From Crotone, Calabria, to the rest of the world.
Gianluca Cantaro: Can you tell me how your career began and how you got to where you are today?
Andrea Adamo: After graduating in Scenography from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, I was immediately hired by Elisabetta Franchi and I worked there for four and a half years. It was a formative experience from both a personal and professional point of view. I joined when it was still very small and the dynamics were different, then it exploded. At one point, I was asked to move to Florence and make the leap into prêt-à-porter, the world of premium lines. The scale of work and the professionals at that level are completely different. Not that one context is more important than the other, but they have different ways of working and the style offices are more structured: You’ve got people focused on the fluid and lightweight materials, people who deal with leather or denim. In short, I moved into a much larger operation and it was there that I began to understand, assimilate and slowly elaborate a vision based around a super-feminine woman.
G.C: Did you move to Florence with Elisabetta Franchi?
A.A: No, that was with Roberto Cavalli. That was where I really grew and started my journey in the world of eveningwear and celebrities. I was surrounded by chiffon, fabrics and embroidery. Sometimes, I worked alongside the designer, who only created custom looks. From that point onwards, I was officially part of the showbiz world and I gained so much experience. Still today, with my own project, I engage with the world of pop stars, trying to get to know them better and to connect with their stylists. It is an essential work philosophy nowadays; music and fashion go hand in hand. They are the mirror to society.
G.C: And from there came the next big leap: Paris.
A.A: After these two years at Roberto Cavalli, I was contacted by Zuhair Murad, the Lebanese couturier. That was the experience that I was still missing. I flew to Paris as Head Designer of the prêt-à-porter office and haute couture consultant. I was traveling between France, Beirut and Italy to meet all the suppliers. My experience gradually grew and I developed increasingly specific and complementary skills: With Franchi, I experimented with technique; with Cavalli, I gained deeper knowledge and found my direction; and with Murad, I added the haute couture element, client relationships, constant travel, and celebrities. With everything I had built, I joined Dolce & Gabbana as Head Designer for eveningwear and special projects, so I began to dedicate my time to awards shows, custom garments, and all the special projects that go hand in hand with prêt-à-porter, such as secret shows. I worked independently in a separate atelier with my tailor, although as part of the style office.
I have had many moments in which I have felt fulfilled, but there have also been great disappointments, specifically because of this specialization in evening dresses. Unlike contemporary collections, red carpets don’t follow particular trends, they are timeless, and it was as though I was considered almost second-class. Some people thought I didn’t have vision. I felt lost, trapped in this golden, ladylike cage without a way out. Looking back at my experience at Dolce & Gabbana, being in close contact with the atelier and that extraordinary artistry taught me a lot from a technical point of view. At that point, however, the social earthquake of 2018 hit the company and I switched to haute couture because the celebrity department was no longer in operation. While I was doing a consultancy in Paris, the pandemic arrived and the job fell through, so I found myself back at home in Milan without a job. To aggravate the situation, nobody responded when I reached out with proposals. With the nest egg that I had put aside, I gave myself time to think and reflect and I wondered whether perhaps, after twelve years in fashion, the time had come to do something of my own.
G.C: Given your background, how did you arrive at the minimal style of your first collections?
A.A: In my opinion, a designer’s talent lies in knowing how to interpret the DNA of another brand in their own way while maintaining coherence. I will point out that there is a common thread: My women are always sensual and proud, never shy or insecure. They are very minimal, but still extremely feminine. Obviously, the Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Elisabetta Franchi, and Zuhair Murad women do not represent my pure vision, but there is a recognizable theme. I reflected extensively on myself and the energy that I have always put into my work and I decided to invest in my own project.
