible to combine design with glamour?
CS: Artisan masters have disappeared and replaced with managers. At Bonotto, the masters of texture, filature and dye, still also cover the strategic roles of the factory. In a way, that’s my dream as a Creative Director. I’ve been able to infuse this know-how with a fashion approach to design, devising this collection of archaeological pieces that remind us of the past (a certain 70’s decorative flair) and yet still innovate in concept. I like that people come around and ask ‘what is this object?’, instead of ‘Who’s the designer?’ That’s our little revolution; changing this perspective, rather than being suffocated by mainstream collaborations that are referred to as ‘design’ but don’t hold the contents of design, art or fashion at all.
Did you have any odd requests from one of your important clients?
GB: Once I received a very short brief from Mr. Armani, where he asked me to develop a textile print inspired by ‘China, 1920’. I believe that was a mood holding many interpretations, so I worked half way between what I thought could be artistically interesting to develop and what could be useful for the typical Armani style, marked by elegance and simplicity.
Which are the fashion designers that have influenced you over the years?
GB: Carol Christian Poell is not in the mainstream at all, but a totally daring and uncompromising Austrian designer. His contemporary style is famous for its quality of the couture finishings, and for the highly selective choice of fabrics. Poell’s designs include odd materials like human hair, body-plaster, and blood-dyed leather, and he defyies fashion industry standards, choosing to show only one collection a year. In a relatively short period of time, Poell has amassed a cult-like following of devotees who eagerly await the arrival of each avant-garde collection. Fabric always come first for him as for us.
Did you think about doing a clothing collection anytime soon?
CS: We are working on it, but again it must be something that will take your breath away or it won’t make sense.