Even though he’s been obsessed with clothing – and objects in general – since a very early age, he started considering the fashion industry as a means of living during his teens, after quitting ballet because of an injury. As he himself admits, fashion saved his life. And we are very happy about it; otherwise, we would have never seen the artistry with which Riccardo Maria Chiaccio treats clothes. Get ready to fall in love with his work full of sensuality, garments with no models, and strong Italian roots.
Riccardo, you are originally from Naples (Italy) but you studied in London and work in between there and Milan. How did these different settings influence you and your creations?
Funny thing is I didn’t realize how much Naples had influenced me until I moved to London, and the same thing happened with London when I moved to Milan. I would say that what Naples transmitted me the most are two of the strongest elements in my work: adulation for women and adulation for objects. We have a very strong culture and many traditions based on objects and symbolism, for example: if you touch this statue this will happen, if you wear this pendant it means something, you hang this thing over here when this happens, etc. It’s like you give objects a reason and a very specific role and I think I’ve transformed this into obsession over clothes and accessories and everything has to mean something and everything has a specific role. London, on the other hand, always reminds me to push things to the limit.
You told me that doing ballet professionally for years had a big impact on your decision to work in fashion. Why was that? And was it a difficult decision for you?
I started ballet when I was nine years old. I just got used to, at a very young age, express whatever feelings through dance. I was angry, I danced; I was happy, I danced as well. It became very natural to me not to use words so when I had to quit because of a bone injury, I felt very lost. Obviously I was always very interested in clothes and used to dress myself up in god knows what when I was just six years old. So when I found myself at sixteen with literally nothing to do I started to invest all my time – and feelings – in dressing people up and just obsessing over clothes. I felt like I could ‘say’ something through them and I was happy again. So fashion literally saved my life.
Projects where you’ve been involved in mostly seem unconventional but yet super sensual and clean in terms of styling.
Do you feel like there is some sort of signature to your work?
I don’t know if I have a signature yet but I know there are elements that I like to hold on to. I’m always a bit surprised when my friends comment my work and say, “This is so you” because it’s like I haven’t really analyzed this yet, the images I create just come so natural to me that I don’t really think about it. But sensuality is for sure something I always try to explore. I’m very intrigued on how you can express sensuality through clothes. I mean, I’m from Southern Italy, we based our whole culture on that.
You also include pictures in the outfits you style, which I think is amazing.
How do you pick them and where do they come from?
Well, thank you! I’m quite obsessed with postcards and pictures and I always carry some with me. I suppose I pick them based on whatever character I’m creating. So I think: “Which picture would she/he carry with her/him? Which pictures would she/he want to show us?”
Also remarkable about your practice is that you do not only style people.
For example in your series You made a fool of me, you used cars to feature the clothing. In other series you just position the clothes lying or hanging somewhere.
 Tell me more about this idea. How did that come up?
The whole idea of still life also came very naturally to me. One day I just picked up some of my favorite clothes that my mother owns and I laid them in the house and took pictures of them. Nothing more. It was later on that I analyzed it and realized I was recreating some memories. When in my head I have a memory where the clothes are very clear, the most realistic way to recreate it is by repositioning those clothes. They are white canvases when they’re not worn, you can imagine whatever you like.
Also to me a corset is already sexy by itself, just by looking at it. I’m also obsessed with gloves, they’re very romantic and I feel like they’re the only thing in fashion that is sewn to resemble exactly a body part. A hand on the heart or a glove on the heart doesn’t really change, visually it looks the same. But now I’m trying to develop this idea as much as possible and exploring new ways of doing it because I’ve already done like three or four editorials like that and I’m getting over it. But I was very happy to see how people reacted to the pictures; some said they were playful as others said they were dramatic.
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You recently styled a series for Vogue Italia. Did working on this project feel any different compared to others?
Not at all. Obviously when you work for the online platform there’s a lot more freedom and it’s different from dealing with the actual editorial team. But for a long time I had in mind to shoot something special with the brand Rosamosario, which I’m totally in love with – and we just did it. Both the photographer, Marcello Arena, and the model, Lindsey Shand, are my friends so we had the best time ever.
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Working as a freelance stylist, what are difficulties that you face?
It depends on what we mean by difficulties because at the moment I don’t feel like I’m facing any. It’s hard for sure when you freelance because it’s all about promoting yourself and gaining people’s trust but I feel like that actually keeps me very active and motivated, so it’s fine.
Do you feel that the work of a stylist is given its justice in today’s fashion industry?
Or moreover, do you recognize any changes since you started working in fashion?
I haven’t worked enough in fashion to feel there has been a change but I did notice that in the past few years the stylist figure is starting to emerge much more and stylists are becoming more and more recognized for their work. But it did happen to me recently that in magazines there wouldn’t even be the list of stylists that’s contributed but only photographers, editors, etc., which doesn’t make even any sense. I’m sure it’s only getting better though.
As creative fields and their boundaries constantly change, is there anything new you want to get your hands on in the future?
I don’t really think about the future. I set my goals monthly so it’s hard for me to think about what I would want to do in a couple years or more. But I love moving image, I already do make short movies for myself so maybe direct a film?
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