A conversation with Marco Baitella, the Italian designer that's giving shoes a twist
Italian designer Marco Baitella challenges the way in which we perceive objects, often incorporating nature in the most innovative of ways. From creating a perfume that symbolises the entrapment of nature, to designing shoes that contain real flower petals (see his designs below), Marco stretches how nature can be used in modern objects. Having completed his BA in fashion design from the University of Venice and then going on to study menswear footwear at the Royal College of Art, Marco now works as a designer at the fashion house Neil Barrett. Calling from Milan, his current residence, I got the opportunity to ask Marco about the inspirations behind his avant-garde creations as well as what we can expect from him in the future.
Who is a typical Marco Baitella wearer?
I imagine the typical customer of Marco Baitella to be conscious about what they are wearing and value the meaning behind the pieces. He or she is interested in fashion, but at the same time does not see fashion as being season-based, but as something much more lasting. They will invest in a piece that they will cherish for the next 5 to 10 years. In addition, as my work is quite connected to nature, such as flowers being an evident theme in my previous collection, my customer should also have an appreciation for nature.
Your MA menswear footwear collection featured a lot of flowers and petals, typically not associated as classic "masculine" objects, why did you still use these?
My motivation behind using flowers for my collection was that my collection is not directly targeted towards a specific gender. I do not have a proper differentiation between a man and a woman. A shoe that is designed for a woman, can also be worn by a man, and vice verse. If a consumer likes it, they wear it, regardless of their gender.
You have interned at quite a few prestigious brands (Balenciaga and Giorgio Armani to name a few), which experience has been the most noteworthy and why?
I would say, that all my professional experiences have had a critical effect on me and expanded my fashion knowledge. When I was working at Balenciaga, it was a very hectic but also interesting experience as the creative director Nicolas Ghesquière was leaving Balenciaga and Alexander Wang was replacing him. The people working at Balenciaga were also very genuine and compassionate. I still keep in contact with the lovely people I met there. But in general, I greatly enjoyed all my professional fashion experiences as they were fundamental to forming the artist I am today.
Tell me about the fragrance collection "nature does not exist anymore only in an ice block"? (see below)
At the Royal College of Art, we were instructed to carry out a collaboration project with the company IFF, one of the major producers of fragrances and flavours globally. At the time, I was playing with the idea of mortality and what it would be like to insert an object into a piece of ice to preserve it. This was also the main theme of my Masters collection. Although my fragrance can be interpreted as being quite negative, as it suggests all of nature is dead except for the bit trapped inside the bottle, you can also see the positivity of it. If you open the bottle, the perfume comes out and creates an vibrant and positive atmosphere. The fragrance also serves as a type of futuristic piece, as it symbolises the dangers of what could happen if we do not respect our planet.
In terms of inspiration, I was greatly inspired by Nasomatto (Italian for "crazy nose"), a set of perfumes created by the Italian perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri. The perfumes contain mysterious ingredients that the perfumer describes as "unwise", with some perfumes containing traces of narcotics.
What are the next steps for Marco Baitella?
In 5 years I would hope to give something back to the world, by creating something of my own such as my own label. At the same time, I would also like to work with other people in the form of freelance or consultancy. So I definitely think in the future, I would like to balance both working for the industry as well as having my own brand.
Do you have a favorite fashion icon that you look up to?
I do, but but they are not related to the fashion industry. One of the great artists I admire is the female painter Artemisia Gentileschi, a follower of the artist Caravaggio. As a woman during the early 1600s, she was treated very poorly and created paintings to express the oppression and male violence that she endured on a regular basis. She serves as one of the first feminist icons of Italy and I greatly admire her for that.
I would also say that I am quite fascinated by women in general. In Italy, the culture of feminism is not very strong at the moment, and so the idea of a female figure is quite misvalued and misrepresented. Luckily, the perception of a woman that I have is contrary to the figure that the Italian society presented to me.
If you could change anything about the fashion industry what would be?
People need to be better treated and valued. Often the people working at big brands take ideas from the "small people" such as the recent graduates or college students without giving them the appropriate credit. I feel that the more established figures and brands need to do more to support the young, up-and-coming generation to foster and preserve them. During my time at the Royal College of Art, I saw it happen continuously that big brands would copy other students' work. This copy-cat situation that is ingrained in fashion definitely has to stop.