13 Oct 2020
“I started in 2000, after studying industrial design. So, something completely different. After industrial design, I was working in an advertising agency. It was there where I started to work with a sportswear brand and at a certain point they said, ‘why don’t you join our team, we may need a creative guy, or someone with a bit of a different vision of our product’. Yeah, that's how I started. The team was Napapijri which is a well known sportswear mountain brand. I had the chance to work directly with the founder of this brand, a kind of visionary guy, comparable nowadays with the guy from Patagonia. So, he was really into nature and developing technical products for hiking, citywear, urbanwear and this iconic brand grew exponentially and became internationally recognized."
“Yeah, Italy, Turkey, France, and now I’m in Holland. Basically, in the companies where I worked it was international people around me. So, there wasn’t a big difference. The big difference was specifically in the approach of the market and approach of the brands. Italians are really conservative in terms of developing products and in their approach to the market. They prefer to go deep and be product specialists in the market segment where they stand. That's why you have specific, high quality products, high quality manufacturing, and often traditional design. Turkey was a massive market because they were producers. So, they were focusing on quantities with good quality but always based on time and price delivery. In Holland, they are “visionary”. Dutch people know the market really well and they know what the market wants, they’re really driven by that. But on top of this, if they own a strong identity in their brand, they are great to stick and dive into it really intensively, and I see a kind of passion in that, I like that.”
“From a culture point of view, I really like the style of life that you have here in Holland. I can walk downstairs in my pyjamas, go to the supermarket and nobody cares. I feel this helps also to create less barriers between the people. There is a kind of freedom of expression in everyday life. I need to mention as well that I love the fact that I can easily move and do everything by bike in an international city, that’s also unique."
“When I was working with Napapijri and worked with Marco Trapella, he was like a mentor for me. That first experience was the most important, especially with a really interesting person close to me, who easily and naturally teaches something every day.
Another moment was when I started a brand called ‘CDSB Jailwear’. It was a project where I created work inside a prison. It was me and an associate team of people: psychologists, technical people, administration people and we brought sewing machines into a prison close to Milano and employed prisoners for the production of clothing. The clothing was really cool, it was a kind of streetwear brand with jail wear influence. Until the 70’s, in Italy, but mostly all around Europe, in prison you need to have a uniform. Basically every country had its own mandatory uniform. In each uniform there was rich detailing that I used to create this brand. For example, striped fabrics because in prison they create visibility or show which area of the prison you belong, buttons to adjust the uniform on your body because they were produced in only 2 sizes, no invisible pockets were allowed, everything should always be visible for the guards, etc. So, we took that detailing and we mixed it with hoodies and sweatpants and we taught the prisoners to sew it. Product-wise, it was a really incredible experience. Human-wise, it was even better because I met people who have incredible stories and state of souls, people who will probably spend their lives there. We gave them, just for a few hours, a kind of contact with the world outside the walls. With work, in a way, we made them feel useful and part of a society again. It was a way to look at design from an ethical and social point of view.
Another one is when I came in contact with Elio Fiorucci. I was lucky enough to work with a lot of inspiring people but Fiorucci was definitely a person difficult to forget. He has been one of the denim fathers in Italy. The one who invented lycra in denim and created the first skinny jeans for women. In the early 80s, Fiorucci was often a guest at Andy Warhol’s factory; there are pictures of him at Studio 54. He was a classic Italian guy from a good family that went to New York and was struck and fascinated by the American culture of those years. In Milano, he has become a pop icon. He used to have a store in the 80s, in the center, called the Fiorucci store. It was famous all around the world for a few things, one was Madonna at the age of 18, before she was ‘Madonna’, performed DJ sets in the store. This was in the 80s and in Italy, not London, where he was bringing in a DJ girl and playing music during the shopping day on weekends. He also invited Keith Haring to create a massive mural on the wall of the store which is now a monument and still there today. I got to work with this guy for a denim school project and then I spent a few meetings with him. Beside being a big source of inspiration, he was a gentleman and really sweet person, deep reader and connoisseur of contemporary culture. Also, we talked a lot about pop which was in a way the first marketing culture that we know in fashion and that still influences us today.”
“Yeah. That was also another amazing experience. I proposed my workshop in army wear. I have a consistent archive. I always collect pieces and it's mostly workwear and army. I went deep into discovering things like why pockets, reinforcements, or regulations are specifically designed and how to design uniforms and technical gear, not from a fighting point of view, but just for a functional and ergonomic point of view. I really went deep and I always use these references, even in my job today. So, I taught 2-year courses there and it was a massive experience. First of all, for the first time I understood I had something to share and the importance of “sharing”. Sometimes you get so busy just going from one project to another that you forget that you’re still growing and this is still your passion. It's amazing to work with young kids who are there because they are hungry to learn and to create. I started with the story of the uniforms and continued with the explanation of the most iconic garments and their technical design solutions. I let them select different countries and they started to design their own collection based on what we studied together with their style and vision of fashion. Some of these students I’m still in contact with and even some I have worked with.”
