Edward Buchanan is a fascinating character. His career can be quickly summed up with a few names: Parsons, from where he graduated; Bottega Veneta, where he created the brand’s first ready-to-wear collection; Jennifer Lopez, with whom he collaborated in her clothing line; and finally, his cara Milano, where he established his own fashion brand, Sansovino 6. With all his knowledge and background, Buchanan sees himself in the sweet position of being able to reject the trends, the buzz, the starlight, to create instead a solid and coherent brand. He was invited to present his creations in the past edition of Pitti Filati, in what became a beautiful and intimate show – a real reflection of his DNA.
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You say that Sansovino 6 is your birth child. Can you sum up in a few words what it is about?
Sansovino 6 is a really personal project. In its inception, it was created based on what me and my friends needed, what we found we were lacking. It was a very organic project in that I thought to myself, “Wow, it’d be nice to have knitwear that doesn’t necessarily feel just like a sweater.” I wanted to feel comfortable, I wanted to have chic colours and be creative. And at the same time I wanted it to be very Bauhaus, like if I had had it for a long time. So it started filling a gap and from there it expanded.
I know you started the brand inspired by your friends’ needs. Are they still the key referent, or has that initial idea evolved as years go by and business has become business? Do you still feel the freedom?
Yes, I do! The core of the project is still very personal. Of course, as you grow, you have the business aspects you have to work on. At seasons the collection is larger, at seasons the collection is smaller, but we know in a way our markets, and whom we are speaking to. I’m not looking to take the escalators; I’m fine with taking the stairs (laughs). It’s really about going step by step, and I wanna do what I feel is needed in the market. I’m not responding to anything, as opposite to working for large corporations, which I’ve done in the past. So it’s all organic, we’re still a very small team. Of course I’m creating a range of products for people to buy, but I’m not that designer who creates a 15-arm sweater – I was never that guy and I don’t think I will be in the future. I just stay honest and keep doing what I do, and other people enjoy it, so we’re okay with that.
So, speaking about your customers and your designs, whom are you addressing to? 
I've never been a dictator in terms of design, and I think that's quite old-fashioned because any modern man or woman will find pieces that they love by themselves. We live in a time where consumers know where to get it. You want a vest and a beautiful sweater, that's perfectly understandable, but maybe you get a pant that is 25 euros. You have great shoes and you mix them with something vintage. So it’s really still about these great pieces, and I do articulate great pieces. If I show them, I present these things together, because as a designer or artist I have an idea in my head of what I think is beautiful in terms of colour, how things overlap, and I love the collaboration with other people. So, yes, you have all these things that come together, but at the end of the day I'm not here to tell you, “you have to wear this with that,” I'm here to offer this thing that I personally think it’s beautiful and if you enjoy it then you're gonna make it work in your wardrobe. I've never been interested in controlling; I think for the most part a woman knows what she wants to wear and how she wants to wear it, and how it works in her body and her lifestyle.
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You insist on the idea of functionality and pragmatism – is that linked, somehow, to you being an American designer instead of a romantic European?
It absolutely has. I am American, I was born in Ohio and educated in New York, and I became an adult in Europe, where I moved to right after school. American sportswear was always about function and comfort and I was raised in that school, in a way. But I didn't really realise that until much later, when I started to apply it to Sansovino 6.
I always had this idea to interpret great lifestyle pieces that everyone really wants to have in their wardrobe. In the beginning, I asked my friends (architects, lawyers, whatever), which pieces they had and loved and which ones they didn’t have. I got back very common answers: the perfect t-shirt, the greatest pair of fitting jeans or a parka. The translation for me was to take those pieces and try them into knitwear. So the function was that these were staple aspects of wardrobe, and the translation to knitwear was the art. You want a military parka, and I translate that into fully fashion knitwear, so you always have to take a second look. 
Is that where luxury is to be found? In the comfort of the staples?
Everything for me is based on your own level of comfort, and how you feel in the things. I'm not the one that suggests suffering for anything, that's not my story. At all. When you have a great piece in your wardrobe you just want to use it over, and over, and over.
The opportunity of collaborating with Pitti has allowed me to go through my archives of the last ten years, and it's funny how when you look at the work that you've done over time you find a common thread. I’m the same guy, you do your interpretations, and slightly move here, slightly move there, but I’m still in the same zone.
Knitwear is one of the key words for Pitti Filati and also for your brand. What can you tell us about your interest in it, and what possibilities does it offer? I know it’s a vast subject, but can you find a way to sum up what, as a creator, is so fascinating about it?
I didn't start as a knitwear technician; I started as a fashion designer and as an illustrator. Knitwear specifically was not a thing that I thought I would end into. I incidentally found out later on that it was something that really made sense with the type of creativity into clothing that I wanted to make.
