Italian-born Marco Santaniello is an exciting artist, designer and self-described ‘opinion leader’ who loves his Game Boy, oversized stuff and the Rubik Cube! He travels the globe spreading a message of individuality, encouraging people to think for themselves and of the power of art. His colourful, fun, statement making fashions would be right at home in the cupboard beside Peggy Noland or Nicola Formichetti’s Nico Panda creations! I recently interviewed Marco while he was in Japan.
Firstly, let me just say, I really LOVE your Pop Art Portraits! I love the ideas that you covey through your works, one being that artists, singers and famous characters are not different from “normal” people. I like how you’ve used the rainbow wall behind the subjects to make them seem to be the same—you’ve created a contemporary world where all the people are really the same. Have you always felt this way/known this? Have you ever been starstruck?
MARCO SANTANIELLO: Thanks for your kind words. When u are a kid and you go to school, like almost everyone of course, you understand that people are NOT REALLY all the same, because this is the distorted vision that they give us, they want us to grow up as part of a mass. I have always been really shy when I was a kid but I was also really smart and a great watcher of my surroundings. Growing up my individuality was keeping growing up and now I feel finally well awake. I don’t believe in politics, in votation or election, I don’t believe in God and I don’t watch TV and I don’t touch daily newspapers. It’s all a big crap, a big lie that keep people at their place so they’ll never find the truth.
You were born in Cosenza, Italy and later studied in Florence and Milan; how does where you grew up influence your work?
MS: I took a graduation in Science of Communication in Perugia (University) I just did some cool hunting studies at Polimoda in Florence (not that amazing to be sincere) and I just did some unemployment free courses in Milan , studying Visual Merchandising, Marketing and some Graphic design. I was based 3 years in Milan and there I did some exhibitions about my pop art and couple of fashion show here and there. I don’t like Italy and is not a secret; it’s a pretty bad place to live in for me. I’m living now between NY and Tokyo and I finally see a pretty active life around me. In Italy unfortunately everything is so static and the people are always the same, old people are in charge of everything and there is no space at all for young talents. I think the best ones live the country.
What were you like growing up? What was life like for you?
MS: I used to hate fashion and art till 2000 and I was only thinking about playing football, playing games and I guess wasting time. I luckily learned that is really true that is never too late to make something good. I think I’m doing pretty good now especially I DO believe in MYSELF and I don’t care at all about what other people think of me.
What is your art philosophy?
MS: My philosophy is simply BE YOURSELF in every situations of your life and HEAD UP whoever is standing up in front of you. We are all the same.
Who are your art heroes and what is it about them that make them so awesome?
MS: I am my art hero and of course I was pretty into Andy Warhol. I’m glad to be in touch with some superstars of the factory. I loved the Factory concept but I don’t like the drugs part.
I know that you also use your art for “trying to wake up the people from the media’s mass manipulation”. You’ve previously said in interviews that “people must understand that there’s a small group of people that control everything and everyone is a slave to them”. When did you first realise this for yourself?
MS: As soon as you start to turn off the TV and stay well far from the mass media you suddenly see a different world around you. I was a TV watcher just like everyone, now I don’t watch it since like 6 years. It’s a big hammer that beat on our brains with jingles, lights, all things that can really manipulate the vision of everything. I’m thinking about new theories, I’m noticing that even sounds and music are really dangerous to modify our emotion. Example if you watch a really sad movie without sound you’ll not cry like a baby, it’s the music in that moment that makes you cry (just a quick example).
What can we do to break away from this control? Is it possible? What are some things you do in your daily life to challenge this?
MS: I actually have the solution to destroy the lobbies that rule the world. If all the people will stop working and all of us will start to live as a community the powerful people will find themselves alone and we could take control of the world. But this is not gonna happen if we don’t do something. So what I’m trying to do is gather a big audience (using fashion and art ) and becoming an opinion leader in order to try to destroy the very well linked mass media chains in the people. Pretty hard huh? I think part of the world is waking up, see many squares in revolution all over the world, but it’s still not enough. We still have to work hard on it. Don’t wait for the revolution or the change on TV. The revolution is only from the street.
