Federico Protto

Federico Protto

a garden party

Exploring the dimensions of immortality in fashion, the collection aims to portray theoretical and historical research.

 

Each outfit is personified in playful metaphors associated with our party guests. The role-play of these characters come together for a theatrical reunion.

 

Joining us tonight will be the paradise gardener, Marie Antoinette undead, the fairy queen, grim reaper, the wardrobe essence, st. veronica, the executioner, the bed-sheet ghost & of course, genie in the bottle!

 

 

text federico protto & samuel craig dyer

lookbook
starring
laura as marie antoinette
daniel as the grim reaper
korinna as the executioner
nikolett as the fairy queen
csenge as the genie in a bottle

 

 

 

 

karol as the wardrobe essence
gus as the zen master
melinda as the paradise gardener
tünde as the icon/humpty dumpty
viviane as the bed sheet ghost
janka as st. veronika
edvin as the teufelchen

edvin langfeld as the photographer and editor
jordána kalmár & karol müller as the make up artists
teresa scutti as the caring catering mama <3

show
photography ugo camera for modalisboa
creative consulting & music mix stefan cantate
assistance ines cardoso

immortality

a manifestation

in the following I will write 13 short passages describing the 13 figures appearing in my 2018 collection entitled “immortality & fashion”

 

main figures

 

1 the zen master

2 the executioner

3 the paradise gardener

4 the wardrobe essence

5 marie antoinette

6 the grim reaper

7 the fairy queen

8 st. veronica

9 genie in the bottle

10 the teufelchen

11 the bedsheet ghost

12 the icon

 

extra figure

13 the reincarnation

 

(accompanying images: the invitation to the show october 2018)

 

 

1 the zen master

the idea of the ‘zen master’ came watching the movie “the fountain” by darren aronofsky from 2006. in that movie, hugh jackman plays a scientist who doesn’t believe in magic. throughout the story his is more and more forced to believe in it and also starts enacting an important part in the magic itself. he ends up being a meditative monk living in a bubble next to a tree, the tree of life. in those scenes, he has a bald head and wears a soft linen suit. in a way, here i connected also the idea of the nirvana, the place of eternal resolution, the final goal of every soul. i combined it with inspirations from jodorovsky’s movies, especially the holy mountain. in that movie, there is a priest-like ascetic and spiritual figure as well. the zen master is the guardian of nirvana, they are the gatekeeper. their style is a bit old-fashioned, almost 70’s: wearing a linen silk blend from india with beautifully in-woven flower motive, their hat protects them from the sun. they really enjoys listening to kurt cobain’s music.

 

 

2 the executioner

next to theoretical and spiritual aspects of immortality in fashion I also looked into more ‘practical’ aspects. thus to me, it seemed important to look into all sorts of vestment related to birth and death. I narrowed my research focus down to historical clothing related to death. this look was inspired by an illustration of the execution of king charles the first by severino baraldi, taking place in 1649. I was considering adding a typical executioner mask from those times or a huge paper-maché axe but I decided to go for a more tough & smart look. a modern version of an executioner: an executing person! the material of the stiff but also revealing suit is a coated cotton drill, elegant shine combined with functional practicality. the trousers have round topstitched pockets, the ones on the back forming a perfect half-circle reminding of the wooden parts from a guillotine. under the suit, the clever executioner wears a cotton crochet bikini top handmade by my mother. it was essentially important to include and honor handcraft and traditional skills, for they bear immortal wisdom within.

 

 

3 the paradise gardener

this figure was inspired by my study of the panel painting ‘paradiesgaertlein’ by the upper rhenish master from around 1410. inspired by the several gardening ladies and helping hands of the central mother mary, i invented a figure who takes care of the plants and flowers in paradise, a place of eternal life and perfection. the paradise gardener adores its given role, never gets tired, and enjoys every single moment they are spending with their plant fellows. they fulfill their purpose. this figure is organically graceful because it’s a holy creature from paradise but at the same time a 100% resistant worker. that is why they are dressed in a very loose and elegant silk organza pantaloons with silk polyamide hem-ruffles. almost a skirt, yet a trouser: its extreme width allows a lot of movement. to cover the body they wear a matching top-panties combination. The print on this twinset shows a little sketch of a tiny dog peeing onto e nazi-swastika, partially hidden by large rhombs. this is originally inspired by a legging Nina Hagen wore in the ’80s. you can read further on the print in part 11 (‘the bed-sheet ghost’). complemented is the look with elegant but stable ankle boots and a small fringy bag in a piece of fabric that looks like shiny grass. the bag itself is tiny and lined with the same material as the twinset, the fringes are long and wild, like a patch of grass the gardener just ripped from a place it shouldn’t have been growing.

