Style | Diary of a Somebody

Carlo Brandelli

The designer on Italy’s food heartland – and its design heritage

Carlo Brandelli

Image: Nick Knight

August 17 2011
Carlo Brandelli

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

I am in a Pininfarina design today (for those of you who don’t recognise the reference, they designed most of the bodywork for the great sports cars spanning the 1950s to the 1980s, with Ferrari the star client). I leave my studio house in Castello in Reggio Emilia early; the studio overlooks the borgo and medieval castle and the village has architecture dating back more than 1,000 years. The house is modern, with a wall of glass running the entire length at the back; the young architects who built it in 1974 were fans of Mies and the Memphis style of design, and the juxtaposition between old and new worlds fits well. The church high on the hill is an unknown minimalist architectural masterpiece – if John Pawson or David Adjaye had been around in 1100AD, they would have designed something pure like this (David: if you are reading, this is where I took that photograph of the cross with light!).

It is a great secret, Reggio Emilia, and amazing that it isn’t more known in the UK. If Italy is the food capital of the world, then Reggio Emilia is the culinary capital of Italy: Bologna and Parma (food centres for serious chefs and gastronomes) are both in the region. All of the Italian kitchen greats come from here: Parmesan, Parma ham and, of course, excellent salamis and wines. And it’s only an hour or so’s drive to its more crowded neighbour, Tuscany, and two hours to Venice; or less than three to ski near Cortina or to the beach at Portofino. It’s the perfect central location, with Milan’s airport less than a 50-minute drive away.

Today I’m visiting Sealup, one of Italy’s great traditional coat manufacturers, where I’ll collect the sculptural coats I’ve had hand-made for Frieze Art Fair this October. (The drive to the Lake Como region is interrupted only by a stop-off for a brioche at Casa Del Pane in Castello – “the home of bread” – which makes the most refined and light biscuits and cakes you will find in this part of Italy.) Sealup has produced designs for everyone from Gucci to Prada for generations. These coats are actually functional, but will be displayed as hybrid objects; the seams are all heat-sealed, with no stitching.

The pieces work well; they are to be part of an “artwork room” in which Matthew Brannon (the contemporary artist who has commissioned me to produce this collaborative work) creates a vignette based on a notional story which is never revealed to the viewer – you simply draw conclusions from the objects displayed and a narrative unfolds itself.

And in the spirit of the work and so as to not reveal too much, I will only say for now that it involves a “film director” and a dentist’s nurse…

See also

Sealup, People