Based in Milan, but open to the world. A network run by women, for women.
Providing training and support in skills that range from DJing to anything else they can think of. We chat with founders Sofia Blu Cremaschi and Rayaan ‘Nina’ Schutz.
Giorgio Di Salvo: Who are you and what is Slipmode?
Sofia Blu Cremaschi: Slipmode is a network that launched almost a year ago. We held our first workshop in May 2022 in response to the need for spaces where people can learn certain things together, from DJing to textiles to DIY in general. One of our goals is cultural accessibility, which means providing free spaces for people who want to come and learn and expand their network, both personal and professional. Not everyone has access to the same tools or the opportunity to attend certain schools, so we really like the idea of creating connections. The nice thing is that these opportunities for self-education create knowledge that paves the way into specific fields of interest.
G.D.S.: Boring question, but why the name?
Rayaan ‘Nina’ Schutz: Slip mode is a mode you can activate when DJing so the track doesn’t skip while you’re playing. Since our first workshop was dedicated to the art of DJing, we liked this as a conceptual idea. And then the word was fun and we decided to keep it.
S.B.C.: We recently met a designer that we would love to involve in our upcycling projects and she helped us to see it as ‘sleep mode,’ too, in the sense of an activity that you do outside work, during your downtime. And then ‘mode’ itself means a way of being, animated activation, something you do that then reaches a conclusion.
G.D.S.: What are your backgrounds?
R.N.S.: Sofia and I met when Slipmode started. We both work in the creative field – I’m in the music industry and she’s a photographer. We realized that many of the things we had both learned weren’t easily accessible here in Milan and we wanted to make our knowledge—and that of our network—available to share.
G.D.S.: The starting point for all of this was: “There was nothing like this in Milan.” You are young, you were both born here, how do you see the city in general with respect to this kind of initiative?
R.N.S.: Milan is certainly lagging behind other European cities. But having returned after being abroad for ten years, I have noticed a big change. I am certain that our project took off because there was a need for something similar, but also because people are now far more open to this kind of initiative. We have noticed many other groups like ours doing work to change the status quo in some way, especially in their approach to gender issues.
S.B.C.: I was born and raised in Milan. I have travelled a bit, but I’ve never had an experience like Nina, who lived in London for ten years. I have seen the city change in many ways. We are critical, but there are far more possibilities in Milan than any other city in Italy. People from outside Milan always tell us that we are light-years ahead of their daily realities. However, you do always have to demand more. Milan often projects outside of itself, it tries to appropriate from other metropolises and fails to grasp its own potential, its own origins. On the occasions that I have been to London, I have seen extraordinary emerging talents, countless collectives, and other groups that might have been tiny, but which were awarded the right value. Milan is often suffocated by big fashion or a type of establishment that represses other realities. It is very important to give space to emerging contexts.
R.N.S.: “Make Milan great again!”
G.D.S.: I think there are two dimensions to Milan: It is both an Italian city with a strong cultural background, which can sometimes be a burden, and the only European metropolis in Italy. These two identities don’t always coexist peacefully and this can be torturous for Italians like us, who have an international perspective, so I empathize with what you’re saying. What sort of dreams do you have for what you would like to do with Slipmode in the future?
S.B.C.: When we started the project, our dream was to have our own space. I don’t know if this is exactly what we are working towards in the long term, but our shared dream was to have a location where we could organize our activities autonomously, because we would like other people to be able to get involved and share their knowledge.
G.D.S.: Your workshops are only open to women. What were the reasons behind this choice?
R.N.S.: With both our first workshop and the upcycling project we are working on now, it was important to us to share skills that are often not accessible because of gender issues, as well as economic and political issues, or similar.
S.B.C.: Our first workshop was on music, a field that is opening up now, but which has been deeply polarized for a long time. The initial intention was to collect testimonies from friends and people who are getting into DJing. It can be a bit of a difficult environment for women and non-binary people, can’t it? In general, Slipmode aims to prioritize people who struggle to access certain environments.
R.N.S.: We had this conversation when we started the project: We started from the problem, but then we realized that it can’t purely be a gender issue. We would like to exist between music and women as well as ranging into different fields.
G.D.S.: Slipmode is a collective that collaborates with other people – tell me a bit about how this works. What are the thematic groups?
R.N.S.: The idea of the cores came about so that we could create subgroups within the network because it’s not always easy to manage a collective, so once the music initiative was created, we had a core group of interested people who help us to teach and have a lot of ideas for the future. We’d love to be able to do this with the talents we collaborate with on graphics, like Maria Chiara Moro or Claudia Decaro, who had the idea of upcycling. Creating these groups makes it possible to run more projects and keep them organized so that lots of people can collaborate.
G.D.S.: So it’s a sort of community.
R.N.S.: Yes, we are a community. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to launch a project here because the communities are small and reaching people is more immediate than in places like London, but there is a lack of space. It’s a situation that mirrors the nightlife or the music industry, where there are practically no spaces to learn anything informally other than a school.
S.B.C.: In Milan, I used to go to the Macao social center, and those spaces provided a permanent laboratory where you could experiment with things or learn skills collectively. There was always someone there that you could talk to and expand your culture. Nina and I often talk about the idea of having a permanent physical space that could be a reference point for people and where you could collect equipment and tools for all sorts of activities. It would be great to have our own equipment, purchased through donations or crowdfunding, that people could then borrow as well: decks to practice on, a sewing machine for making or mending clothes, tools to build furniture, all sorts of things. It’s our pipe dream.
G.D.S.: So, what you call the cores are divisions run by the relevant people depending on the theme?
R.N.S.: Yes, more or less. We take care of all the creative organization side, then we have people like Maria Chiara, for example, who give us a hand with the graphics but collaborate with us on a project basis: They give us a hand when they can, with no set commitment.
S.B.C.: We have two established cores at the moment. The DJing core came from us meeting Milanese DJs Luwei, Juana, Sonia and Ioana, who helped us come up with the first workshop idea. They help us to develop the concept, teach and support us with events in general, because we also do other activations that aren’t necessarily about learning, but socializing. The same thing happened with Claudia and the upcycling, she helped us to build the project in general. What matters to Nina and me is that everyone feels they can be involved as much as they want in the way they want; it shouldn’t become suffocating. Slipmode can also be a platform for creativity, ideas and self-organization. That is very important to us.
G.D.S.: Have you got any new cores planned?
S.B.C.: We will definitely have more music workshops coming up over the next few months, such as production or instrumentation. We’ve got more upcycling initiatives planned as well as DIY courses like carpentry, which is something we want to start doing. We also want to start running sports events. We would love to get more into sports: We went on a trip to the mountains recently and we’d like to do things like running or self-defense. We also want to start a project on sustainable food. We’ve got a lot of ideas!
R.N.S.: I hope this can all happen in the next year. We are already so happy that we’ve managed to plan half of these activities. The only thing is ensuring it remains sustainable for all the people working with us as well.