The gunmetal mannequins had once been draped in expensive clothes, the centerpieces of any number of Fendi store windows. But now Massimiliano Adami was disassembling them, limb from torso from limb, with the calm concentration of a surgeon. Next he placed the hollow body parts into a big transparent container and drizzled layers of vivid-hued liquid resin over the pile. After the resin hardened, he sawed the form into smaller cubes. A bit macabre, yes, but this was art.
Adami, an Italian artist who studied industrial design at Milan’s Politecnico, swapped his usual old TV sets, colorful toys and dish-detergent bottles for the Fendi mannequins as part of Craft Punk, the three-day event held in April at Spazio Fendi and cohosted by the fashion house and Design Miami, one of the world’s most prominent contemporary and historical design fairs.
While Fendi’s Milan headquarters may be best known for its runway affairs, this time a bustling old-village environment replaced the catwalk to accommodate what Silvia Venturini Fendi, accessories director at the storied house, describes as “current-day workshops.” Here, 10 artists and collectives lived and breathed their projects for 72 hours, making them from start to finish. Even the backstage area—normally a controlled chaos of models, makeup artists and photographers—was transformed into a dormlike Big Brother setting of makeshift sleeping cubicles, as well as a kitchen area replete with deep-seated couches and espresso machines. “Maybe one day these men and women will be sleeping at the Four Seasons, but regardless, we were interested in conveying the real value of things,” says Fendi. “One can become a star by starting out in a genuine manner.” And unlike a typical fashion show, Craft Punk was a democratic, open-door occasion, attracting a loyal public (upwards of 1,500 visitors a day) who interacted with the artists throughout the evolution of their designs.
The artsy gauntlet is near and dear to both Fendi and Ambra Medda, director and cofounder of Design Miami. Fendi is quick to point out that Craft Punk was by no means “just another publicity stunt but a serious and genuine project aimed at emphasizing creative freedom and manual skills.” She and Medda, who met last year, selected the heterogeneous crop of on-the-verge artists with hopes that they would capture some of the abandoned values of time-honored craftsmanship. Or, as Fendi puts it: “Few people today realize that there’s more need for good artisans than yet another computer programmer.”
The purpose that fueled the exhibit was simple, not to mention environmentally friendly: to create unconventional artwork using leftover materials from Fendi’s factories, which would otherwise be destined for the trash can. “We want people to reapproach the word ‘craft’ by reclaiming it from the world of folksy quilting and re-engage it with the simple notion of things made by hand,” explains Medda, the daughter of Austrian artist and gallerist Giuliana Medda. “Real genius doesn’t need a huge amount of money to do something great.” While Medda is deeply versed in the house of Fendi (she rarely leaves home without her Peekaboo bag), most of the Craft Punk artists admit they knew little of the double-F logo before the event. Still, five of the 10 participants accepted the challenge (the remaining five opted to work with their own materials instead), scooping up Fendi castoffs, from bits of leather, plastic and fabric to shoe lasts and those store mannequins.