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Formafantasma and the importance of catwalk design in the Instagram era

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Italian-born, Amsterdam-based creative duo Formafantasma are among Lifestyle & Interiors’ design favourites, as we have been following their work closely since their Eindhoven Design Academy graduation days. We appreciate their innovative approach to design process, their in-depth material research and carefully curated compositions into collections that are always backed by strong, poetic concepts.

Which is why, when we found out they were collaborating with fashion brand Sportmax on its S/S 16 Superwalk runway show, we were excited to see how their design ethos would translate into something as ephemeral as a catwalk set. Yet the pairing works wonderfully – thanks to the fact Sportmax also has a design-led style, characterised by innovative materials, architectural and fresh volumes and contemporary colour play.

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The show took place during Milan Fashion Week at the grand Palazzo delle Poste, a 20th century building by Luigi Broggi with a stark façade that used to house Milan’s stock exchange. To counterbalance the grey and steel structure, Formafantasma devised a very simple yet impressive solution with tinted, transparent PVC plastic sheets that were stretched and looped across the whole space, held down by terracotta cylinders.

The use of terracotta is a direct reference to Mediterranean inspiration, while the PVC in vivid yellow, nude and black plays by contrast as a very synthetic material. Also the colour choice winked at the 1960s and the collection’s palette. The rest of the room was filled with bare plywood benches for the guests, and the models walked directly among them, removing any elevated stage between them and the spectator. Terracotta was also used at the entrance to the show, with a floor-to-ceiling lattice wall onto which the brand logo was affixed in clear neon letters.

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Leading up to the show, it was great to be able to follow the creative duo’s path through preparation via their Instagram account. Here they shared snapshots of the work in progress as well as artwork by Russian-French artist Aleksandra Ekster, whose Cubo-Futurist paintings inspired the scenography.

Formafantasma’s set design for Sportmax sees them joining the growing range of illustrious partnerships between design and fashion names. We covered the consolidated OMA and Prada collaboration as well as Studio Job and Viktor & Rolf in the past, and more recently in New York we have seen Marina Abramovic designing the scene for Givenchy S/S 16’s catwalk. Meanwhile in Paris Celine continues its work relationship with Danish artist FOS, not to mention Karl Lagerfeld’s much-awaited grand displays at the Grand Palais.

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The runway designer becomes definitely as important – if not more – than the fashion designer, as in today’s social media-driven world an impressive setting means an impressive brand. Therefore the emphasis is on fantastically Instagrammable and shareable scenography.

What’s interesting is the choice of an avant-garde and experimental creative influencer such as Formafantasma, yet they perfectly mirror Sportmax’ materials- and volumes-led approach to garment design. The dynamic duo never stops though, and we are now looking forward to seeing their soon-to-be-launched first delve into high end design with a collection called Delta for Galleria O., inspired by the vast richness of archaeological sites in the Italian capital.

In the meantime, WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors subscribers can brush up on their knowledge on Formafantasma with our interview. For a full breakdown of the latest runways, WGSN subscribers can head over to the Catwalk Analysis section on the website. Also, watch this space for a round-up of S/S 16’s most interesting set designs…

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