 

 

4 the wardrobe essence

‘wardrobe-essential’ in a commonly used term for pieces of clothing that form the essence inside a wardrobe, they are fashionable evergreens, classics. every fashion magazine creates its own top ten lists (or nowadays in very consumeristic times they tend to go up to even top 30). in this list always included are for example the trench coat, blue jeans, white t-shirt, etc. some publications go as far as crediting these essentials as to release you from a certain ‘i-have-nothing-to-wear-i-hate-everything-feeling’. eventually, the so-called ‘lbd’ (little black dress), as seen on audrey hepburn, is also always included in the wardrobe-essentials.

since these garments are ought to be essentials in each wardrobe the evoke the idea of immortality to me. I wanted to translate this feeling of ‘the essential’ in an abstract manner, to create an illusion of garments. therefore I decided to have a jeans pattern, a t-shirt pattern and a trench coat pattern completely stripped down from any details, and partly – as for the top and pants – to only ‘exist’ in the front and be ’empty’ on the back, breaking them down to solely their visual essence. another method to reduce the garments to their essence is to use the same material for the complete outfit. the semi-transparent striped organdy blend I used reminds of a prisoner, a ghostly fugitive: that is eventually what these garments entitled ‘wardrobe essentials’ are: eternal prisoners of the wardrobes. the bag worn over the head connects this look to the executioner and the bed-sheet-ghost.

 

 

5 marie antoinette

this look was originally inspired by a farmer’s chemise from a painting as seen inside a fashion history book. my idea was to blow up this tiny depiction of a farmer from an old painting into a pink shiny ruffled exaggerated silhouette, wearing pink shiny ruffled chaps as a reference to work-wear (like the cowboy as a style archetype). during the development process, it suddenly became this bon-bon, big-butt almost baroque dress, with its pink raw-edged ruffles leaving fringes and threats everywhere around. this is when I started to think about behind the scene images of kirsten dunst smoking a cigarette,  wearing sneakers in the looks of sofia copolla’s marie antoinette. this looks refers to the immortality of imagery, and visual ideas, from the tiny irrelevant farmer in his shirt to kirsten dunst as marie antoinette in sneakers. this disharmony withing this look mirrors in the irreversible damage the fashion industry has already caused (and is keep on causing) to the environment of our planet, the immortality of mistakes.

 

 

6 the grim reaper

a character that is directly linked to immortality and fashion. they are a creature, sometimes depicted with a human skull, wearing a long black hooded cape, always clutching a scythe. with this weapon they cut the life of a human form, they are the personification of death.
it is a figure appearing greatly in history and pop culture and it is strongly defined by its appearance: the skull, the robe, and the dangerous tool become symbols of death veiled in the color of darkness and mystery: black. sometimes their body is the one of a skeleton, but often the body is completely covered arousing the question: does the grim reaper have a body, and if yes, how does it look like?

what is especially intriguing about this figure, is that despite all its attributes it’s not an evil one, much more it forms an essential and natural entity in every being’s lifespan, thus the grim reaper must be a carrier of a vast amount of knowledge and universal wisdom. these aspects and the question on the grim reaper’s body formed the reflection in my fashion personification. I chose fabrics which allowed somehow a ‘glow from within’ the shirt being in black-blue silk organza, allowing a peak onto the body and the extra-wide pants in a thin doubled silk-cotton-jersey blend fused around a fine layer of silver aluminum foil, creating a very stiff, jet organic feel with an underlying shimmer resonating the grim reaper’s cloak and their possible ‘celestial’ body. under the shirt, which is cut in asymmetric pointy straps to create a feeling of velocity and activity (and wildness) they allow a glimpse into the afterword: a tiny tank top in the zen-masters paradisiac floral silk-blend.