“Always be curious. Don’t be afraid to do something different than what you think you can do. I’ll explain. Sometimes a young designer fresh out of school thinks he knows what he wants to do, for example, shoes for women. So, often they will start jobs and they end up designing basketball shoes. Even though it’s not what you want to do, you should still put passion into it. Be flexible with what is happening in your life, be hungry and learn from everyone, everything will make you a better designer tomorrow.”
“Basically, menswear. So I can wear what I collect. Army, workwear, sometimes sportswear items like gore-tex jackets, old hiking or outwear pieces. Back in the day, a lot of experimentation was really in sportswear. Sailing and hiking were two big schools where waterproof zip was developed for the first time, vulcanized shoes were developed for the first time, a lot of new tricks that you find in normal products today which at that time were considered at the top of technical execution. I collect those kinds of pioneer pieces together with the most iconic menswear pieces selected by their design, possible in the most simple and authentic tailoring execution.”
“Yeah, this is related to what we were just talking about. An obsession to collect pieces in a certain way. It’s my passion to collect these state of the art, unique pieces. I also wanted to be sustainable. Sustainable and collectable. A person who inspired me a lot is a person who I’ve collaborated with in the past: Maurizio Donadi. A few years ago he started a project, Atelier&Repairs, where basically he’s using old stock and transforming it into a new collection. He’s always saying, “The only sustainable fashion is the fashion that doesn’t produce.” I like that concept and I started a project quite similar where I look locally and around the world discovering warehouses with dead stock products. Products that have been produced but never sold and are now just trash. I select and I buy dead stock related to my vision of menswear – pleated trousers, army shirts, trenches, and those kinds of things. I inspect each piece, I eventually repair and restore it and add my brand and my story on it. The name is Primary Archive because it’s an archive of primary selected pieces.”
“Yeah, it's quite interesting. It's always exciting for anyone to start a brand and be facing every part of it – the website, the communication, the look, how you shoot the pictures, where you get the clothing, how you twist the clothing.”
“Yeah, it's quite interesting. It's always exciting for anyone to start a brand and be facing every part of it – the concept, the identity, the tone of voice, the communication, the look, how you shoot the pictures, where you get the clothing, how you twist the clothing…”
“I don’t know if this is the future but I’m really fascinated by the rise of new local brands. I see a lot of young kids, younger designers with really incredible talent, potential, and energy and I see that there’s not so much space in the big industry. The industry of massive fashion is struggling. I really wish that, like in Amsterdam, there are more of those local brands. They don’t need to be super big but they need to be persistent and unique in their product. Nowadays, we all can sell a product or a service globally. So, I wish to see that and I think the future of fashion will be interesting if every city, community, or culture has their own characteristic brands. So, kind of local products and different shades and selections of products. Less big brands and more differentiation. That would be cool.”
“During the special lockdown time, because of this situation of being at home and working from home, I had to finish work and take care of my 5-year-old kid at the same time. Therefore, I tried to involve him in an activity related to what I was doing. What I found fascinating and what I just discovered was his vision: the white blank sheet that only kids have when they see something new, their simple questions that inspire you and let you see things differently.
Apart from this, it was very interesting to see how clothing has evolved. From an element of image or expression and communication, to a primary functional accessory where comfort and almost the intimacy of it hasn’t downgraded them, but made clothing even more a part of us. I've seen people dust off their wardrobes, rediscover and put on what they really feel like the most. Experimenting with layering, composing unthinkable looks, being even more themselves and giving back value to what they have. Could this have been a conscious fashion lesson for all of us?”
04 Jan 2021
“Yeah, honestly. When I was young my biggest dream was to make people feel and look beautiful. That’s what I always wanted. Growing up, I started to dress myself and realised clothing is something that I really like. So I started my clothing store. But at the end of the day, I thought clothing is not going to help people, they will just feel beautiful for a short period of time. They’re not going to be happy forever. So, based on my catwalk coaching and scouting skills, I decided to create a modeling agency. Now, I can give people a chance and help them achieve careers in fashion."
“I think 80 or 90 in total. Some of the models I find are really young, age 10 to 11. I have some that I discovered at 12 and now they are 18. I’ve been with them at birthdays, we’ve celebrated together, we’ve cried together, we’ve seen big shows together. I’m there for everything because I have been running the two companies by myself, no assistants, nothing. It’s quite intense."