If you're working with a woven fabric, it's made and you can only cut it, drape it or turn it; whereas with a yarn you're actually moulding and creating the form, and that’s what is so fascinating. In terms of technical aspects, it’s of course much more complex in how you build the things, much more abstract – there’s no rule. But there's a flexibility and a required thinking in terms of how you create pieces, and I like that angle. You can create these pieces where people don’t actually know how the construction is done.
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And how do you approach the possibilities of knitwear as a modern designer?
Nowadays we have digital programming, we have seamless knitwear, there are all these amazing technologies in knitwear that are really incredible. Everyone thinks technology equals a sweater that flies on its own (laughs), but it can be the most subtle cut, the length of the sleeve… There are so many places to go, and you don’t always see that at first! I’m just in love with it, it’s the medium for me, it makes perfect sense.
Your clothing is catalogued as genderless, but it’s an element that has always been part of it – not just a trend. Why did you decide to bet on it from minute one, and how does it feel now that it has become a sort of trend, present everywhere?
When I started my first collection, I thought to myself, “When you think about putting something on your body, you're always looking for the thing that works right for you.” You're not looking for a label on it that says men, trends, women, dog, cat... It's a fucking garment! So there wasn’t a concept of trying to do something alternative, it was only that I thought, “Shit, this blazer looks great on women, it looks great on a man, so why do I have to be the one that says how you wear it?”
I always learnt that when you create a great design, you can turn it in a million different ways and it's still a great design, no matter what angle you look at it. So the genderless aspect of what I was doing was just a natural fallout of my creation, I never really considered it. The fact that it came to be such a thing, I think it had a lot to do with what's going with society today and the discussion of what gender is, what you have to be, who can go to this bathroom...
Italy is one of the countries with an eldest tradition in fashion. In fact, you’ve worked for Bottega Veneta, one of its most remarkable houses, and now with Sansovino 6 you’re part of a younger generation. Is it easy to find a place in a market with such old heavy weights as the Italian?
There's the ying and the yang to that, it is a great question. I’m lucky to be in a position where I’m still considered a young designer, but at the same time I’ve been working in the industry for 25 years. When you're independent you're not always so visible, but I’m so OK with that! I knew at an early age that creativity was my thing and I found a profession that I’m really happy with, so there will be problems that come along with it, but that’s also the beauty of creation. It’s a difficult moment, though. Italy is an amazing country and they have this history of this incredible work, but the factories are closing. Or maybe the son of the son of the founder owns it, but they only do it because it was in the family and they didn’t learn the trade – so it’s really hard. I know this for a fact, even finding great assistants or students that really want to learn knitwear or even design.
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You’re a professor as well, how do you see the new generation?
Young kids are graduating from school, and because there's a reality show they think they're just gonna go straight from the diploma to the head designer of a company without anything in between. We, as a society, have been rewarding people for doing absolutely nothing for a very long time. It was so important for me to have a mentorship before having my own company, working under others and watching how it's done and learning the materials, the figure, the form, the business… I couldn’t have constructed my world without those beginning stages and a lot of people are skipping them and being rewarded for it. Longevity is based in learning our trade. I just can’t imagine being a chairmaker and not understanding what the strongest wood is, what’s in the inside, all the aspects of making a chair. You need to learn and then you decide if you like it and how to change it. But you have to start with the basic form and know it before you can abstract. Skipping this right over, to me, it’s the most urgent and disturbing thing in our society today.
When you were a judge in Pitti Filati, was that the advice you were giving young designers?
My advice is, first and foremost, learn your trade and be interested. There has to be integrity, honesty, and interest in what you do, no matter what you're doing. And I say integrity and honesty because they're also fading a lot. At the end of the day, I would never do or go with something that I didn’t really feel strong about, especially as I am working on something that’s so personal. Even if you’re working for someone, there has to be a collaborative mode, which is also very important. When you’re starting you have to be open to learn – and when you know those things, you can then make your own decisions.
You’re the brand that acts as a bridge between Pitti Filati and Pitti Uomo – research and fashion. How do you feel about it and what are the elements of Sansovino 6’s DNA that better reflect this?
I love the creative process and I love alternative thinking and understanding that you want to arrive to a point without going in an obvious way. I like that you have to take a second look, and I love that you think it’s one thing when it’s another. So there’s an establishment because of my background and what I’m creating, but at the same time there’s always this alternative aspect that comes in terms of the creative process, and I kinda meet those two things in the middle. I think that’s just me as a person as well, I’m a Gemini so I have these two sides that are constantly crossing!
Pitti Filati is my home because it's the basis for my work, without this trade fair it'd be a disaster – I go in there and my entire world is in one box! So it was a great honor to be offered the opportunity. I’ve never been a show guy, so I think for me the way to see my world and understand it is also in collaboration with a lot of people that surround me. Last season it was the first time I did any kind of presentation, before that I just used to create the pieces and put them in the showroom, I used to run away from journalists (laughs). But now we reunited my friends, musicians, singers, choreographers, we found the perfect space. Everything came together and allowed me to creatively do it and bring it together in the right way. It’s been an amazing opportunity, so I can only say grazie!
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