Formafantasma & fashion - Sportmax scenography

It is wonderful to observe how fundamentally different the work of designers can be when a design brief takes them away from their normal obsessions and preoccupations. As an ardent fan of the work of design studio Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi & Simone Farresin), I was intrigued to see their scenography work for Sportmax – a division of Max Mara – at the Autumn / Winter fashion shows in Milan in late February. This is the second show Formafantasma has designed for the brand and the studio is working on store window design and future fashion shows.

  Chambers  - by Formafantasma. A preparatory collage for the Sportmax Autumn / Winter show 2016.

Chambers - by Formafantasma. A preparatory collage for the Sportmax Autumn / Winter show 2016.

Used to Formafantasma’s intense historical and cultural studies forming the basis for work that has at different times focused on materials from the Mount Etna eruption, furniture pieces made from fish skin and vessels made from shellac, wood dust and animal blood, it seemed inconceivable that their set for Sportmax’s A/W 2016 runway show appeared to be largely made of industrial foam. Looking into it a little more however, it all became clear – the set referenced medieval paintings by Giotto with their background of towers and cloisters and used foam to bring a sense of monumental architecture while simultaneously creating a space with “intimacy and warmth”.

Instead of the usual noisy pre-show chatter, sound was sucked up by the foam blocks leaving an odd air of anticipation. The material and colour palette was kept restricted to industrial foam, pine wood, cotton fabric and steel.

The impermanence of a catwalk show was a key factor in the design. Generally all over in under thirty minutes, fashion shows that use elaborate sets seem highly indulgent. For the Sportmax A/W 2016 set that Formafantasma refer to as Chambers, all the foam was borrowed from G.OD.l Srl, a specialist foam producer, who collected the huge blocks after the show and carted them away for reuse on other, more conventional projects.

 Giant slabs of industrial foam at the G.OD.l Srl warehouse. Formafantasma used this to create temporary architecture.

Giant slabs of industrial foam at the G.OD.l Srl warehouse. Formafantasma used this to create temporary architecture.

The design of Chambers centered around four 6 metre high towers - an open steel structure topped with blocks of foam in dark grey and blood red. The entrance to the catwalk and around the room featured multiple layers of the huge blocks in off-white, pale grey and blood red. The steel towers formed a wonderful momentary frame for the models as they walked an invisible catwalk across a herringbone floor.

 The Sportmax Autumn / Winter 2016 show featuring totemic blocks of industrial foam.

The Sportmax Autumn / Winter 2016 show featuring totemic blocks of industrial foam.

“Sportmax is very much an 'Italian’ brand - both in terms of its production and style but never cliché”. Formafantasma

 Graphic building blocks in pale grey and blood red set off the largely monochromatic clothing beautifully.

Graphic building blocks in pale grey and blood red set off the largely monochromatic clothing beautifully.

Formafantasma started creating scenography for Sportmax in September last year with the Spring / Summer 2016 show acting as their debut. It was the first time in its 46 years history that Sportmax had brought in a designer from outside the company to collaborate on the set design for one of their shows so for Andrea Trimarchi & Simone Farresin this was a great honour.

 A side view of the Sportmax Autumn / Winter 2016 show as a model steps onto the floor of one of the towers - capturing her in a momentary frame.

A side view of the Sportmax Autumn / Winter 2016 show as a model steps onto the floor of one of the towers - capturing her in a momentary frame.

Formafantasma Sportmax A/W 2016 - Chambers - Salone dei Tessuti, Via San Gregorio 29, Milano.

Concept, Design: Andrea Trimarchi, Simone Farresin

Development: Andrea Trimarchi, Simone Farresin & Francesco Zorzi

Production: Setup Allestimenti, Random Productions

Photographs: Indigital/Alessandro Garofalo for Sportmax.

 'Satanic Ballet' drawing by Russian CuboFuturism artist, Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster.

'Satanic Ballet' drawing by Russian CuboFuturism artist, Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster.

For Superwalk, the Sportmax S/S 2016 show presented in Palazzo delle Poste, an imposing early 20th Century building by Luigi Broggi in the heart of Milan (once home to the Milan Stock exchange) Formafantasma took inspiration for the overall concept from the drawings of Russian CuboFuturism artist, Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster.  

 A delicate terracotta wall and giant neon sign at the Sportmax Spring Summer 2016 show designed by Formafantasma.

A delicate terracotta wall and giant neon sign at the Sportmax Spring Summer 2016 show designed by Formafantasma.

While the modernized interior may have been all post 90’s stainless steel and grey, Trimarchi & Farresin opted for a bright summer feel with elements drawn from the style of 60’s and 70’s summer houses commonly found on the foreshores of Lake Como. Large terracotta sun shades were extremely common.

 Broad rolls of translucent PVC film weighted down by terracotta form bold strokes through the air at Sportmax' Spring Summer 2016 show.

Broad rolls of translucent PVC film weighted down by terracotta form bold strokes through the air at Sportmax' Spring Summer 2016 show.

The designers used a combination of open terracotta screens and rolls of translucent PVC in three colours that zigzagged across the double height space, weighed down at floor level by large cylinders of solid terracotta. The same colours were used to demarcate the runway but this time in shiny acrylic. Marking a large square that moved from yellow to pale apricot pink through to grey, the runway and aerial ribbons of PVC merged to become a complex three dimensional display.

 Simple pine slab benches await an audience at the Sportmax Spring / Summer 2016 show.

Simple pine slab benches await an audience at the Sportmax Spring / Summer 2016 show.

The clash of an earthy natural material like terracotta and a man-made synthetic such as PVC was given a further twist by the use of plain pine benches placed in strict lines. The monastic quality stood in stark contrast to the energetic Mediterranean feel given off elsewhere.

 PVC ribbons create visual interest in the air and divide up the open space while the runway at ground level continues the graphic use of colour. Sportmax Spring Summer 2016 designed by Formafantasma.

PVC ribbons create visual interest in the air and divide up the open space while the runway at ground level continues the graphic use of colour. Sportmax Spring Summer 2016 designed by Formafantasma.

“The (PVC) films are defining the catwalk and expanding in the space almost as an infinite loop. We wanted the space to feel not as scenography but more as deconstructed architecture, while keeping the Sportmax product at the centre” Formafantasma.

 The entrance of the Sportmax Spring / Summer 2016 show, revealing the terracotta wall, acrylic runway and PVC dividers. Shiny yellow meets earthy clay - an expression of Italian summers of the 60's & 70's.

The entrance of the Sportmax Spring / Summer 2016 show, revealing the terracotta wall, acrylic runway and PVC dividers. Shiny yellow meets earthy clay - an expression of Italian summers of the 60's & 70's.

Formafantasma Sportmax S/S 2016 - Superwalk - Palazzo delle Poste, Piazza Cordusio, Milano.

Concept, Design: Andrea Trimarchi, Simone Farresin

Development: Andrea Trimarchi, Simone Farresin, Francesco Zorzi, Nicolas Verschaeve

Production: Setup Allestimenti, Random Productions

Photo: Sportmax, Formafantasma

 

For more on Formafantasma go to their website here. For more on Sportmax click here.