Interview with Marlo Saalmink


Times have changed, albeit change is not always that apparent. In the creative world, the challenge often is to maintain a sense of relevance. Relevance in a time of over-consumption and social indirectness.It is a dictation of our sense of self. Perhaps we even more so need to understand who we are and how we can interact. Foster dialogues that open doors. Allow for conversations that may explode. A true-ness to what we do. Words are subject to context. Why don’t we shape the context. Our way, your way, any way, anyhow.

Books. Often they are a collage of ideas. Momenting the Momento, was such a document, a fashion tirade if you will. It landed in our atelier last summer, written by Danilo Venturi. In the light of the relevant upcoming IFFTI gathering at the POLIMODA Institute in Florence, I caught up with Danilo, a most brazen and elegantly bold thinker. In our conversation we spoke of nomads, zombies, Zeitgeist encroachers and so much more. Meet Danilo.

+ Momenting the Momento. In your book you speak of how we can facilitate change and whether this a condition for the advancement of our perception on fashion?

Fashion is about change, whether because of anxiety, rituality, conflict or the search for meaning. Without change there is no fashion, nonetheless changes start in society and the role of fashion is to embrace and represent them. Momenting the Memento tells that the society is made of humans and the real condition for “the advancement of our perception on fashion” is changing the human and placing emotions [moment] in the center of social life [memento], because actually today economic values and patterns are overwhelming and invasive, ruling our private lives, thoughts and feelings as well. We don’t need a change for itself, and not even “to facilitate” it because a real change has to be suffered, diffi[cult].


+ Sincerity. What makes a modern day nomad?

This is about allowing, for errors intended as creative mistakes. Embracing Chaos as vagrancy and displacement, an erotic, errotic and erratic energy, mist and halo of the im[possible] and [i’m]possible. What I am talking about is a process of morphing: getting through the object of one’s own research and being contaminated by it, both in the literal delirium, “breaking the territorial boundaries” and the metaphorical one, the dream of an anti-hero that in the terrestrial fall can also turn into a nightmare. Meet, m[eat] and meat. Fall in love in a stupid way [as intelligent people always do]. Loose control, contr[all] and ctrl ALL. Play your soundt[rack] random. K[ill] the Narcissus in you. Escape from the idENTITY built up in Facebook.

+ Commerce. You speak of Zombie brands and H&M-ization, what do you mean by this?

Fashion involves life and death, i.e. an erotic power gives life to a collection, the consumption of it provokes its death and from here the need for a new one. Unfortunately, today the dualism between life and death is not naturally solved and a plethora of sinister figures is haunting the fashion system: there are ghost-brands exploiting the death of the founder to sell trivial gadgets, zombie-brands re-editing a heritage over several decades without ever presenting nothing new, often lowering the quality of the originals. And lastly, vampire-brands that suck continuously small amounts of blood without the victims noticing, relying on fast and massive productions with a minimum aesthetic quotient. These figures like playing safe and smart but they are in fact undermining the foundations of the system on which they themselves rest.


+ Seduction. So perhaps it is time to eroticize intelligence, you say. Could you elaborate?

Today, eroticism is made of software, soft wear and soft war, the mind is the new body, intelligence the new sensuality, therefore school can be the most seductive place. Paradoxically, in such context, contents can be central again and words their aesthetic expression. To eroticize intelligence means, to quit the model of learning where teachers are master fathers. Secondly, we need to evaluate this system, where students and parents buy education by evaluating how many skills per hour are delivered. To eroticize intelligence means instead to embrace a model of learning where teachers and students together write their [text]styles and tailor their archi[texture]s. It is here, where writing is more important than reading, where new patterns are experimented as well as new ways to conceive them, where the unprecedented is fostered. The time has come for X and Y generations to make intelligence seminal, to paint it white and to leave traces on the wall. Compli[city].


+ Connection. IFFTI serves as a profound foundation fostering dialogue. What does it mean to you?