What life lessons have you learned from your involvement in the fashion industry?
MS: The lesson I learned is NOT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY, but I’m happy to have so many friends working in it, they are really cool people. I just don’t like the idea to be part of a system. My life, my rules!
You’ve held many ‘unauthorised’ catwalk shows in London, Rome and Milan; what’s been your most memorable and why does it stand out to you?
MS: I think all of them were memorable to me. If you just think that a normal person gathers people from many countries to share a fashion, peaceful, colourful and happy moments…it’s already enough to be reminded as memorable. I like mentioning the one I did in Paris at Trocadero. It was nice to do a show with the Tour Eiffel background.
Where did your life of “oversize stuff” come from?
MS: Too much fashion discrimination, too many anorexia problems around or fatness complex etc. I guess the oversize can be great on both people and I also make practically everything unisex. I’m really tired of this sex difference. I witnessed too many fight and stupid dialogue about straight, gay, lesbian or whatever. As I said we are all the same AGAIN.
Tell us about how your t-shirts and t-skirts line came into being. What’s your greatest vision for it?
MS: I don’t have actually a proper line. People can buy whatever they see on my pages. Just the time to make it again. I don’t care of spring summer or fall winter. It’s all good. Of course I make new things actually quite often but you can see a real new collection when I take part in events, like the past two editions of the Williamsburg Fashion Week end in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. I’d like to see singers using my stuff in videos and I’m already working on this especially in Asia. Asians love my clothes and I think is my perfect market. Pretty open mind and colourful vision of life over here <3
What’s your favourite thing you’ve created so far?
MS: I’m so proud of my TSKIRT, my fashion patent (2007). It’s practically a t-shirt that you have to wear upside down, I put a coulisse in the waist so you can choose and customize your size thanks to the elastic. One of the most comfortable and cool item I have ever seen. It’s finally growing up!
What’s been your favourite reaction you’ve received in regards to your work?
MS: Of course the best is when people actually buy what you do but also when I get interview. Gosh I got so many in the last two years. It’s pretty impressive and incredible that’s why I’m probably easily getting my artist visa to get back to NY. My press is superb and I’m glad about this.
You’re currently in Tokyo for a couple of months; what have you been up to while there?
MS: Love is the reason but of course. I’m also planning exhibitions for next year (2013). I’ll probably move everything around here, slowly. I first need to get back to Manhattan for a while.
Could you tell us a little bit about some things that you are super passionate about right now?
MS: So happy you asked me this. I must say MY GAME BOY!!! I’m using this amazing little console again and It’s great to find some relax and I’m also thinking about a little project that will mix game boy and photography! Stay tuned to know more about it!
Along with your life as an artist and designer, you’ve also written for the Max Mara blog and have been considered by many to be a fashion journalist; have you ever felt like a fashion journalist?
MS: I felt a fashion journalist until I was one. I have a really big experience in the field. The more I was checking fashion the more I was thinking that I had to make clothes myself so I started to make t-shirts and all the rest that you know till today. I left the fashion journalism field since some years.
Coming from a writing background what are your thoughts on the current state of fashion journalism?
MS: I think the tragic death of Anna Piaggi put the definitive point to the fashion journalism. The 98% of fashion journalism is like a shop. You pay you get on magazine, you write well you get stuff from brands and I know 100 % all this, just like probably most of you, because I saw this with my eyes. I’m glad to say that I never did anything like that and I used to talk really bad also about Armani and Cavalli (dunno how many journalists did this actually). I have also been censored once. In that moment I stopped to believe in fashion journalism so I quit after a while and the pay was just so awful.
What’s the greatest thing that’s happened to you in 2012?
What’s next for Marco Santaniello?
MS: You have to follow me if you can…I move really fast from Tokyo passing by Italy and NY .