Photography Kirill Kuletski
[twocol_one][dropcap]“[/dropcap][dropcap]G[/dropcap]razie… si, grazie”… a kiss on the cheek; another; a tight hug. We slide past, not wanting to impinge on the moment, but then a hand reaches out, with an equally welcoming clasp. We’re welcomed like they mean it.
This is our entrance to the temporary Antonio Berardi design studio on a side-street, just off the bustle of East London’s Shoreditch.
“Would you like anything to drink?’”
“No thank you” is the reflexive response, even if you’re hankering for something cold, but of course, Antonio being Italian- and the Italian’s famously accommodating- offers twice more in as many minutes, and the third time we’re quick to say “yes”. Led to the sofa by the man himself, we’re introduced to the room casually from the corner, shuffling from cheek-to-cheek as Antonio, and the studio-space owner clear a pile of bags from beneath our backsides. “Sorry about this” he says, sincerely apologetic that our shuffling might be putting us out. Not at all. In fact, moving around was a good excuse to match the energy of the team, pinning, pinching and lifting fabrics to the song in the background asking, “Well, are you out tonight?”. We weren’t, but sitting amongst team Berardi has the feeling of getting through a bottle with your mates, before tottering off into a taxi in a pair of too-high-heels, with nothing but your ‘wine-jacket’ for warmth. The difference here was there was also a sense of ambient-warmth. A warmth born of hospitality, and the Italian ‘all-in-the-house’ feeling, where the volumes are ‘loud’ and ‘louder’, and everyone’s in on the action. And by ‘everyone’, we mean everyone.
[twocol_one]There isn’t the sense of hierarchy you might expect of a designer, and his creative team; team Berardi is very much that, a team. From the machinists and assistants, to Creative Director, 10 and 10 Men’s Sophia Neophitou, for Antonio Berardi, it’s important that each contribution is more than just appreciated, it’s wanted and it’s asked for.
[quote ]A warmth born of hospitality, and the Italian ‘all-in-the-house’ feeling, where the volumes are ‘loud’ and ‘louder’, and everyone’s in on the action.[/quote]
You may even get an affectionate jab, pulling for bits about your love-life, as we [obviously tried not to overhear, and] saw from Sophia, and head of the design-team, CSM MA grad, Raffaele Ascione. He isn’t “Raffaele” here, though, he’s an affectionately-sung “Léeello’h”; a member of the family.
“It’s not really about me”, Antonio says between asking us about college, again offering coffee, and genuinely expressing an interest in life beyond work. “I’m the kind of man who likes to be on the sidelines… I find it hard sometimes to have the reflectors on me, because it’s not really about that.”
This is all him being modest, trust us. Antonio is nothing but sincere in expressing his disdain for the spotlight, but “on the sidelines”? He couldn’t be more hands-on. He did all the fittings, and pinning together with his team, all hustling for space in the second-floor studio, struggling to house the thirty-plus people prepping for the show. At one point, a strap on a pair of Rupert Sanderson heels so high, we’d only step out in them with a pair of friends for crutches, snapped whilst being hastily pulled off a model. With just a day before the show, the likelihood of getting them fixed on a Sunday, ahead of an early Monday morning start was cause for unease in the otherwise-cool, collected atelier. But between calls asking around for a fix, we caught Antonio, sat pulling thread through a needle, starting to sew. We guess there is some truth to him being the “man on the sidelines” in that he doesn’t make a fuss, but here is a man just as involved as we expect he might’ve been back in his days as a Central Saint Martins student. Back when he was one of us. In some respects he still is, because if he didn’t see every individual behind their role, he wouldn’t have looked to us- students- and whole-heartedly meant it when he said “thank you. Really. Thanks for featuring this old git.”
Antonio, the pleasure was all ours…