 

 

7 the fairy queen

this figure originates from several mashed-up inspirations and moments making it a rather abstract figure in the group portrait.

the fairy queen’s first inspiration comes from the novel ‘the lady and the unicorn’, telling the fictive story about the origins of the eponymous tapestries ‘the lady and the unicorn’, dating to 1500 and on display in paris’ musée de cluny. these medieval tapestries said to be from antwerp area, resonate in the shape of the fairy queen’s sleeves and dress. the second inspiration for this figure comes from the movie ‘peau d’âne’ by jacques demy from 1970. katharine denevue acts the main role of the princess, a bit lost and confused in her teenage life and desires. she regularly receives a visit and good advice from her godmother, a fairy called lilas (delphyne seyrig), a somewhat futuristic independent female character, who always pops through the roof of the princesses’ room. my fairy queen is a combination of the uncertainty within the mysterious tapestry and its display of clothes and the campness and modernity of the early ‘70s fairy lilas’ depiction and her obvious costumes.
not only are fairies and other natural sprites often immortal beings but according to anita, a good friend of mine, their way of closing life-cycles differs from ours. death is not seen as the end of a life-cycle but much rather as the beginning of the next one: when the fairies life comes to an end, they perform the last dance, elevating them into the next and higher sphere.

 

 

8 veronika

this might be one of my absolute favorite and most complex figures from this collection, drawing origin in the story of the sudarium, also called ‘veronica’s veil’.  in christian history, the sudarium is a piece of cloth, a lady called veronica handed over to jesus to dry his sweat, while carrying the cross he was about to be nailed onto. after jesus died, suddenly and miraculously his face appeared on this exact piece of cloth to the lady, turning her basically instantly into a saint (because these things wouldn’t happen to anyone ordinary, but only to the let’s say, hardcore fans…), choiceless. this the story became a very popular motive for medieval and renaissance paintings. here you can mostly see a huge white space, the cloth, showing an overproportioned  face of a bearded man (jesus) being held by a lady (veronica), who usually is extremely pushed to the outmost borders of the paintings, or not even visible just represented by two tiny hands holding the corners of the cloth and a small head popping out somewhere, in many cases not  looking at the paintings observer but somehow, in a weird embarrassed or nervous manner, away, somewhere to the outside of the painting. what is happening here is something very patriarchal, a common characteristic of christian religions: the woman is a tool, she has no saying, she has no position to communicate, she has her god-given role and purpose and has, no matter what, to full fill it: veronica is a mere display.
I want to free veronica, I have no interest in the male figure, the god, the savior, jesus as the center of attention. isn’t someone whose face suddenly happens to appear on toasted bread still someone to take so serious? I believe it’s time for veronica to become independent from someone who is so egocentric that he even began replacing her with gluten loaded slice of bread. I studied the shapes of the paintings, I was interested in the cloth itself, its materiality and proportions. what does this cloth say about its owner, what kind of person was veronica? the large focus on her hands reminded me of a geisha’s eroticism, their ability to plant the seed of earthly desire into someone’s mind just by nonchalantly displaying a glimpse of their wrists. this suddenly turned veronica into a powerful and sexy person. always being pushed against the frames of the paintings and wrapped in loads of layers of chaste cloth my veronika had to become extra flexible. these led to the idea of dressing her into a tight elastic bodysuit. in the paintings the sudarium often intertwined with her clothing, I wanted the different ways of holding, draping and falling of the cloth around veronika to become a playful and mobile element. thus I attached strings on different parts of the bodysuit, where the large cloth could be attached to in limitless options. the cloth she veils herself in, became her protesting banner: a fancy material allowing it to be haute couture, it’s translucent characteristic not entirely covering up the body-shapes. instead of the male saviors’ visage, it proclaims in large neon green, bright blue and black letters, hand-painted as if it was the toxic scars reminiscent of the many prisons veronika escaped from:

‘the big ego is over!’

not only is this look about female liberation but also about the liberation of artists in fashion-design struggling with the still omnipresent desire to worship (mostly male) icons and ‘the genius’, in a world which instead of passive adoration needs proactivity and repositioning.

veronika is our vanguardess, transforming herself from a passive objective-like displayer to an active demonstrator: free-handed!

