The column Educating the Digital aims to connect the students and the creative industry. Here, our readers can find interviews with tutors from Istituto Marangoni Firenze, active fashion and art professionals talking with their students about their careers, their approaches to education, and the new challenges provided by digital innovation.
As Fashion Styling Programme Leader at Istituto Marangoni Firenze, Riccardo Rubino knows where modern fashion is heading. Together we talked about the importance of developing a unique, sophisticated style together with the passion to constantly observe the surrounding environment and be aware of the current demand.
by Viktoriia Stanieva. Cover photograph by Luisa Ospina, styling: Riccardo Rubino. Courtesy: Riccardo Rubino
I’MF: How would you describe ‘good taste’? What do you think is good taste in fashion?
RR: I believe that ‘good taste’ is something consistent with the idea, the story, or the message behind a collection, as well as to be in touch with the times. For me, it is never about the garments. Good taste should not be about what someone wears, but rather about the message expressed beyond and within an image. It is about how you combine the garments.
I’MF: While working as a stylist, how has digitization changed your job? What types of jobs did you start doing digitally?
RR: When I started my career in the fashion industry about twenty years ago, digital tools were not central to my work. I would browse the Internet like I still do today, but I mostly used magazines and other physical sources for my research. Back in the day, the shooting process was way more structured because everyone had a specific role on set: the stylist would do the styling job, the photographer would deal with photography, etc. It was much more structured and professional because you were asked to do only one specific job, and you didn’t need to have an opinion on the others. Now there’s more democratisation of opinions. Another drastic change came with the introduction of influencers, five to seven years ago: our roles suddenly became even more interconnected and our approach changed, as influencers became the ones to set the rules in terms of content and aesthetics. Everything has changed at a much higher speed because of the industry’s request to produce, and people were looking for something different. Now we can see a change in the way images are directed, usually consistent with a new commercial direction. However, the possibilities are now endless and more jobs were created, so everything has its advantages.
I’MF: Would you recommend any exhibitions, artworks, or fashion works that can visually explain the direction of contemporary fashion?
RR: Right now, fashion has taken two different directions, although they seem to contradict each other. There’s a big comeback to the tactile, which means going back to the roots, whatever that means to you: experiencing, exploring tradition, looking for an artisanal touch. The work of JW Anderson is a good example of this. Among Italian labels, I could mention Fendi’s to craftsmanship and S/S 2021 collection, which shows this return handmade pieces. Then there is a digital side that has developed its own magnificent aesthetic: it’s not a technique anymore – it is beyond technique. For example, Bruce Nauman’s exhibition at the Tate Modern in London shows this unique marriage of analog and digital. So many artists are now trying to put them together, merging two media, and I think that’s the language of today.
I’MF: Do you think digitalization is regressive for our society or it’s a step forward to improve our way of living?
RR: I think it’s up to us; we are responsible for the way we use it and the way we respond to it. I think it’s a potentially huge, very cool tool, but I’m not always sure that people are advanced enough to know how to use it the right way! I don’t trust digitization, but I believe that modern students are the ones who can handle these tools, languages, and possibilities in a clever way. If you can handle and use digital and analog, but at the same time you don’t lose your feelings and your tactility, and if you also apply the culture and knowledge from other disciplines, you will succeed.
I’MF: What sources of information do you use for your research? Which magazines, websites, or other tools would you recommend to students for their projects and research?
RR: I use the internet like everyone, but you need to learn how to do your own research well to find the right information. Also, magazines are helpful, both independent and commercial ones. Vogue UK, though it might seem mainstream, or the ID magazine for street style. Sometimes I just go to a bookshop and look and flip through some magazines. Usually, I buy ID, Dazed, The Face, and I can suggest more specific London publications. As for Italian ones, I like independent magazines like Apartamento and, among institutional ones, Amica. But my personal visual stimulation comes from looking at people, analysing their weird parts, and listening to their stories: I always look at the details that make up that whole. I like to link what I see and hear with what I find on the Internet and on magazines, art, Netflix, etc., as trends are formed by society. It’s the main reason why I like to stay in school: I enjoy working with the younger generations and learning and understanding what’s going on in the world.