First of all, I am grateful to Linda [Loppa] for having taken my book as main theme for the conference. This event features 46 international fashion institutes, 37 nations, 6 themes (body, space, craft, calligraphy, imagery, dress), 26 installations, and 6 exceptional locations in the heart of Florence, Polimoda’s Villa Favard included. It is going to be a BRIDGE in the city where we have both Ponte Vecchio [the old] and Ponte Vespucci [the new], a direct connection between ancestors and next generations, a clash, a unique concentration of time and space, a moment to be remembered. A bridge can join memory and oblivion, life and death, goodness and badness, centrality and marginality, all possible dualisms and matches between ethics and aesthetics. I think the BRIDGE is a good metaphor for this upcoming debate.


+ Education. Polimoda vs Zeitgeist Encroachers. What is the role of a school, when educating aspiring new talents?

Talent is a very subjective notion, we can understand it as the validation by the current audience or, opposite, how much one is able to stand out and look different. None of the two provides an exhaustive explanation. I think a talented person is someone able to create something a bit before all the others perceive the need for it and to give everybody goose bumps, it is somebody providing answers to un-posed questions. This is valid both for a future Designer and a Brand Manager, whereas the first crates clothing models and the second, business models.  Therefore, the role of a school should be to give the keys for this to happen and not provide the readymade open doors. Our students are trained to have visions and lead opinions, to be the Zeitgeist, not to follow Encroachers’ keynotes.

+ Bravery. The power of fashion, always in turmoil. Could I ask you for some words on the concept of ‘’future-ology’’ within design?

The future doesn’t exist. We invent it by detecting elements of a supposed future already visible in the present, supporting them with documents and the rest is fantasy.  What really matters is what standing between the Arcadia [a perfect past] and the Utopia [a perfect future]. When we attend sales we just fight for the best of the rest, exactly like when members of the same tribe were trying to take the best piece from a hunted beast. On the contrary, when we massively escape from a cinema before the movie ended we just don’t want to be the last. We are primitives endowed with electronic devices. So not even progress exists. Fashion based on patterns was 2D, the current one is 3D, and i think the next will be 1D: pure spirit. Can we please just have a meaningful and emotional collection?!

+ Conditioning. Freedom of expression in fashion, nowadays seems more result driven as opposed to enabling rebellion. How do you see this?

Rebellion? When i read that Yamamoto collaborates with Hello Kitty i felt i just wanted to disappear forever. In the current society distinguishing mainstream and alternatives is very difficult, because there are no more subcultures that can be codified as such. Furthermore, centers of power do not make themselves easily visible and people, after having being judged on their “performance” all the day long, in the end just want to eat, fuck and sleep. I don’t believe in collective revolutions because these can only bring to new systems to be revolutionized. Rather, whether really feeling the urgency to rebel, consider that in such a scenario opposition to the authorized is not the unauthorized but the [author]ized, so at that point you should do what you do without compromises. This is the most effective rebellion.


+ Demonic. A last one: What ‘‘demons’’ do we need to face, in order to speak and create freely?

We have to give cannibal kisses and cry devil’s tears. We have to see monsters, un-fear and represent them. We have to connect the opposing kingdoms. We need to experience real feelings and so demons-t-rate first to ourselves we are really free, not asking for freedom to others. We have to ignore the audience for a while, to get rid of structures and over-structures, and to avoid giving in to the lure of tycoons [they do not care of us, they will just try to exploit us]. Remember that bombs, embargoes, some corporations, big banks, senior politicians and even some type of fashion have a common project that is to manipulate the masses in order to do of them what they want. Rather, we should think big and keep small, just finding our own language and express our authorship, be-coming what we are, whether lovers, warriors or heroes. There is no need for any strange demon but our own because the essence of the big and the small is the same. We are ONE.

For more on Danilo:


For more on IFFTI x POLIMODA:

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