An interview with Linda Loppa

Talking fashion with the director of Polimoda

Helen Farrell
March 5, 2015

White and minimalist, the office of the director of Polimoda, overlooking the Arno at Villa Favard, belies the international fashion institute’s focus and creativity. As Linda Loppa showed us into her idea laboratory in a side room, we were privileged to catch a glimpse of creativity in action: a kaleidoscope of concept boards for Polimoda’s upcoming conference, from May 12 to 16.

 

 

The Florentine: First of all, congratulations on the recent opening of Polimoda’s beautiful new Design Lab. Can you tell us why Scandicci was chosen as the location?

Linda Loppa: The location was proposed by the Comune of Scandicci because they had funding from the European Commission. It was a long process and not an easy one, away from our library and the city centre. We had the problem of a location that was a bit old and tired, so we were looking for a new location, anyway. Then the opportunity came and the previous mayor did a great job lobbying to have us there. We just couldn’t turn it down! Everyone’s happy.

 

 

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TF: What activities will take place at the new centre?

LL: It’s all about fashion design and it’s all hands-on: shoe design, technology, knitwear. Everything is there. The beautiful thing is that all of these activities are together now, in the same place. Before, shoe design was in another department and we had certain things in Prato, too. Now that everything is offered altogether, I think it will be an amazing collaboration between leather and knitwear, and so on. The tramvia has helped us to convince students as they have their apartments here in the city centre. Scandicci is actually like a neighbourhood of New York!

 

TF: You moved from Antwerp to Florence. Is there anything that you miss about Belgium?

LL: I don’t miss anything about Antwerp. If you turn a chapter, you turn a chapter. My friends often come to Florence or I see them in Paris for the shows. My grandfather was Italian, from the north of Italy, so I always wanted to come back to Italy. I grew up with spaghetti and polenta. In Belgium, I was the Italian; I was already a bit different from the normal Belgian DNA. So, I was waiting for that famous phone call from someone to bring me back to Italy. Actually, it was an SMS in the end, from the CEO of Pitti Immagine, Raffaello Napoleone, who knew I was looking to move here: ‘Casa in Italia. New project. Why not?’ I didn’t actually know what the job was; it only emerged later that it was the directorship of Polimoda.

 

TF: How does Polimoda relate to Florence’s fashion world, particularly to its local textile and garment manufacturing industry?

LL: Our students are working in the industry here—but not only here. The world is not only about Italy anymore. Seventy percent of our enrolment is international students; they all go back to their home countries or they travel. You find a Brazilian student of ours who’s now in New York. To look too close at your own country is not really interesting.

 

TF: So it’s not really an advantage to have a textile industry nearby?

LL: It’s in the air. If that industry weren’t there, maybe it wouldn’t be the same. Because you are together in this kind of spiritual moment in which you have to understand what fashion is. It’s easier to talk to people who know what fashion is. In Antwerp, there was nothing, so we had to invent everything. In Florence, there is everything, so you have to reinvent it all. You can’t accept it as it is.

 

TF: We often hear people talk about this intangible creativity that exists in Florence. Does that help your students to reinvent fashion and identity?

LL: There are lots of fashion schools all over the world, too many perhaps, and they all do the same thing: undergraduate in marketing, fashion design, communications, etc. The DNA of your location, whether that’s Milan, London or Florence, also decides your philosophy. On the other hand, it’s how you educate your faculty. It’s the faculty and the parameters that make the difference, whether you go in deeper, broader, more specific and more critical.

 

TF: So, Florence doesn’t help?

LL: No, it helps, but it’s not because you’re in Florence that you’re good. It’s a conversation with the place where you’re living, then how you use it and what you do with it. There are plenty of fashion schools in Florence, but we’re all different. Then you have to define the word ‘creativity.’ For you, ‘creativity’ means something different than it does to me. For me, it’s not the newest sleeve; it’s about finding solutions. That’s what the fashion business needs right now. It’s about your strategy, your vision, your branding, your communication. Leading the world of fashion is more important than making a beautiful garment. Now, you have to find your strategy for being an outsider but in the business.

 

 

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TF: Do you think it is possible nowadays to find new solutions from outside the fashion system?

LL: You have to be out of the fashion system to find solutions. If you’re too in it, you can’t see it anymore because you don’t have time to find solutions. You have three collections: summer, winter, haute couture. Then you have to do special projects. How can you find solutions if the rhythm is so high? It’s impossible!

 

TF: In May, Polimoda will host the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI) conference, using key locations around the city, such as Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and National Central Library. Can you tell us about the IFFTI 2015 conference and what will mean for Florence?

LL: I often dreamed of doing something in various spaces all over Florence because it would be a pity to shut people up in a conference hall for two or three days. First, I wanted to break the rules to see how an event like this could be done. Second, it was a big decision for the institute to do installations around the city; in the past, people go from room to room and deliver their papers and research. We thought that maybe Florence would be too conservative to accept our idea, but it’s not. Everybody has been open-minded. Santa Croce is opening its doors for us—can you imagine that, being in front of a Giotto? All of the applicants from Tokyo, Africa, India, U.K., Holland—from all over the world—will be surprised. I don’t think they’ve realised yet that they will actually be in the basilica of Santa Croce.

 

 

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FLORENCE QUICKFIRE

Where do you shop in Florence?

I have difficulty shopping in Florence because all of my favourite designers are not really represented here. I’m searching for my style.

 

Favourite place for an aperitivo?

My husband and I really like Fusion Bar.Is there a place in Florence that inspires you or makes you happy (besides Polimoda, of course)?

A special place is the city centre with the tourists; they give life to the city. I love Florence the most with its light, sunsets and the bridges. 

 

 

Notes on the upcoming Polimoda conference: a gathering of fashion visionaries

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The 17th Annual IFFTI Conference will take place from May 12 to 16 in various venues around Florence, including Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Croce, Central National Library, Palazzo Strozzi, Marino Marini Museum, Villa Favard and the Odeon Cinehall. Guest speakers will include the founder of the Business of Fashion blog Imran Amed; editor-at-large of Style.com Tim Blanks; Chinese activist, editor and graphic designer Ou Ning; director and founder of the Cahiers Européens de l’imaginaire Michel Maffesoli; and Harvard professor Sissel Tolaas, who writes on smell, language and communication. The conference is open to all. For more information and to book, see www.iffti2015.polimodaconference.com.

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