Let’s rewind a moment. One night, I was on the phone with a friend and I was crying because I couldn’t find a job after twelve years in the industry. Despite knowing everyone, I wasn’t getting a single response, let alone a job, and that was especially frustrating given that I had previously helped a lot of people out workwise. Zero, nothing happened. My friend said: “Why are you reacting like this? You have talent and potential, just throw yourself into a collection of t-shirts!” And I replied: “Do I look like the t-shirt type to you?” But the seed had been planted: I started thinking about what might be connected, but was as yet unexplored. I have friends and colleagues in the industry who design clothing and jewelry collections and there was no point in overlapping with anyone, so I thought: “Why can’t the t-shirt be a second skin?” I started to blend thoughts like second skin, Adam (my surname), Eve, nude, skin tones, a type of underwear that no one makes and that can be shown off, and all these different colliding thoughts came together in the first collection that evening. It’s hard to explain, it was like a bolt of lightning. From nothing to everything, with a sole obsession: I had to move forward with it immediately, otherwise, someone else would think of it. I was convinced that this was the right time.
G.C: And what was the definitive step towards founding your brand?
A.A: I wanted to use seamless technology, which was invented by Mr. Pompea, so I tried to get in touch with him and spoke to his son, who put me in contact with another company that does sculpting. At that point, I realized that dresses weren’t what I wanted. My clothes come out of a tube like socks. After much reflecting, I realized that a similar seamless process could be used on knitwear, so I left the underwear and the onesies behind and moved production to another supplier, to blend the two. The concept of leather was the driving force behind developing the collection, the skin tones of various ethnic groups fascinated me and I continue to engage with different populations and cultures by travelling and exploring the world. You cannot talk about anything without studying it and its roots in great depth: You never stop learning about a culture that is not your own. The weight of words is also very important, which is why, for example, I didn’t give names to the collection palette, but numerical codes. I am sensitive to the use of appropriate words thanks to friends from different cultures. Offensive words can often be used out of ignorance and the legacy of an antiquated lexicon. This led me to review the concept of my collection, because a project is successful when there is a serious message to go with the clothes.
G.C: Fashion is now a medium.
A.A: Some designers have started social revolutions: The power of women by Saint Laurent, Chanel liberated us from constraints with her use of jersey. There can be no future without the past. You have to know what came before us, be curious, and devour every aspect of society to be a good designer.
G.C: And, above all, to build a future with meaning.
A.A: With my focus on language and the absence of specific sizes, I try, in my small way, to be the spokesperson for this revolution, regardless of skin color. 247 Showroom also gave me a big push, telling me: “We believe in you, go ahead.” In addition, for my first collection, I only made twelve items, all available in every shade, so you were faced with this color block that was both very impactful and easy to buy. Unlike other emerging artists who invent a new idea every season, at the beginning, I kept doing the same thing with small changes, so my name was immediately associated with the nude effect.
G.C: And an Italian name, at that. You are Italian to the core – what does your country represent for you and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
A.A: I care a lot about my Italian spirit and I hope to represent not only my work, but the message associated with what I do. The titles of my press kits have always been in Italian and will remain that way, even on the English translations, because our language is so beautiful that I prefer to keep using it, even when it would be easier to choose foreign words. My site is deliberately dot it [andreaadamo.it, Ed.], I was categorical about that.
G.C: What are the pros and cons of Italy?
A.A: I would like to change how Italy is perceived; I would like to interpret our traditions with a current language. It is essential to observe the evolution of society; otherwise, we become obsolete.
G.C: Would you ever move elsewhere?
A.A: I have lived in Paris, but I couldn’t live anywhere but Milan, that’s just the way I am. It is a dynamic city and it has grown immensely over the years. Unfortunately, in comparison to other places I have lived in or visited, I think it is still fossilized in a bourgeois and bigoted mentality. People only approach you when you have a specific position in society or have proven yourself; otherwise, you are nobody. It is much easier to emerge abroad and the scale is far more international. Nonetheless, I want to stay here for now.
G.C: Let’s go back to knitwear. You have moved into a very challenging sector, what in particular intrigued you?
A.A: I had never used it, so it was an experiment for me. Having always used flowing fabrics such as lace, georgette and crepe, for example, knitwear was a challenge for me because I treated it like a fabric, which others don’t.
G.C: How would you define your fashion?
A.A: Minimal, feminine and layered.
G.C: And, in general, what do you think of the fashion world?
A.A: Fashion is far more attuned to society now and, despite the levels of hypocrisy, the new generations are pushing to change the existing mechanisms. I am referring to the whole system in general, I can see a different approach and profound change on the horizon.
