“In Irpinia, my dreams always seemed too big”, says 25-year-old Benedetta Cresta about the village she grew up in Campania, Italy. Driven by the overwhelming desire to escape, she packed up her belongings and took her dreams to Naples instead, where she studied fashion design at the Academy of Fine Arts. “But once again, I had this feeling of being too constricted so I decided to move to Florence.” That’s where she completed her MA in collection design at the notorious Polimoda Fashion School.
Although she made the move back to Naples, Benedetta stays connected to the Fattura Studio, a collection that knits together art direction, photography, video and styling founded by Sarah Venturini. Fattura studio is made up of Sarah Venturini, Benedetta Cresta and Claudia Chiarolanza, who all have roots in the fashion world. The three women work together to create an alchemic mix of fashion and art or in their words “make magic”. For this feature article, we caught up with fashion designer Benedetta to find out more about their recent editorial Agoraphobia set in Florence’s Secci Gallery.
Œ: What was your journey into fashion? How/When did you know you wanted to get into fashion?
Benedetta: There was no starting point exactly. I don’t remember when I decided that, or when I only considered being a designer. I grew up in my mother’s atelier and since I was little I’ve been trying to give concrete life to the ideas in my head. I guess it’s my language. I am able to express myself with garments.
Œ: Although you have not yet started your brand. What would you like the core values and goals to be?
Benedetta: Even if the brand has not been created, the values that I carry forward as a person and in my life are the same that I would like for my brand in the future. I believe honesty can save the world, being honest is not something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Origins are the pillars of our life – they must never be forgotten. Children are full of curiosity and somehow we forget this. Curiosity does not prevent us from growing and getting to know each other. It does not give us a single vision. So I endeavour to constantly be in a state of evolution and exploration.
Œ: Who/what inspires you the most?
Benedetta: I think inspiration can come from everywhere. Living life and being aware of what surrounds us, observing every detail: of a painting, a dress, a sculpture or a building. I try to create my own vision of the world. By accumulating images and ways of living which then come to life through design. I believe that the best thing is to “learn” from the environments that are most hostile to us, allowing more unexpected things to enter our world. Having grown up in the atelier since I was a child, I have had the opportunity to experiment and I believe that this is my favourite way of getting inspired – letting what I have unconsciously absorbed reflect into new shapes and volumes through a rectangle or meters of fabric draped over the mannequin. For me, it’s like a ritual.
Œ: Italy is known for being a fashion hub. What would you like to continue to see from the Italian fashion scene and what improvements would you also like to see?
Benedetta: I believe that Italian designers have a lot to tell, the history of our country is complex and aesthetically heterogeneous. From a social point of view, we still have a lot to conquer. I’m working on the front lines and hope that in the near future, even non-fashion enthusiasts will begin to look carefully at what they buy. To focus not just on aesthetics, but the ethics, both for the sustainability of the garments, but above all, for the respect of each worker in the process of creating an item of clothing. Westwood had been saying it for some time: “Buy Less, Choose Well, Make it Last” – but many have yet to learn it…
Œ: Tell us about Agoraphobia, shot at the SECCI gallery in Florence. What’s the backstory?
Benedetta: Agoraphobia, which etymologically comes from Greek and means “fear of the square” is the fear or feeling of serious discomfort that one feels when they find themselves in unfamiliar environments or large open, crowded spaces. They are consumed with the feeling of not being able to be in control. This leads them to seek an immediate escape route to safety or comfort. With this collection, I want to conceptually analyze this feeling. People’s inability or unwillingness to go outside their comfort zone. The place that keeps us feeling safe is also the place that prevents us from growing.
The collection analyses the ambiguity of stereotypes imposed by society. Each collection piece starts from a basic pattern, that is opened and transformed, from a one-kind piece of fabric, to create volumes going outside our standard silhouette, being part of them. The ambiguity of this collection starts from the volume, which could be either something that goes outside the safe place or the representation of the safe place itself, with a draped shape inspired by the work of Patty Carroll. Her images “symbolise the psychological states of women […] by showing them hidden behind, and intertwined with, visually stunning domestic scenes”. Balance is created with volumes that aim not to hide the body but to enhance it.
The Hellenistic Art universe, whose sculptures are a source of inspiration, also influenced the development of garments. Their marble seems soft, and inspires the most voluminous dresses, with parts that perfectly follow the silhouette and others that deform it.
Œ: What did you want to achieve with it?
Benedetta: The editorial aims to convey the constant dialogue between fashion and art, not only theoretically but also practically, through interactions with works of art, which are no longer a photographic background, but an integral part of photography. Working on several perspective levels and creating a third reality, which invites you to leave your comfort zone.
Œ: What is your current process – are you doing designs to order or do you create collections? Are any collections in the pipeline?
Benedetta: After spending my year in Polimoda, I have started to understand my own aesthetic. I created the first collection that really represents me as a designer. The created collection is available to order, to avoid wasting any fabric. There is also the possibility of having a garment made with the customer’s measurements, this too was handed down to me by my mother. As I’m working on my next collection, I’m challenging myself a lot, asking questions about how to improve myself and best create my next world.
Œ: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Benedetta: I’m also working on other projects. Always in the fashion world because I believe that today there isn’t much space for massive productions, so I’ll try to make use of my technical skills and my love for tailoring. Of course, I will continue to work on my personal projects as a designer – they are what keep me alive! I will continue to do what I love with passion and perseverance and we’ll see what comes next. In the meantime, you’ll find me daydreaming.
Photographer – Dario Cerisano
Production and Styling – Claudia Chiarolanza and Benedetta Cresta