Monday, 26 July 2010

M/M Interview with Antonio Mancinelli

Image of Antonio Mancinelli courtesy of Massimo Ferrari. All rights reserved.

This exclusive interview with Italian journalist and writer Antonio Mancinelli was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in Milan July 2010

You were recently in the Middle East any specific style inspirations hit you from that region?

Yes. They way people are connecting different cultures (and so different backgrounds) using the "tools" of fashion. I could feel the danger of globalization, but on the other hand, it's my opinion that fashion is (and has always been) politics, religion, thoughts which can be expressed without words, as a not-verbal language. So, it's very interesting, for me, looking at the way men and women are trying to balance to the tradition and to occidental flattery. A guy with the dish-dasha (the typical dress of the Emirates and very observant Arabic people) and colourful Nike sneakers. A Louis Vuitton bag hanging from the shoulder of a dark veiled lady. The "Turkish" pants so similar to the Westwood ones on a boy wearing white embroidered casaque and Dolce & Gabbana glasses. That could be read as a sign to build a personal style in a world where fashion could be really a bridge between two life concepts. For me, it was like a stroke to dare more in decoration: I never liked decoration; I always proceeded to take off things, not add colors, patterns, embroideries. In a certain way I felt there as a perfect example of "Bourgeois Refusal" about the great thinker Thornstein Veblen wrote in his essay "Theory of Healthy Classes" with my obsession for a certain purity of lines, architectural shape, love for plain colors as black, grey, dark blue, white. I began to think about how masculinity is wrongly linked with saying : «NO» to bright colours, intense perfume (luckily my personal fragrance is "L'ombre dans l'eau" by Diptyque for 25 years: roses, cassis, bois de rose, very unisex), decoration. So I bought in Damascus some beautiful, shining scarves hand woven in electric turquoise blue and red and another with black ground and rose, blue, golden embroideries... I learned that "to look as a man" is coinciding with different appearances in Western and Eastern world. And I had a confirmation: apart you can look, the power of seduction is always in the glance.

In light of the changes brought about by technology what is your view of the current state of men’s style publications?

Men's style publications printed on paper are becoming to look old, in light of changes brought about technology. It doesn't depends from the youth of the models, or from the beauty of pictures, but about the no-helping to readers to build their own personal style or to connect. We have beautiful men's fashion magazine but in any case I'm becoming at my age to feel the urge to read and to interact more with these kind of publications. Think about the link philosophy, for example. A CONTEMPORARY men's style magazine, in my humble opinion, is not only to show nice suits or great pictures, but link them to what's happening in the world, in culture, on the streets. For me, it is becoming un-useful to divide this magazine into news section, cinema section, guest star interviews AND the fashion images apart. All these things must co-exist together and my dream is to make a magazine on iPad, for example, where touching a guru jacket launches a short video about the place that jacket was born or the moments in history was much more used or why do we wear today and not, let's say, three years ago. Fashion is the mirror of the times, said Cecil Beaton. I'm deeply convinced of this when I began to write for magazine but now it is possible to mix up all these different subjects just using fashion as a privileged observatory.

When selecting a new item of clothing what is the first thing you look for?

I can't help it: I am literally obsessed (hey, Mr. Freud, where are you?) by jacket, shirt and ties. I can assure that I have very good relationships with the the inferior parts of my body and it gives me lots of satisfaction, but I'm mesmerized by the line of a well structured jacket, the collar of a shirt (I'm a collector of shirt and ties: much more than 200 shirts and 600 ties!), of a colour of a tie or a scar, a secondary obsession. I love beautiful shoes, but I forgo them for granted (using the same 4/5 models of Church's always and some discreet sneakers) but the charm of a very well done and cut jacket turns me on, in a certain way.

How would you describe your personal style?

