Let’s get straight to the point: what do you think of this relatively new phenomenon that has made you the absolute streetstyle icon?
I think this it’s so cool. As I once told Scott [Schuman, The Sartorialist], “thanks for giving me another career”, after years as a fashion editor. It’s as if suddenly the cameras were turned and pointing towards me. Us lot were invisible; there was the model, the photographer and a whole team of people. When the camera turned to us it enabled us to start a new career. The styling work was the same, only done to myself. And so when the whole thing happened I was prepared, I knew what to do. The whole streetstyle thing these days is like a job, it’s all planned and thought up in advance; it’s not as though you just “happen” to run into one another. Outfits are prepared in advance… I just hope it doesn’t end up making it lose its spontaneity and make it become fake.
Does that mean you work on yourself like you’d work on a photoshoot?
I get ready like six months beforehand. I edit the clothes (about 90 outfits for each fashion week) I think of what would look good on camera. It’s good to change and be full of suprises, even while staying true to your style… A variation of style; it’s exactly like working as a fashion editor, you need to keep the surprises coming or it gets boring. We need “new blood”; same style, different looks. But overall it’s a lot more fun; if only because you do not have to wait for the model to get ready…
Dolce & Gabbana put bloggers on their front row, next to the likes of Anna Wintour. What are your thoughts on that?
I definitely think they did right and that they should have done it years before. The blogs have been around for a few years already, since 2005; I remember we were all wondering what the hell these “blogs” were back then. There were the pioneers such as Scott [Schuman, The Sartorialist] and then it really exploded.
You like the Internet, you like blogs… Do you also like Swide?
I find it interesting that Dolce & Gabbana was the first brand to understand the importance of blogs, not just as a display case but as a tool of mass communication, open to everyone.
You have your own blog, don’t you? (Read HERE!)
Yes, the staff at Vogue Japan have a blog, and mine… well I don’t do so much writing for it, a quote now and there. It reads more like an image archive, a library of outfits. I am still trying to decipher and understand exactly what the online language implies; that might be why I hadly ever update it!
We saw your onscreen debut in Fashion Academy; a reality format involving industry experts and young talents. Do you reckon fashion can be taught?
I found the project really exciting but only if done in a certain way; a more interactive, not so academic way of teaching. All these youngsters are very talented but they’re often lacking the background. They are full of energy and passion but often know nothing about photography or art, and it’s a pity! So I think it’s important to learn some of the basis. Young people want everything now, but that way you can easily “burn up” your career. A good background is like added value; if you’re learning on the stop you might become a good worker but never a good thinker.
Was fashion your childhood dream or a more pragmatic career choice?
Fashion was born way before me. From a very young age I understood fashion was my passion, I was obsessed; I wanted to grow up to own as many clothes as possible. I was attracted to my mother’s friends’ clothes, anything that sparkled etc. There was no other way for me than to work in fashion. There was nothing pragmatical about it at all, I actually had to change careers to end up working in fashion… It was just meant to be.
I like clothes not for their prices or other such aspects but for their evocative power, how much “dream” they carry with them.
Your most exciting fashion memory?
I must have been 12, and my father took me to Rome; back then I was obsessed with Fendi, everything Fendi, the logo etc. So in Rome I just to sleep in the same street as the boutique, and we got this room above the store. I remember he got me this bag, I was logo-obsessed back then, a true 80s fashion victim. So anyway we went for a walk around town and we stumbled upon this photoshoot, Japanese people shooting a Japanese model in haute couture, a rather unusual sight back then. That would be my first proper fashion memory, as there were no fashion moments in Bari where I am from.
How did you meet Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce?
Through work. I remember going to their showroom, and the first thing Stefano said was that I was really well-dressed (a Gaultier outfit typical of the 80s). I blushed, they were the first designers I got to meet, I was new in the business, they were like rockstars to me. Then we started working together on advertising campaigns, first Dolce & Gabbana, with Michel Comte, and then D&G with Paolo Leone. Back then we all chatted for hours on end, working at the weekends watching old shows on VHS etc… we were all in love with our jobs then! It then turned into a friendship, but always fuelled by our passion for fashion. They were the early years, it felt like our lives were all about our jobs. You are what you do. I was a fashion editor and I took it really seriously, I was forever researching… They were the eager first years, it was all about passion; as you grow up you lose out on the magic but that’s what growing up is about.
You wear Dolce & Gabbana quite often and you wear it really well. Do you feel close to the Dolce & Gabbana woman?
I’m from the South and so is their woman and so I understand the aesthetics really well. Also we worked together for years and our mutual tastes fed off each other, love of baroque, extravagance, colour…They took baroque and mystified it, transformed it… I’ll wear Dolce & Gabbana for the rest of my life. Long live the king!
Domenico and Stefano have worked with many photographers and so have you; does any name stand out?
Domenico, Stefano and I really loved Helmut Newton. I remember a particular shoot in Monte-Carlo with white tuxedos and lots of diamonds. Stefano stepped on set to bring me a diamond watch and Helmut went ballistic, he couldn’t tolerate any presence of set. He had a bit of a temper but was one of the best photographers. Other names would include Steven Meisel, Michel Comte, Mario Sorrenti, Steven Klein… Testino as well of course.
Do you believe in timeless pieces or do you think fashion should be seen as disposable?
I’m a collector but I collect incredible pieces only, no daywear! I really love garments with lots of imagination, lost of history; I try to imagine that if I died my clothing could go on to be shown in a museum, who wants to see a plain white shirt? So I think.. “Is that something people would want to see in the future?”… Something with a bit of flair.
What was the best style advice you ever received and who was it from?
That’s a bit of a strange question but I remember Franca [Sozzani] as one of the special encounters in my fashion life, she was the one to teach me everything about the job. There was Manuela Pavesi [photographer] as well, such a stylish woman!
Random people have been seen wearing Anna dello Russo t-shirts… Quite the achievement! What is your ultimate goal?
I just want to keep going as long as I don’t lose the spontaneity; you shouldn’t ever lose spontaneity. Of course the t-shirts are really flattering; they almost feel like a prize, an award for my career. But where it’ll all end uo? Not a clue.
You have made Vogue Nippon a must have; what are your next projects with Condé Nast?
I have been working on Vogue Jaoan for two and a half years now and am planning on working at it some more, it needs more time than that to really secure its place as a household name. I enjoy working with the Japanese as we have a very similar approach: I am a fashion scientist. I haven’t missed out on a single fashion week in twenty years and I watch every single show, relevant or not so relevant. I have this methodical, scientific approach and so do the Japanese so I would like to stay there for the time being.
Last question: your typical traditional house back home in Puglia…
I own this trullo [typical Pugliese stone house] which I use only in the summer. I have travelled the world and felt like going back to my roots now and then; obviously it’s not your usual trullo, it’s a little weird, quite bizarre. Only for the summer though, winters are largely spent in India where I study Chandra yoga… This very room [the one which contains baroque furniture and a shoe cabinet] is my yoga shala!
By Valentina Zannoni