It’s haute couture week in boiling hot Paris! I’m walking Avenue Montaigne for a meeting with Federico Curradi, Rochas’ newly appointed menswear creative director. Finally, at Rond-Point des Champs Élysées, I share the elevator lift with a tall man who has his back turned on me. As we both exit on the same floor, I realize it is him. Curradi greets me with charm; he is friendly and easygoing with a set of piercing eyes, the eyes of a wolf. It turns out he lives with wolves at home, back in Florence, along with other animals that are closer to the domestic kind.
Before we sit to discuss his ventures at Rochas, he walks me through his collection; luxurious looking with elegant proportions, a complete wardrobe with clothes that pair together effortlessly. What he suggests in his first collection for Rochas links perfectly with Florence where Federico started his creative journey. His neo-artisanal point of view mixes with the exquisiteness and sophistication of Paris, with softness and colours that come straight from the canvases of Amedeo Modigliani and textures echoing a sense of liberty.
FILEP MOTWARY: Do you really live in the countryside of Florence?
FEDERICO CURRADI: I come to Paris once or twice a month while my studio and team are in Florence, the place where I design, work and produce the collection. OLG, the licensee who is developing and producing Rochas, has two production sites, one in Florence and the other in Bergamo. From this season, the production for both women and men has moved to Bergamo.
I visit Paris to meet with the company and share information about the process of the collection, it works nicely for me this way. My house is also in Florence.
FM: Federico, let’s go back, shall we? How did everything start for you? Not much is said about your upbringing, your early career steps and choices.
FC: I was born in the center of Florence. As a teenager, I never thought of myself working in fashion. I didn’t have any obsessions other than art; I was just enjoying my youth before going to art school where I studied with no real plans for the future. I was also in the army from a very young age as it was obligatory to join at the time. I loved my time there.
Fashion, to me, happened later when, after the army, I started working with a tailor to save some money and go on holidays. It seemed unserious at the time but slowly I fell in love with the profession. I worked there for a couple of years and al- though it was a boring daily activity, the clientele was of a certain age, yet I learned so much from this tailor. He was older, a true artisan.
Slowly I started making my own things, a very small collection that consisted of a couple of trousers, some shirts etc and I wanted to test how these clothes would sell. So, I went to the best shop in Florence called Parissotto and placed them there. It was a trendy boutique selling Helmut Lang, Margiela and Comme Des Garçons in 1995–96. One day I took the plane to New York to sell them on Broadway at Scoop, I just went there with my backpack, you know what I mean. I left them a lot of pieces and they did very well in sales for about two years.
Mr. Ermanno Scervino saw my things and one day I received a message from Toni Scervino who asked to see me and to dis- cuss whether I could work for the brand.
It was unbelievable to me and I accepted the offer immediately. I joined them and stayed there for four years. Cavalli and Iceberg followed.
FM: What were your obsessions at the time?
FC: [laughs] I was obsessed with Helmut Lang before he became mainstream [laughs] then I switched to Margiela and Comme des Garçons. Also, as mentioned, I love art. It inspired me then as it inspires me today. I am a very curious person and I like what happens on the streets. I like inspiration to come naturally, not when it is forced.
FM: And today, back in Florence, how do you spend your time at home?
FC: I have a lot of animals like horses, wolves, cows. It’s not a farm or anything close to it. I keep them because I love them and this is why I work so much, because to feed them it’s a lot of money [laughs]. My animals are my family and I need to take care of them.
I started 17 years ago with one wolf. Animals are smarter than we think! They need to be respected.
FM: It was only in 2017 that Rochas made their first foray into menswear, through its then creative director, Béatrice Ferrant. Before that, it was a feminine brand. Could we speak more about your debut collection?
FC: My aim was to translate manly elegance, Parisian elegance through a collection. The Rochas woman is specific, she likes textures, volume. She can be extravagant.
But for menswear, I was thinking of Marcel Rochas himself and less of what he did for women.
I tried to find where he got his references from, what kind of paintings he had at home, the chairs he had, the carpets. I was interested in his state of mind, the taste he had in certain things and life itself.
Also, Paris. I am interested in how this city is connected throughout history with art. An inspiration was also Amedeo Modigliani, an Italian Jewish painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France and died in the early 1920s. That period was very artistic, every- body was here creating beautiful things, art, poetry etc. It’s the same feeling that young artists have today with New York.
I wanted the collection to have this vibe, this youthful creativeness and I started by asking myself how to make believable clothing, how can these clothes be different from what everybody else is doing. I wanted this collection to have a soul!
Modigliani helped me to put together a col- our palette. Ed van der Elsken’s book, Love on the Left Bank, helped me with the mood as it embodies youth that is very similar to what youth is about today. Giving allure to men is a process indeed but I didn’t want to make things complicated for men. Also, I was lucky that my production company helped also with my research on fabrics.
