Formafantasma: “We are interested in the ambiguity of design”

In Madness at Milano Design Week, the symposium Prada frames they stood out. A “slow” moment, in contrast to the snap-and-run rhythms of the usual circuits, and an opportunity to reflect on the complex relationship between nature and design. Organized by the fashion giant and curated by Formafantasmathe series of meetings animated Braidense National Library in the first days of the design week, from 6 to 8 June. Among the main characters also Stefano Boeri, Paola Antonelli and the author and critic of British design Alice Rawsthorn.

“We are the first to have a hard time finding a balance between the production of desirable objects and cultural, social and ecological development, and we are interested in this ambiguity in design”says the duo of creatives who have studio in Rotterdam and Milan and collaborates with international brands and institutions from Flos to Hermès, from La Biennale di Venezia to Galleria Giustini / Stagetti, to name a few. Videos of the conversations are available online. Formafantasma tells Living about their untraditional way of making designs.

Where do these conferences come from?

This first edition was born out of the conversations we had with Mrs. Miuccia Prada, which took place before the pandemic, which then developed in different directions. They want to be very thorough interdisciplinary arguments.

What is their purpose?

An educational purpose and not just aimed at students. We wanted a symposium that started with the forest ecosystem and expanded by touching on topics like tree extraction. Doing so during Milan Design Week inevitably sparked the discussion about the project’s sustainability, ecology, responsibility and ethics.

Prada Frames at Braidense National Library during Salone del Mobile 2022. Photo Lorenzo Palizzolo / Getty Images for Prada



So with what approach?

Educational, primarily for us who participate in it: It is not a critical elite that teaches things out to a wider audience. We are convinced that these speeches should be held in a perspective beyond the product, including the voices of professionals from disciplines that do not normally belong strictly to the design world, which extends to science, administration, economics, anthropology and learning from each other. It certainly did not want to be an entertainment symposium: some of these conversations will be used as a starting point for the curriculum for students at the Dutch Academy in Eindhoven (where Formfantasma from 2020 oversees the department of GEO – Design, which explores social, economic forces, territorial and geopolitical that shape today’s design, red).

Let’s reflect on fashion and design, which are currently among the most polluting productions, as well as among those working hardest in response to sustainability, circular economy …

What we are trying to do with the Prada brand has an informative character with a broad spectrum, not just of immediate solutions that are also needed. Talks about forests and their importance in the ecosystem, but also about the indigenous peoples living in them, about the problems of reducing carbon dioxide and so on.

Prada Frames at Braidense National Library during Salone del Mobile 2022. Photo Lorenzo Palizzolo / Getty Images for Prada

The issue of pollution is a global emergency, perhaps an extension of the message would be necessary, not just limited to the public at a museum …

Rather, it is necessary to explain clearly, without necessarily simplifying. We live in a complex period in terms of work, health, pandemic. Our CAMBIO exhibition at Serpentine Galleries in 2020 had a noticeable effect, the message was understandable. Only after that episode, and for the first time, did some companies approach us in a way that was not only productive. For example, the complex path we are taking with the Finnish furniture company Artek is proof of this, linked to a more holistic vision of what the project, partly open and accessible to the public, can do.

How can the message be spread to a wider audience?

Doesn’t it already seem valid to do so with a giant brand like Prada? It is important to convey it not from a museum, but with a company and without necessarily tying it to the presentation of a product, as it happened in this case and by agreement with Prada.

In the last Interview with Living You Announced Your Return to a Fixed Business in Italy: Pros and Cons of Moving?

Currently only pro, starting with the climate to continue with the personal needs related to the family. We live a life similar to the past, relatively isolated in our studio, but with the added value that Italy offers – sun, food, family, friends. We primarily came back for it, and at the same time we got closer to the customers.


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