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Building fashion bridges between South Africa and Italy

On September, underneath the shadow of Table Mountain, Italy came to South Africa. Hosted and presented by the Embassy of Italy and the ‘Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda’ project, Marianna Rosati, the designer and creative director of fashion label DROMe, showcased her latest collection at South African Fashion Week before bringing it to the Italian Residence in Cape Town. 

Rosati’s work is bold, with softer white tones meeting hardened black combat boots, and gentle glistens of sequins colliding with strong blocks of colour. 

Her pieces reveal her mastery of leather, giving a rare flowing movement to an often stiff textile; each piece moves with the wearer, there is a rhythm to the collection, which Rosati has created through her use of colour, textile and shape. 

“I like to create this confusion and illusion working with material, surfaces and shapes,” Rosati said.

Humans are the centre of her inspiration for her latest collection, as she explained that photographs of ordinary people living their lives are a key element in her work. 

And when it comes to clothes, these photographs of life are stitched in through shared experiences: “Connection is made by people; sharing ideas, sharing thoughts and sharing cultures,” Rosati explained.

One photographer’s work in particular has captured Rosati’s attention. American Bruce Davidson, known for his documentary photography, inspired the Italian designer to incorporate messages of journeys and shared moments into her work. 

In 1980, Davidson began shooting for his book Subway, travelling the rails through New York and capturing those who were along for the ride. 

“I wanted to transform the subway from its dark, degrading, and impersonal reality into images that open up our experience again to the colour, sensuality, and vitality of the individual souls that ride it each day,” Davidson said. 

“The photographer’s critically acclaimed photo essay and book project, Subway, was ‘a voyage of discovery’ for the American photographer; the result of half a decade spent exploring the ominous reaches of the subway system in the 1980s. Both a captivating study of light and colour and a historical document of an elemental part of New York, Subway captures the many faces of the underbelly of this city,” wrote Hannah Abel-Hirsch for Magnum Photos.

“He took photographs of people travelling on the train and sharing the experience, about what it means to go on a train every day. You share a journey for a brief moment, and you start wondering about people, you start wondering where they’re going. And when you stay on a train for such a long time, you see lots of different people from different backgrounds coming in, in and out. One of the basic concepts of my collection and my philosophy is that we are collectors of personalities.” reflected Rosati.

Rosati is an established designer from Tuscany, having graduated from Polimoda — one of the top fashion schools in the world — and designed for figures such as Lada Gaga and rock band Måneskin.

Before the event, Rosati spent two weeks in South Africa meeting with students from the art, design and architecture faculty at the University of Johannesburg and the Fedisa Fashion School in Cape Town as part of the Fashion Bridges project.

“Fashion Bridges connects the fashion reality of Italy with the fashion reality of South Africa. It has been an incredible experience spending two weeks here, getting into the tradition, getting to know the environment and the people,” Rosati said. 

“Rosati is very engaged. She interacted with the students and explained her experience, gave advice, but she also wanted to know about their reality, and what they work with. Because the other aspect, besides the trade side, is the commercial side, which is very important; we all want better industries, and develop the country, the economy, everything,” Oriana Mannaioli Cuculi told Maverick Life. 

Cuculi, the wife of Italian ambassador Paolo Cuculi, has spearheaded the Fashion Bridges project, and established it with the Embassy of Italy in Pretoria in 2021, in collaboration with South African Fashion Week (SAFW), the Italian Trade Agency and more. The project seeks to foster collaboration between the South African and Italian fashion industries by creating dialogue between creatives on both sides, hoping they can be inspired by each other’s culture. 

“The aim of the project is to get these two sides to meet and to profit from the experience, the traditions, the technology and the know-how,” Cuculi said.

Rosati’s approach to fashion echoes these concepts. Her mantra, “collectors of personalities”, speaks to her desire to create pieces that are collages of influence and experiences, that each garment has its own story woven through it.

Source: Daily Maverick