FM: There was something that was elegantly nostalgic about it, nomadic too. Your colour palette mesmerizes me as well as your tailoring qualities.
FC: Perhaps, yes. I think the fabrics are in- deed special as they are very light but can keep you warm at the same time. I wanted to include the value of heritage in it, the outline and feeling of the 1950s, a bit of velvet too! The collection serves the needs of a man 24/7.
FM: How much time did it take for you to feel comfortable at Rochas after you were appointed menswear creative director?
FC: Immediately! I had six months to design the collection. I would say the only thing that made me a bit more worried was the idea of Paris as the capital of fashion. Milan for me
was different as I felt more at home, I know all the people and how people work there, the journalists etc. Paris is new to me and its normal that I would take time to know more about it.
FM: What was the risk behind taking this position at Rochas?
FC: First and foremost, the fact that the menswear collection did not exist before! It is a fantastic chance, but it is still a blank page you need to fill. The business aspect of this collaboration was quite challenging too as the market needs time to understand you, to speak your language, especially now when the business is going very well for everyone and there are perhaps less gaps to fill.
FM: Who is the Rochas man then?
FC: It’s someone that believes in himself and wears clothes that reflect his personality. He likes fashion but he is not necessarily fashionable. He is someone that mixes older clothes with newer things. Rochas men is a very modern collection because business was not a priority during the process of making it. First, we thought about sustainability, then we started thinking of ways to make these clothes have an easy feeling. It’s important that we gave priority to these modern issues and needs but also to what we could do as a brand for others, the world.
FM: Which brings me to the question of whether we are consuming more today than we ought to. Sustainability is on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days, how does Rochas take part?
FC: Yes! Most definitely. At Rochas men, for example, we stopped using plastic and all the packaging we do is made from recycled paper. We do not use nylon. For example, look at this hoodie [points to a piece from the collection] this is 100% waxed silk. We really try to make things differently!
FM: Federico, by looking at your collection, tailoring is experiencing a renaissance these
days? Is it strong enough to kill the sportswear hype?
FC: This is difficult to achieve, I think. Sports- wear is now a classic! As it is easy to wear, it is also a matter of making a statement with it. Each brand can translate sportswear in its own way and still maintain its values.
FM: Were you anxious about how the critics would receive your collection for Rochas after the show?
FC: Well, I wanted to hear the truth. I could have done a good collection the same as it could be a bad collection. My biggest fear though is whether the audience under- stands the amount of work it takes to make a collection, all the stages it requires. Of course, I love other people’s thoughts and opinions because it helps me in my work, my evolution and next steps.
At a younger age, it was very difficult for me to accept any kind of critique, my ego could not tolerate it. But as time passes, it changes you and now I can see how wrong I was on a number of occasions. Even if I were right, I had anger because it was difficult for me to express myself and help the other side understand.
Of course, it would be a lie to say that I would accept a mean review as I need to read the reasons behind it. Critique makes you aware, it keeps you focused. A collection is an alchemy anyway.
FM: How do you balance commercial needs and interest in a collection? Is it easy?
FC: With this first collection it was easy, mainly because I didn’t want to shock any- one. It was more about refinement and balance as well as applying all these references I had in my mind in the best way possible. I followed my mood boards religiously, creating something real that speaks of intellectualism, art and these kinds of expressions. I didn’t speak of anything unconscious.
FM: Is there space for shocking society through fashion?
FC: There are still so many shocking runway shows, no? But it depends on what shocking means to you of course. For me, it’s about attention.
Today everything has become “more” and it gets validated by how many times it gets a “like” or gets reposted on Instagram. Everything has become some sort of advertisement, you know? I am not saying that it is bad or anything as such. At the end of the day, it’s all about the trends that each era has. Everything has its moment and there is no difference with how new challenges are perceived.
When I was a teenager, to view the new collections I had to wait at least six months, while today, you see everything instantly. What is unfortunate from this new way of how things emerge is that image has lost its power.
FM: To what level are we conscious of what we see, buy or wear today? Does it matter?
FC: Yes, of course. If you are a runner and get a fever, you cannot go very far. You need to stop, take some rest until you get better. The world is in the same position right now. We need to take a step back and think, act, make the change!
Federico Curradi was born in Florence in 1975. Following an initial experience with a Florentine tailor-shop, where he learned the basic secrets of the craft, he was just over twenty when he moved to New York where he made a collection of men’s trousers. Next, he designed a collection for the American market and immediately earned the admiration of the best fashion stores in the Big Apple. Upon his return to Italy he was noticed by stylist Ermanno Daelli who put him in charge of the Scervino men’s style office. After that, he designed the Roberto Cavalli men’s collection, and then went on to become the creative director for Iceberg Uomo, working with other labels, such as Dunhill, in the meantime.He is now the creative director for ROCHAS menswear collection.