G.C: Today, companies communicate as though they were another form of media, which has both positive and negative aspects. How do you talk about yourself and your collections?
A.A: It is important to create a community, to bring people who speak the same language together around a project. It’s no longer one-way communication, but a group approach: Even in some interviews I’ve done, I’ve really wanted people who were in tune with me and my approach to fashion.
G.C: You anticipated a question I wanted to ask about communities. Do you think we would be stronger if we all joined together around a single vision?
A.A: Yes, and I’ll give you an example that involves me personally. It might seem trivial, but when Elodie praised Raffaella Carrà, she could have chosen any designer and instead she wanted me. This union between two artists and young talents, a singer and a designer, along with the contribution of Ramona Tabita [fashion director at stxdyoz, Ed.], created an explosive mix and was an immediate success. Paying homage to an icon like Carrà, who was pure avant-garde both in terms of language and message, was a winning move. I personally put her up there as the Italian Madonna: She was a gay icon that started a revolution, she broke the mold, and she went international when it wasn’t nearly as simple to make a name for yourself beyond your country’s borders as it is today. This kind of teamwork between young Italian creatives also worked when I collaborated with Blanco and Dua Lipa. We can go far if we put our faith in the team.
G.C: This progress is partly thanks to digitalization, which has, in turn, created cultural movements.
A.A: Of course. All my external collaborators approached the brand through Instagram. Taking a break from social media means being out of touch, whether you like it or not. I am aware that these platforms can be harmful, but if used well, they are an incredible work tool. For example, tomorrow I can reach out to Madonna directly if I want: Until recently, that was impossible if a designer didn’t have a global press office. You don’t know how many projects I get sent by stylists on Instagram.
G.C: Social networks have generated and accelerated a series of changes that previously would have taken decades. Even when not directly involved, there is an awareness that they are a message amplifier.
A.A: It is important for me to say that I was one of the first people to push body positivity in Italy. I came out with a campaign with a curvy woman, going totally against the tide. I could have chosen one of the super top models to do interviews with the big newspapers, but I wanted Alva Claire, someone who represented my message and with whom I had built a personal relationship. Sometimes, I was upset about not receiving the same attention as someone who went with the model or actress of the moment, but I’m proud I had that courage. I dressed her like a beautiful and sensual goddess. One thing that I particularly care about and which fills me with joy—I hope you will write this—is seeing the smiles of these women when they feel beautiful. Unfortunately, a lot of brands use them to clear their conscience when it comes to inclusivity, but then invite them to shows and give them a coat to wear. I dress them with items from the collection and I get to see them looking happy because they feel beautiful. That’s my goal.
G.C: What is beauty for you?
A.A: Feeling proud of yourself.
G.C: Is there any loyalty in a sector like ours?
A.A: I’ll give you an example: If you present an inclusive catwalk with different sizes, then you have to have the XXXL in the shops, too, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. That is being honest for me, all the rest is just playing games, which I don’t like. I was at an event where body positivity and inclusiveness were all they talked about, but there was very little concrete action behind the theory. I wanted to get up and leave, I felt like being there was an insult. Then, a man came on stage and gave flowers to another man, saying: “Sorry, this is unusual.” After the show, only white dancers remained on stage. Clearly, they didn’t believe a word they were saying.
G.C: Are there any sectors outside of your experience that intrigue you? Even something like cars, for example.
A.A: I’ll tell you an anecdote. A short while ago, I called Luigi [Bottani, PR manager of Beside Communications, who Adamo works with, Ed.] and asked him to look into the most important show at Teatro alla Scala because it’s my dream to make the costumes. Luigi told me I was crazy. I replied that it didn’t matter and to get back to me. Right now, I feel like I have to broaden the scope of my project to increase its cultural and artistic depth. I can’t keep talking about inclusiveness without increasing the depth of the discussion. I want to connect with interesting people who are outside the system, the way Riccardo [Tisci, Ed.] did, who, over the years, has had this amazing collaboration with Marina Abramović.
G.C: One last question. What can’t a brand new Italian newspaper do without?
A.A: A team of top-level Italian professionals. A strong Italian community is missing here because we often tend to compare ourselves to others and feel like losers. We have to reverse this tendency.