 

 

9 the genie
fascinated by the idea of a spirit living in a magical bottle with the ability to grant wishes has always fascinated me. this fascination bears many reasons, the first one is related to the idea of ‘miniature people’ having their houses and sometimes even worlds in a much tinier scale than ours, with their little chairs and their little beds and coffee cups, etc. the genie lives in its bottle, inside there it has a complete own interior design, we know from aladdin’s luxurious genie lamp-house, and we are also familiar with jeannie’s pretty and cozy lamp’s interior with all its colorful cushions and shiny ornamental decorations from ‘I dream of jeannie’ from the mid-60s starring barbara eden. the second most important reason for inviting this figure to the garden party of immortality it’s is strong spiritual power and background. the genie derive from the pre-Islamic arabian and later islamic mythology’s jinn, which again was partly integrated from other pagan believes. what i find particularly interesting is that the jinn are neither innately evil nor innately good, their attitude depends on outer influences, so often they appear in connection with a devil/demon but sometimes they are summoned by sorcerers and act benevolently. at the same time, they are not 100% spiritual creatures but their bodies consist of a 10% amount of flesh, also they can eat, drink, sleep and breed with each other or even with humans. surely we can’t escape a clear notion of exoticism in the above-mentioned examples (aladdin & jeannie), this makes me wonder if these spirits’ supernatural powers are as strong as to mingle within western pop culture, maybe using it as a means to interact through a contemporary medium. In my attempt of dressing an intercultural contemporary genie, i tried to dismantle cultural stereotypes of any kind and reassemble elements, for example, a slip-dress uniting the idea of a tunica or kaftan with the rhombs of a harlequin and somewhat the idea of an evening gala dress. genie wears a large white tulle cape-jacket, wrapped around the slip dress, this jackets attempt is to seem ghostly but graceful, in a way also reminding of a garment used for a fairy tale tea party. to protect themselves from the sun which they usually are not disposed to in the long term, also genie is wearing one of the large woven sorcerer hats. its special accessory is a tulle bag with a large question mark sign painted on it, relating to the power of fulfilling wishes. inside their bag genies carries several tiny bottles filled with different white powdery substances. this is a small comment on the dangerous aspects of having a spirit to grant whichever wish you desire.

 

 

10 the teufelchen
the teufelchen (german for ‘little devil’) is a gender-fluid figure, a little devil, a little demon. the basis for this figure comes from the depiction of little devils in comic, cartoon and pop culture, often embodied as a small cheeky child or even baby, somehow an eternal baby. intriguing to me is the ambiguity of these figures in relation to their mischievously flirtatious character, the notion of temptation, often appearing as the well-known ‘little devil and little angel (voices) from within one’s head’ at a difficult situation where we tend to decide for acting well or badly. here happens a strange moment revolving around temptation, passion, and moral. for my teufelchen i intended to create this gender-less and ageless figure, wearing a black and red checked bikini (again a reference to the harlequins) which refer on the one hand to the pompous spanish breeches from the 16th century, worn predominantly by royals and on the other hand to the typical oversized diapers, worn by the lil’ devil in cartoons and comics. this look is completed with large asymmetrical papier mâché horns created out of all the bills, invoices and shopping recipes which weren’t accepted by my state-grant administrators for young and upcoming independent fashion designers.
for the fashion show, i transformed the look into my reappearing wedding-look outfit. for every show, i chose one look to be ‘the bride’, relatively unrelated to any idea of a wedding, for this particular fashion show i also decided to start the show with the bride. the bride look is a comment on the métier of the designer, or, if you will, couturier, a comment on traditions and the history of the fashion show.

 

 

