Gianni Molaro‘s CV reads a bit like the uncensored ramblings of a delusional schizophrenic with a taste for fashion and offending people. He recently unveiled his bizarre uniboob dress at Rome Fashion Week, designed a range of wedding wear modeled by a gay couple, designed screaming headdresses that look like the physical manifestation of a nightmare, and sculpted a figure of a white Michael Jackson shedding his black skin, which he made public, thoughtfully, on the day of Jackson’s death.
Also, he broke the world record for the longest veil on a wedding dress—a full 1.86 miles—which isn’t that wild, but it might give you an idea of how he gets his kicks when he’s not making the internet go crazy for his art couture collections. That’s him in one of his own creations above, by the way.
VICE: So, you make art couture clothing. What’s the difference between art couture and haute couture?
Gianni Molaro: Well, I see haute couture as clothes that are tailor-made to beautify and cover the body, and they also have a commercial function, which means they’re specific to a period and are subject to going out of fashion. Art couture isn’t created to cover nakedness, instead it works with the body to expose aspects of your inner self. Plus, art couture’s relevance doesn’t just apply at the height of a trend because art and the conveyance of the artist’s emotions last forever.
So what emotions were you putting out to the world with your boob dress?
That dress is part of a couture art collection that’s inspired by the notion of crisis. That dress, in particular, was inspired by the sexual crisis, so it’s a dress that shows punishment and impairment—the breast is the focal point, and everything around it is restricted. It’s how I see the sexual crisis, personally, so it’s putting an image to an emotion of mine, basically.
Oh, I see. So the euro dress is the eurozone crisis, right?
Yeah, exactly. It’s a statement on the eurozone and the world economic crisis. The model had a flashing alarm styled into her hair, which is a warning sign to the eurozone citizens—the ones who have come off worst out of this. The euro crisis is a crisis of state debts, but it’s always ultimately the people who pay, which is infuriating.
True say on that one, Gianni. And what crisis is the violin-playing model suspended from a hanger supposed to represent? I don’t get that one.
That dress is speaking about the identity crisis, because she’s supposed to be half-woman, half-horn. We Neapolitans are very superstitious, and one of the most superstitious signs for us is the red horn, so to give the piece even more of a mythological vibe, I wanted to include the delicate, romantic sound of a violin to give it a really celestial feel. Although, unfortunately, people always confuse the horn with a chili pepper.
How do you go about styling a show like that? Because everything is so unconventional, I imagine you’d have to approach the styling in a completely new way.
No, it’s no harder to style a couture art fashion show because it all begins with my imagination, so I know from the start what I want to put across, and then I just try to create items, hairstyles, make-up, music, and mime to fit in with that idea. For example, the backing tracks are all composed for the show, so I can make sure that the music has the exact feeling I want. It’s certainly different from the styling of a haute couture or ready-to-wear show, but it’s not more difficult by any means.
Cool. And what’s your process when designing the clothes? Because I saw a photo of a sculpture of one of those dresses and was wondering whether you usually create sculptures first then design the clothes afterwards based on those, or vice-versa?
Well, I always start with a thought and try to work through it with a series of drawings, then I take those ideas and develop them so that they can actually be worn. It can be very difficult to achieve that with tailoring, but my main concern is that these pieces can be worn in a runway show by real people. There’s no point if you don’t get to see the clothes being worn and, therefore, coming alive. The sculptures are just something for the art collectors who buy the dresses.
Right. So, you think fashion is all about making people think?
I think fashion is usually strictly there to just create an aesthetic pleasure. Fashion, by definition, is something that’s new and something that fades away—it’s a commodity. However, I use the techniques of fashion to create art, just like Andy Warhol used silk screens to create art, which was relatively unheard of back then.
So, what about your type of fashion, then? Is it art and does that mean it’s meant to provoke some sort of reaction.
No, I don’t think so, necessarily. I don’t want to cause any reaction, I just want the world to see some sort of meaning in my work, just as you would when looking at art from the past, be it Fontana, Burri, or whoever.
Talking of that, who are the greats of art couture?
There is only really one pure master of art couture and that is Roberto Capucci, who was the first to create unusual, sculpted dresses in a beautiful way. Of course, there are also great designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Paco Rabanne who create collections of haute couture that resemble pieces of art. Currently, I’m not so sure, but Lady Gaga is definitely a great ambassador for the art couture world.
Which of your art couture pieces do you think will be remembered by posterity?
I like all my works of art couture because each one represents a moment, an event, and an emotion. When I’m not satisfied with them they don’t make it to the catwalk. Of course, you can always improve on everything, but I prefer to move on once I’ve expressed what I want to express, rather than dwelling on it. Something I do enjoy is seeing something I made maybe ten years ago being done again now. For example, remember when Lady Gaga came out of the egg at that awards show? I had already done that for a catwalk show with an Italian actress a few years before.
You should definitely sue. Lastly, tell me why you got so much flack for the gay wedding wear.
Yeah, the press seemed to think I designed a wedding collection purely for gay people, which isn’t true. What I did was stage a show like a wedding, with all the guests in evening dress eating food served to them by waiters, while the brides and grooms walked through the tables. The main wedding table was on a stage and I had two gay guys come and sit in the middle of the table. The corporate and more conservative crowd amongst the 4000-plus guests were all appalled for some reason. I don’t really care, though, I enjoy my shows.
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Written by Jamie Clifton.