Starting out in isolation, KOMAKINO's Federico Capalbo's creative process flourished with the help of like-minded individuals within the brand's family. MOTHER talks with one half of the most-wanted menswear duo about references, brand growth and how fashion interprets the shifting social and political climates.
Which aspects (of life and work) prior to KOMAKINO would you owe to the brand’s success and how has KOMAKINO grown as a brand?
Unity I guess. When I first started working on Komakino I used to do it nearly in isolation, everything - from the creative to the technical process - was conceived and developed only by me. This process soon became somehow limited, almost Autologous. I am surrounded by certain people who I share a similar vision with, people who strongly believe in what they're doing. It became very important for me to work with such passionate individuals. This collaborative process doesn't really change or alter my ideas, because we share the same core beliefs, although it adds a lot to the final result.
Across both men’s and women’s shows, gender is a recurring shapeshifting motif. What do you think about gender fluidity in fashion?
Probably stating the obvious here but of course proportions and shapes are different between a masculine and a feminine body - work on a pattern and well, you will notice it yourself. I do welcome gender fluidity, in society more in general. More in the specific of our designs, while we are definitely not against it we do still consider ourselves a menswear label, and this is also why I love seeing our garments worn by women.
The custom illustrations that were featured on garments [in the form of knee pads and screen-printed details]: what was the inspiration behind them?
I worked on those with art director Nicolas Santos, which is also a close friend of mine. The illustrations were re-works of 70s and 80s anarchist publications and slogans, plus a couple of politicians’ portraits.
When it comes to the use of bright colours subtlety is powerful. What is the message behind these injections of colour?
Not a specific message really. Regardless of how I build the colour palette for each season, I often see graphics as an addition to the garment.
The AW16 show was hosted in a boxing ring with servings of beer and pizza, a concept that's both unique and hyper-masculine. Where did this idea come from? What is your take on gender and masculinity in general?
When we were looking for a venue in NYC and our PR suggested that location it immediately felt like it was going to be the right spot, the atmosphere was more the one of a gig venue than a boxing club. It was fun to dress up the boys in tailored garments and have them standing in a boxing ring and it was as well, as you hinted, unusual. We definitely do not have an hyper-masculine vision of menswear but we do often reference specific styles like utilitarian and military wear for example, which are in itself the idea of menswear in a way, powerfully and erotically charged - it is always fun to play with clichés.
When it comes to your designs, what is the relationship between your more-favoured punk aesthetic and politics? And with that, how vital is politics to your work?
Well it is like that reference is almost unavoidable, it is always there as it always is in our life. Punk in general and industrial subcultures more in the specific is what I and most of my collaborators grew up listening to, it is part of who we are in a way. Pretty much anything you end up doing in this current society assumes a political meaning, we are not interested in being labelled one way or the other but I do believe that fashion can at least still have social ambitions. In western society what you wear and how you do it can still be considered as a statement after all.
What is your take on the current political climate? Will future political shifts be tracked in future collections to come?
We are definitely not in a good moment, of course this will affect us as individuals in the first place so I guess yes, it will probably reflect in our work as well.
Contropotere (Italian for counterpower) is seen on select pieces. What does this word mean to you, and to the collection?
It is the name of an 80s Italian hard-core band as well as an old anarchist publication. It is pretty self-explanatory I guess - as discussed before fashion can be politically and socially addressed, but what we do has probably more to do with identity - connected to subcultures and defined by outsiders.
You have many inspirations - some old, some new - across your collections past and present. Is there, for you, a fundamental reference that you go to each season during the initial creative process?
People around me and people in my mind.
Interview by Terri Waters