“Honestly, really just the fact that I can make someone happy. I can make people feel worth it. I like when someone can look at themselves and say ‘I am somebody’. When you see it in someone’s eyes, that feeling is priceless. I will always aim for that, no matter what, that’s the goal."
“I know the faces that some clients want. That’s part of doing the job very well. But, I select the models that I have based on feeling. My heart has to say, ‘yes’. For me, it doesn’t matter if they’re handicapped, if they're trans, I don’t care what they look like. I have to feel something special. If they make me really emotional and have a big story, I know which clients and brands they can get. That's how I start to pick the models, when I speak to them and get a feeling, that’s when I know I can give them a career. If I don’t feel like I can be myself with them, if I get a bad vibe. I don’t pick them."
Ismael with Ilja van Vuuren.
30 years of ELLE.
“Yeah, if I can be myself around someone, or they can make me really happy, or their stories make me cry, I just know they’ll be a good model. That’s also why the name of the company is Known. I just know when I have someone in front of me. It’s not a coincidence. Every season I always deliver strong faces because I believe in them and I don’t give up. My models are special. I love my job, I love everyone I represent, and I think they know it."
“There are so many I could tell, we could talk all day. A nice story from last season is about this model I have, Delta. When he came to the agency for the first time, I saw him and said, ‘You're beautiful but you need to work on your body. You really need to listen and focus. I want you to put work in.’ Three times he came to the agency and I said, ‘No, come back when you’re ready. You didn’t practice enough.’ Then he called me and said, ‘I got scouted and they really want to work with me.’ I said, ‘Go ahead sign with them. That’s fine. You know what you’re going to get with me.’ He said, ‘Yes, that's why I want to work with you and I’m convinced that you’re the only one who can give me the career that I want.’ The last time he came in, he really worked on his body, he was in good shape, and he showed me that he learned. So I signed him. Then I brought him to Milan for fashion week. All the models I brought did well, except him. But I didn’t give up, I knew he was a star. So, I decided to go to the castings with him. Before each casting, I practiced the walk with him, talked to him, and told him that I believed in him. We went in and the client loved him and booked him. He did the last show in Milan. Then, the models and I went to Paris. I worked and practiced more with Delta. Built up his confidence and this time he got everything. All the big shows."
Delta @ L'officiel Hommes Italia.
Delta @ Maison Margiela.
“Yes, I travel with the models. If we stay in a cheap hotel, we all stay in a cheap hotel, even me. If we have to get there by bus, I'm going by bus. If we go out, we all go out together. If we go home, we go home together."
“Just me. I really like to prove to myself that I can do my job well. So far, I’ve been successful at it. I have both women and men doing the big shows which is rare. There aren’t a lot of agents that are good at managing both men and women. But I’m a bit stronger in men. I think girls always want to be pretty, because they’ve always been told they have to be. But I don't like that stigma. I always tell the girls, you can be a tom boy girl, you can be a lesbian girl, you can be anything, as long as you are you at my company."
“You know, a chef never reveals his secret. But right now, I don’t have time to scout. I believe God will give you what you deserve. I don't like to go scouting because I don't like to chase money. Sometimes, I'll look online because I don’t have what I need for a client. But I like to think everything that happens is luck and faith. I never like to go on the hunt. I am always waiting for the right time. If someone sees something special in you, they will find you."
“Diversity is very important. It's not just about the face, it's about the personality. I think everyone has something to bring to the table. I think different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds are very good to have. You can feel inspired by everyone's stories. I feel so educated and I learned so much from different people and their different backgrounds. I learned to have a bigger heart than I had before just by having all the different people in my life."
“Sleep is for sheep."
Shooting new content.
On the way to Milan.
“I don't know. I could go from super chic to super street. I like to be me. There’s no persona. I think I would just describe it as fashionable because I always want to look nice. These days, it's comfortable but elegant, because I really want to feel like I can breathe. When I’m working, doing a photoshoot, walking, I don't want to feel stuck."
“For my life I want to be happy, healthy, and I want to be loved by the people I love. Especially my family. I just don’t want to let people down. I want to be remembered as a loved person who gave people chances. That would make me so happy. For my businesses, I would like to have more freedom. I don’t want to have to be at the shop all the time. I want to hire one or two people who can continue to do the work when I'm not there. I always want to work, but now that I’m getting older, I’m recognizing that it's nice to have a little bit of rest and a little bit of time for yourself at the beginning of the day."
“For me, I’m inspired by this time of reflection that we have during COVID. This is the time to understand who you are and find peace with yourself. Not thinking about luxury. It's about being a human. Being happy with the things we have and our surroundings. Being there for others and not always putting yourself first."