11 the bed-sheet-ghost

the bed-sheet-ghost is a look created additionally for the look book shoot. o me, it is a key figure in this collection, aesthetically as well as theoretically. there is a large history behind the contemporary idea we have nowadays of the ghost covered under a white sheet. some say that this figure first appeared through theater: ghosts, the dead appearing to the living ones (in for example pieces of shakespeare) usually were personified by wearing old-fashioned costumes, more frequently wearing a whole tin armor. this had a great effect in regards to costume and understandability. the problem was the clumsiness and noise produced by the actors within this restricting garment, so usually, their appearance on stage wouldn’t have a mysterious or frightening appeal but more of a humorous effect on the audience, laughter often interrupting the theatrical intentions. as measurement against this misleading costume, a more ethereal and ‘spooky’ costume was searched after. around the same time period, it was usual to pack the bodies of the dead into big white cloths, inspiring some grotesque ones to prank by-passers by wrapping themselves into exactly those white clothes and appearing in the foggy streets of the city at night. these two elements led to our modern understanding of a ghost, disguised in sheets. my bed-sheet-ghost is bearing references to harlequins by covering into a sheet created out of rhombs from fabric leftover from the whole collection’ garments. furthermore, the bodysuit is a digital printed polyester garment, the print was designed in collaboration with stefan cantante and takes inspiration in nina hagen’s favorite bodysuit/legging from around 1980-1985 displaying fluorescent shades and streams of colors. our design is combined with the reappearing rhombs-motif and also bears, now and there, a little hand drawing of a smiling dog peeing onto a nazi-swastika. my fashion is – eternally – against fascists.

 

 

12 the icon
this look is in itself a comment on the idea of innovation, rhythm, and cycles within the fashion system. it was conceptually created for the 2018 immortality & fashion collection but not really finished until the presentation of 2019 muses collection in march 2019. however, it appeared in a rawer version in the lookbook of the 2018 collection, i would call this phenomenon ‘trans-collectional’. the shirt’s background is the same as the shirt-dress in marie antoinette’s look, the material, however, was chosen to look natural, almost ‘poor farmer’, but is in fact, quite pricy linen and wool blend from an ermenegildo zegna stock sale. the silk-organza pants with its black and white stripes should again refer to the figure of the harlequin, but also refers to typical medieval trouser appearing on numerous paintings. generally speaking the icon in fashion mostly is a celebrity and public figure which has a strong impact into the fashion system but also sets new trends and customs in popular dressing as well as creates an imagery of unmistakable recognition (e.g. michael jackson, cher, david bowie, prince, björk, etc.). firstly I wanted to silkscreen print myself the names of my personal icons and idols, meanwhile I stumbled upon this white jumper from the fast-fashion brand mango, lol,  in a second-hand store in budapest, with a print saying: ’it girl, ICON, style is born not paid’. the irony is of a fast produced cheap labored garment being sold way under its value and ethically completely unacceptable, proclaiming somebody wearing it being an it-girl and ICON, while being shameless about its own cheap origin. this displays not only the brutality and shamelessness of the fashion industry but also the disconnection to the reality within our western consumerist realms. this paradox is mirrored by having the print cut out from the jumper and put onto a garment made to resemble a dress for a medieval farmer, somebody extremely far away in every possible context of a modern pop-icon.
as a second influence for this look served the egg-shaped fantasy figure of humpty-dumpty, also appearing in lewis caroll’s ‘alice in wonderland’ novels. this character is a further note on fairy tales and their magical immortality within our culture.

 

 

extra figure

13 the reincarnation

one of my methodological goals, as a modern fashion designer in the 21st century is to work creating as little production waste as possible (up to none at all). while already refusing to take part in fashion’s capitalist clockwork by creating an own rhythmical and semantic system (revolving around questions like ‘when and why are my collections created?’) and thus not having any production waste per se, there is still the problem of the toile and prototyping for the final unique show-pieces. one way of overcoming this problem is to systematically work with already proven to function patterns, by evolving, adapting, and reusing them.
nevertheless sometimes completely new garments are born out of a collection’s various needs, implying that prototyping is essentially important to achieve the desired result. while I am already trying to reduce extremely the amount of produced garments generally by the time I am writing these notes down (summer 2020), back in 2018, working on immortality & fashion I was confronted with a huge amount of prototypes, textile experiments, and ‘useless’ garment toiles.
this created the idea of a so-called ‘reincarnation method’, which unfortunately has never made it to reality until now, but the idea keeps triggering me. this thought bases on a rule which says that for every single body of work (in this case a collection) all the waste material is to be assembled together in a creative and conceptually fitting way. for 2018 immortality & fashion i wanted to create an oversized dress with many layers of textile and additionally completely cover this dress in a fluorescent bright blue color, referring to transcendental ideas of reincarnation of the spirit. this method could create an artistic, fundamental sustainable, and ecologically responsible solution for many small-scale creative designers.