Andrea Grossi’s on-going design project Deusland is a metaphysical exploration of society viewed through the prism of fashion design. Looking to the work of Yuval Noah Arari’s trilogy for inspiration, Grossi examines the past in relation to the present to imagine a new innovative future of design. His latest collection Deusland Season 2 integrates artisanal and technological practices in search of new sustainable processes. His work fuses technology with humanism to arrive at a new and inventive hybrid aesthetic. Below, he details his sustainable solutions, his interest in creating characters and what is in store for the future of Deusland.
I have read that since childhood you have always been interested in the idea of creating characters which drew you to anime, manga and video games, how do these earlier passions translate into your work now as a designer?
I believe that the passions of childhood remain very important throughout our lives. So, I tried to transform that sense of happiness I felt as a boy into creating something that, today, could give me the same feeling. In doing so, I started my career as a designer, looking for those fantastic emotions I felt as a child in creating characters, entering the world of anime or video games.
You have lived in Italy your whole life, having studied at Polimoda and are currently living in Florence, how has Italian culture influenced you as a person and designer?
My work tells how I live and have experienced Italian culture. Having studied in Tuscany, in Florence, which is the world capital of 'Made in Italy', I have learnt to appreciate and understand what craftsmanship and know-how means. As a young designer, I aim to mix this know-how with the sustainable innovation that our society needs.
Starting with your graduate collection and on-going design project Welcome to Deusland which was inspired by Homo Deus and the other books in Yuval Noah Arari’s trilogy. I’ve noticed that you have a very large conceptual scope for your designs. What inspired you to delve into these themes in your work - most notably the parallel you see between Nazism and the Church?
Let's say Yuval Noah Harari's trilogy of books were the beginning of my conceptual journey, both as a designer and as a citizen. I started wondering what my place was in the world and what my purpose was, I started wondering what my vision was on current affairs, equality and innovation. [The book set me on] the path that allows me to use fashion as a point of view on society. In the case of Nazism and the Church, I exploit them as examples of ideologies that we today consider wrong, since I believe that the ideology that we profess today can change radically, for example in the consumption of meat and in the vision we have of other living beings. Visions of ethics, sustainability and innovation will come together to create a new way of seeing the world around us.
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Your most recent collection DeusLand Season 2 also looks to the contrast between the past and the future whilst reconciling them through your choice of materials. What excited you the most about making this collection and continuing the Journey to Deusland?
Inspired by Harari's books, in which I studied past and future to better understand the present, I have tried to do the same in the fashion industry. To take advantage of the great Italian know-how with the most innovative fabrics from all over the world to create products that can be sustainable solutions to the problems of the fashion system.
You have experimented with a wide range of innovative techniques and manipulation of materials, your choice of alternative solutions to leather is very intriguing. Could you tell us about your experimentation with materials in DeusLand Season 2?
The study of solutions relating to leather was a focal part of the work on the Season 2 collection. Nowadays, leather is by far the most polluting fabric in the entire clothing sector. So, I worked with small Tuscan and Umbrian companies to create a particular recycled leather from processing waste and the vegetable skin of rhubarb and cacti, mixing them with the technological and artisanal processes of the companies I worked with.
Do you see your designs as utopian, dystopian or a bit of both?
Honestly, I believe that the research I arrived at is dystopian, but my goal in the future is to exploit this utopian scenario to create a real and desirable product for a consumer, I believe that real innovation happens when it is brought into the ready to wear and into a mainstream world.
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Your designs exhibit an interesting hybridity: human and technology, organic and inorganic. Do you think that the future of fashion will be a symbiosis between the two?
Exactly, I believe that at the design level the future of fashion lies between a mix of technology and innovation, alternative fibres, digital interaction, which will be effective if supported by the strength of tradition, the humanity of people and the true emotions that allow us to interact with each other on a higher level. Technology and humanism must coexist in balance to allow for real innovation.
With your love of ‘being able to create a real character and not just clothing’, do you have specific characters in mind early on in your creative process or do you they emerge through designing?
Let's say that my ideal of beauty is something that is inherent in me and constantly evolving with the evolution of the society that surrounds me. In this collection the body was intended as the search for the perfect body, which makes us feel good about ourselves. I believe that in our society it is something really important. The idea is that by wearing that garment you can have the attitude and take on the appearance of that given "character".
How important is it for you to think and prioritise sustainability and low environmental impact in your work?
I believe that my generation lives more sustainability as it feels like its our responsibility, part of our work. Sustainable living is our ideal. My design process itself turns into a search for "solutions" for a real problem in our society. My final goal I work for is a change of mentality first of all, since sustainability must become the goal of the capitalist system in which we live.
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How would you describe your creative process for finding inspiration through to execution?
I usually describe my working method as "digital couture". In other words, I digitally integrate the three-dimensional part of the work in which I build the shapes of the garment. First, I focus on the fit and attitude that that garment gives to the body when worn physically. Then I scan the garment in 3D and start designing the surface and the various processes that can take place on that fabric digitally. Thanks to my diploma in graphics, I try to mix craftsmanship, manual skills and digital aesthetics.
Is there any advice you would now give to your younger self if you could?
At 24 years old I still don't feel ready to give advice to my younger self. The overarching rule, that I always try to keep in mind, is that everyone is confused, and no one knows which path to take. So always follow the vision that makes you smile and everything else will come by itself.
What do you see for your future? How are you planning on evolving DeusLand from here?
I am currently working on Season 3, which will be my first "commercial" collection, or rather designed for someone who wants to wear these garments in everyday life. I am sure that the best is yet to come.
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