I created a personal neologism for my style: "dysformal". It derives from Dysfunctional + Formal. I always buy formalwear of the most avant-garde designers because I consider that the confrontation with a strong chapter of a man's wardrobe it is a challenge for every designer. In addiction to this, I dislike so much the word "perfection". Honoré de Balzac wrote in a letter to a friend "Be careful, Madame! Perfection could be disgusting". I completely agree. I like the little mistake, the dissonant note, the not-so-right thing to do when I dress. a pair of sneakers under a very tailored suit, a regimental tie on a striped shirt under a striped suit, and always an element completely foreign to the culture represented buy the suit I wear. An afghan coat under a grey velvet three buttons. A giant bow tie under the grey flannel suit. A very aggressive pair of shoes (military boots) with the elegant pants, a long Moroccan light scarf in the winter used as a "cache-col". One particular, ONLY ONE, it has to do nothing with the rest of the outfit. I like to be a little terrorist against the rules, able to go in smoking (and green lime shirt with a purple tie) when I go in office and a double-breasted pinstripe suit with giant cufflinks-sculpture for an evening to La Scala. Never look reassuring. Trying to invent little forms of personal style. The secret is in the mistake. Mistake not mistakes.

If you could chose any painter in the world (living or dead) to make a portrait of you, who would it be? What would you wear? And where in your house would this painting hang?

If i could choose TWO painters in the world for a portrait of me, I'd like to be portrayed by Lorenzo Lotto and Lucien Freud. For opposite reasons: Lorenzo lotto portraits are very clean, cold, very simple and so subtle refined that you can guess the life of the subjects just by their glance (see answer n°1) that reveals irony, joie de vivre, humour geometrized in perfect composition. I'd like to be portrayed by Lucien Freud to show my inner fragility, my inside feelings like exudations from my face. So, in the case of Lorenzo Lotto, I'd wear a black silk velvet jacket under a black cashmere sweater (but with my turquoise scarf, for sure!). In the case of Lucien Freud, I'd wear my skin and nothing more. In every case, I'd like to hang them only in my bedroom, because only the people who know me well could know me better because of these portraits. Sometimes a picture of you can be more real than YOU.

The word sprezzatura is overused and almost destroyed thanks to all misinterpretations, what does genuine sprezzatura mean to you?

I am fond of word "sprezzatura". In Italy we are lucky because we are able to know the real meaning of the word, thanks to Baldessar Castiglione, author of "Il libro del cortigiano", but ABOVE ALL thanks to the delicious (no other words are better then these) of the Italian writer Cristina Campo. She wrote a memorable book called "Gli Imperdonabili" (The Unforgivebles) whire she put a light so strong on the concept that I consider the best explication. Sprezzatura for me means to love intelligent beauty to the death and trying to reach it with so many pains and sufferences and sorrows that at the end, you make it will appear as effortless. And (apparently) not thinking too much about myself, but to be a correspondent of 'grace' my other my personal mantra word). It's my goal since I was born: work so hard to make things look fresh, coming from a (fake) spontaneous start, making them perfect and light. Lightness is another personal fixation: but I intend lightness to be as the great Italo Calvino said: «Lightness is gravity without weight». It is marvelous and terrible to reach, isn'it?

It is 1970 and we are meeting in Rome for a private party hosted by Luchino Visconti. What are you wearing? In addition, whom do you want to meet?

I was born in Roma, so I can imagine very well a party hosted by Visconti. I wear a beige tailored-made three button suit, very understated, with handmade Italian shoes by a Florence shoemaker and colourful shirt (purple, electric blue, Veronese Green, hot pink) and colourful socks. No tie. A real flower at the lapel ("boutonniére") and a candid handkerchief. No accessory, just a very good-looking guy with me as accessory. Luchino would appreciate it.

I'd like to meet Coco Chanel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Yves Saint Laurent, Romy Schneider, Gore Vidal, Stanley Kubrick, the composer Xenakis, Solzhenitsyn, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Dirk Bogarde, John Cage, Pierre Boulez, John Lennon, Andy Warhol. And the Pope, of course!

Antonio Mancinelli is Senior Editor of Italian Marie Claire and the author of four books. 

The above interview with Antonio Mancinelli 2010 © Manner of Man Magazine/Welldressed. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.