Giovanni Bonotto loves Nature with a capital N, a majestic N, and the way it rules over our magnificent – and sometimes magical Earth. The inventor of Fabbrica Lenta believes in Darwin, in the evolution of species, in animals’ and humans’ ability to evolve. He also preaches a life that allows for a more authentic rhythm, sharply digressing from the mass production requirements imposed by those who constantly run, run, run, and don’t even know why they’re running.
Fabbrica Lenta is the factory. Not the slowest, but the most rational, as well as most respectful. It holds the respect of those who work in the highest regard, putting human beings – and their hands – back at the very core of the creation process.
During our third kind encounter with the oh so peculiar designer, he shared with us a sliver of his many secrets, a glimpse of his complex way of thinking, exempt from romanticism and yet constantly positive, open and peaceful. He spoke, of course, of his love for Surrealism, as Andre Breton once defined it, and which he places at the heart of his textile creations.
From the rendez-vous between LECLAIREUR and the weaving-master-philosopher, we walked away with a thrilling desire to count moons in rhythm with the world’s original convolution, and to breathe in sync with the elements’ flow.
You approach life in a very personal way.
My work was born from chance. I started working in the company because I’m the son of a weaver. I’m also a semiologist, brought up with the philosophy of language. A cultural approach is what gave me a different outlook on my work. I look at fashion through the eyes of a philosopher, and the world keeps stirring up my curiosity. I do not observe the it through the scope people usually use. I look at it through what nature gives us.
During my different trips to Japan, Patagonia, China, India, I discovered outstanding sites, extreme lands. Where nature offers us unprecedented settings, known to only a few. I base my work on research and protection, because I cherish these very moments that nature presents to us. A peculiar nature, free of subterfuges and cultural reach.
Can you give us examples ?
The Tierra Del Fuego wild hare comes to mind. It has to protect itself from the violent winds that hit its surrounding glaciers. Nature, the very same one Darwin has taught us about, has allowed for that hare to evolve and resist to the ice cold winds by growing a thick and long fur coat.
There are so many incredible natural phenomenons… The Tibetan yak has to put up with heavy snowfalls, so its fur had to become an impermeable, very light wool. The guanaco lives on the Andes, and has a perfectly insulating coat to withstand extreme temperature changes between hot days and the chilly nights.
There are so many stories like these: primordial cotton from Zimbabwe, crisp cotton harvest on a land somewhere between Turkey and Syria. The world and nature give us wonders to witness, which have affected my work deeply, to the point of shaping its very core. It’s not so much a cultural path from a poetic, lyrical, and personal vision, or an inspiration from mankind, even. My influence stems from that incredible heritage we receive from Nature. I think there are only a few artists, really… I don’t believe in the romantic conception of artists, or in genius designers. What I do believe is that contemporary culture should embrace a sense of community.
A cultural community ?
A community in the sense of the pro-communist concept, closer to a web community. What allows for growth is collaboration and exchange. I don’t think Fashion should be the mental vision of a single designer anymore. We are fashion, with what we do in our everyday life. Marcel Duchamp once explained that art was now “that of living”. Every single life expansion is a work of art, it is not a simple matter of aesthetics – bound to temporality. My work wants to “be”, to unite a community. Here, at Bonotto, this collaboration is acted daily by two hundred craftsmen. And together we succeed in creating material, suggestions. We immerse ourselves into what nature offers to translate those gifts. And instead of doing it like any other fashion designer would, we rest upon our ability to produce with wiser hands, thanks to the community. That is what Bonotto is all about today.
What is “Fabbrica Lenta” ?
Fabbrica Lenta is a new way of approaching the textile industry. Today, the field is completely saturated, production-wise. Increasing production doesn’t make sense anymore. As a kid, I saw all of my father’s industrial colleagues spending their time and money to invest into increasing their engines’ production rate, which helped improve mechanical productivity. It also meant reducing human involvement. Research & Technology – aiming to produce more with less people – turned factories into giant copy-machines. Thirty years later, Asia moved in the field with brand new money and started buying our “photocopiers”, coming up with even more sophisticated and efficient machinery. That industry model was patented, standardized and in the end implemented throughout the world. Italy followed. Our recent economic crisis is definitely linked to such production standards.
How did you come up with that answer ?
First, we focused on rethinking the very notion of handmade, using wiser hands, if you will. The worker does not supervise the production process: he becomes a master-craftsman who works with refined machinery, making place for a collaboration between the machine and the artisan. Handwork, manufacture, loving hands that think, it all nurtures the fabric’s fibers. It participates in helping those fibers become an extraordinary area of fabric. The fabric speaks, it’s not anonymous. The great master Leonardo DaVinci had one single obsession throughout his life, which was to paint the air. And he succeeded, just look at paintings like Virgin of the Rocks, or the Mona Lisa.
Between 700 and 1000 visitors now come every day to admire La Joconde at the Louvre museum. It is a magical piece of work in which Leonardo da Vinci has succeeded in representing the air itself. At Fabbrica Lenta, we want to paint the air everyday, thanks to smart hands, except our air is our fabrics. We wish to create magical surface areas and thread. Such is the real value of craftsmanship when it is done according to the rules, with mechanical machines, instead of electronic machines. That’s what using the fantastic legacy of raw materials, which nature offers us, is all about. No one can copy it except nature itself, thanks to a thousand years of evolution.
During your life you have met extraordinary, even magical people, too…
I was 5 or 6 years old the very first time I met Marcel Duchamp. He would come play chess with my father, his visits lasted the couple of hours needed for a game. He never talked. During these chess games, my father and he managed, despite the deepest of silences, to share a great deal of information, communicating in an extraordinary way. That said, he was a very laconic individual, who never said hello to me.
I also remember a young Japanese girl. She used to feed me tofu and soy during her stay, over the course of a few days, when all I wanted was Nutella and candy. Her name was Yoko Ono. Her visits were never particularly joyful. It was rather the opposite: I always tried to escape.
One gentleman came to plant trees in my football field, after which it became impossible to play any sort of game. I discovered afterwards that this gentleman was Beuys.
And yes, there were many more encounters, with other key figures who belonged to the last XXth Century avant-garde. These artists shattered the vision we had of management, business management and brought their unique and inspired visions which then allowed us to understand work in a different way. Art is what gave birth to Fabbrica Lenta, which was then able to create this industrial process.
You are part of SHIGOTO Project, a new adventure imagined by LECLAIREUR…
SHIGOTO Project is of particular interest to me since my thoughts are dedicated to redefining the base of what fashion is. These last few years, fashion saw the rise of « limited editions ». For twenty years since fashion has focused on communication rather than the product itself.
It’s time for me to transmit everything I’ve learned about raw material these last few years. With LECLAIREUR, I’ve found… brothers. Brothers who share my feelings and try to redefine fashion’s original archetype. Today, with SHIGOTO Project, I wish to share the Fabbrica Lenta know-how and reintegrate it into Fashion, on a global scale.