Franco Maria Ricci

Parma, Italy, 2018

Text by John White
and Franco Maria Ricci


Did you originally purpose the labyrinth to be a museum for people to visit?

When the labyrinth project was born, it was a private matter. I wanted to leave something of myself to the land that had nourished and enriched my family; like the gentleman Vicino Orsini, who translated his solitary fantasies into the Park of Monsters in Bomarzo, or like Vespasiano Gonzaga, who died in Sabbioneta, in the heart of his unfinished dream made of stone.
As time passed, that initial idea was, for the most part, transformed. Now, I've come to think of my enterprise above all as a legacy—as a way of giving back to the Po Valley, which includes Parma, and to its countryside and nearby cities.

Portrait of Franco Maria Ricci on his Jaguar in the 1960s in Piazza Duomo in Parma. Credits: Ugo Mulas

Where did the idea come to have a pyramid at the end? In a way, it seems like a temple.

For the pyramid, and for all the buildings, I turned to the great architects who lived during the French Revolution: Boullée, Ledoux, Lequeu, but also the Italian architect Antolini, who presented Napoleon with a visionary project for the Foro Bonaparte in Milan.

Undoubtedly due to circumstances, none of these men have left us with great buildings; however, drawings and projects, dictated by a love of geometry, Egypt, the Greek and Roman world, and a visionary talent, nurtured 
by the Utopias of the age in which they lived, remind us that neoclassicism was not the classical, but, rather, fertile ground for the modern. That repertoire of shapes continues to serve as models for a new architecture, the knowing heir to a long past.

The pyramid is meant to be a chapel, even if it's not sacred yet. And there is a labyrinth on the floor, just like in the French medieval cathedral, as a symbol of faith and as a reminder of the tortuous path that every man has to walk through to reach Eternal Deliverance.

There was a collection that seemed to all have the theme of mortality (skulls, scrolls, epitaphs), how did you find these artifacts and why did you keep them?

I was still a young man when I first became attracted to these themes, constant in art. I was always wandering around art fairs, like the one in Maastricht or the one in Parma, and always looking for them in the catalogs of the main auction houses.

My purpose was to form a Wunderkammer, a place born to arouse wonder. Wonder that here is also a feeling of unease owing to the many symbolic representations linked to the fragility of life, the so-called Vanitas.

What do you think about religious art and architecture?

Undoubtedly, they're a fundamental part of Italian and European art history, and most of the time they hide true masterpieces. Sometimes, labyrinths too! Like in the Cathedral of Chartres or in Amiens, France or Ravenna and Lucca in Italy.

I read somewhere that you had wanted to be a geologist, but changed your mind? Did you ever feel uncertainty in your career choices?

At first I wanted to be an archaelogist, to tell the truth. Then, I graduated to geology but later, you know, I ended up doing a totally different job.

I don’t regret my choices, even if sometimes they were risky or really ambitious, like the decision to reprint the Encyclopédie by D’Alembert and Diderot. I was lucky, because my taste for beauty always helped me make decisions.

Do you think it's important to read any specific books?

I think it's still important to read the fundamental classical texts: from Homerus to Borges, and Dante, Calvino, Joyce…

What books are on your bedside table lately? What’s it about?

I'm always working on new projects and I usually read a lot of books to prepare them.
The last ones I read were all about the city of Mantua and the Gonzaga dynasty, because the last volume I worked on is Mantua Classical Utopia (we're printing the English version too), with texts from some of the most important experts on Mantua’s art and architecture and photographs of the most beautiful places of the city. ⁑

Kostas Murkudis

Berlin, May 2016

Text by Giulia Bernardi
and Kostas Murkudis

I left real life in Milan for a while to spend some time on the road. Then one morning, I woke up in Berlin. My alarm was a text sent by Kostas Murkudis.

Who is Kostas Murkudis? First of all he's a myth for me. A legend who represents one of my favorite decades in terms of fashion: the 90s, but he's especially an artist and a fashion designer of contemporary culture.

I started following him during my years of studying, and it's such an honor to finally have the opportunity to meet him in person. Kostas Murkudis was born on the East side of Germany, in Dresden, from Greek parents. After spending his childhood in East Germany, he moved with his family to the capital. It was kind of a shock for him. Freedom is the key word regarding the impact that Berlin had on him.

Everything in the city seemed to encourage one to be free, honest, and an outsider, to push the limits. The music, the magazines, the youth, the underground world, all attracted his attention.

Murkudis began his career assisting Helmut Lang as his first design assistant during the period of 1986-1993.

After leaving Lang's label, in 1994, he founded his own brand comprised of menswear and womenswear lines. It's one of those labels which don’t aim to be commercial and produce saleable clothes. Kostas produces and designs fashion for the sake of doing it. His designs are innovative and look towards the future. Lately he's focusing on various youth movements, and all the kids who make up contemporary style.
His fashion is influenced by varied artistic disciplines and the use of structured and geometric forms. What is admirable about his work is how simple his clothes appear, clean and minimal, however, there's a complexity, a study and experimentation behind his designs. In a word, Kostas appeals to a niche market.

Text by Giulia Bernardi

Kostas Murkudis

Are you afraid of change?

Not really.

What was the biggest one that you have had to confront in your life?

It was when my parents moved to West Berlin. It was quite a big step into the next chapter of my life. I didn’t know what to expect. I was scared and excited at the same time.

As you know, I’m Italian and as you’ve been creative director for Ter et Bantine and you lived in Italy for a while, is there something particularly Italian which has made a mark on your style or your way of working?

I like their enthusiasm and flexibility. 

How do you balance commercial work and success with your creative vision?

Since I am working on different collections and collaborations at the same time, it allows me to identify the right amount of creativity and commercial impact without excluding or denying the vision or creativity.

What has been the hardest decision of your career so far?

To stop working on my own collection, between 2002 and 2004.

How do you use the internet for work? Do you look for inspiration online, or do you get more from something IRL?

The internet is useful when it comes to research and information in general. And it allows you to get in contact with people... I love it.
But when it comes to inspiration, I do prefer the old fashioned way: observing, getting inspired by curiosity, reality; through real people‚ their thoughts and interests. And art as a main reference point. 

During the 90’s, you showed your collections during Paris Fashion Week and Mark Borthwick was there to document your show. As a kid from the 90’s can you explain to my generation what that period was like, the vibes, the fashion and especially the radical fashion? Are you nostalgic for the 90’s?

I am not nostalgic at all. Regarding the nineties: It was a bit naive, but at the same time full of energy, creativity in its rawest habit. The designers of that period did enjoy experimenting as much as they felt free to do so. They had their untold stories and visions to tell, to translate into a body of work.

What is the future for Kostas?

Surprise surprise.

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EDITOR John White
MEDIA PROGRAM Elizabeth Morina
MANAGING EDITOR David Montgomery
FASHION EDITOR Hollie Van Osenbruggen
PARIS EDITOR Marguerite de Ponty
DESIGN 11 1/2