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Interview: Andrea Buglione of TOTHEM

Italy's young photography-inspired fashion label keeps production at home

by Paolo Ferrarini in Style on 21 May 2013

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The relationship between photography and fashion is very strong today, in particular when it comes to T-shirts. Sometimes the link is purely opportunistic and instrumental, but other times it’s an authentic and deep bond. This is the case with TOTHEM, a young Italian fashion brand born out of the passion and friendship between Andrea Buglione and artistic duo, Carolina Amoretti and Matteo Abbo. We recently met with Buglione (the founder) to discuss the label's origins, design process and future.

Tell us about yourself and the origins of TOTHEM.

I was born in Naples and moved to Milan in 1999. I studied Corporate Organization at Bocconi University and I’ve always had a passion for the fashion business. After my degree I was involved for a few years in public relations and event organization. I also worked as a PR in a design studio in Como. For that studio, I also took care of sales for a small clothing line, but my aspiration was to be on the market with something of my own.

I appreciated the photographic research of Carolina Amoretti and Matteo Abbo; two friends that, at the time, were working on the theme of totems. I saw an excellent opportunity in their work and so we started with a few T-shirts. We got carried away and we decided to make a capsule collection for men. In this first collection there were references to Giuseppe Arcimboldo, thanks to the presence and treatment of fruits and vegetables. At the same time these were sort of totems—but also Rorschach tests to some, because everyone was able to see different things: animals, faces and objects. Then came the women's collection, we went ahead and now we are planning our third real collection.

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What about the name of the line?

The name plays on the question of "totem" and "to them" and is linked to the subjects that we shot for the first collections—totems, images, but also entities to be worshiped.

How is the creative relationship with Carolina Amoretti and Matteo Abbo?

The relationship was just a friendship at first, but has evolved into a professional collaboration. For me it is lucky to have them as friends, because I was able to explain exactly what I had in my head, my vision. I also had their support from an economic point of view, since they have had the patience to wait a year to start to see the fruits of labor. They were very quick in understanding what had to be done, where we had to improve and that we have developed an expertise that would be difficult to transfer to someone else.

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What garments are included in the collection?

We have T-shirts, reversible bomber jackets, pants, dresses, baseball hats, a scarf in technical fabric, a backpack computer case. We are also working on sunglasses and other accessories, to complete the collections from season to season. The materials we use are cotton, neoprene, jersey, waterproof silk, lycra, nylon, viscose. Everything is made in Italy: prints are realized in Como and production takes place between Padua and Venice.

What is more important: the print or the shape of the garments?

Both things are equally important. Through the printed photographs we have the ability to communicate to everybody in a direct manner. On the other hand, the attention to volumes and shapes is a subject that affects—perhaps a niche—those people who are very passionate about fashion. With the FW 13/14 collection, due out in stores next September, we have worked to harmonize more and more shapes and photographs.

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From a technical point of view, what are the characteristics of these prints?

We use digital inkjet printers that roughly resemble the ones used for printing on paper, but with fabric, the regular problems multiply. Fabric doesn't give a firm base and the risk is not having the prints straight—creating problems in the process of cutting and sewing. We only have “placed prints” and this choice makes things difficult, especially because our prints are mirrored, so we must always ensure it's perfectly centered. If you mess up, you have to throw away everything.

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Will you keep using photographic prints as the main feature of TOTHEM?

Today the prints are very strong in the market, so we are not abandoning them any time soon. But we are starting to experiment with unprinted fabric. If our experiment succeeds, we'll begin to insert something different in the collections—although the prints will always remain the heart of the project.

TOTHEM clothing is sold online at Luisa Via Roma. Images courtesy of TOTHEM.

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