DUST 17, out in June 2020, was produced between March and May 2020
while numerous states implemented national lockdowns, travels restrictions
and confinement. Due to the situation, the magazine creative process
and production had to be rethought in its entirely. The following
is a digital excerpt of the original 400 pages DUST #17 issue.

How to navigate the digital issue

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The absence of human bodies in this issue, besides being a consequential choice during a period in which the majority of us have needed to rethink the way we work and keep our projects alive is, nonetheless, a way to symbolically and visually reflect upon a necessary inner withdrawal — an introspective moment of stillness and assessment. What remains out in the light when we stop casting our shadow? What remains when we stop being so self-absorbed, and we create a space where we can simply listen? What lies on the horizon when we allow our perspective to change? The continuous state of crisis in which we are living marks a transition in which our biggest challenge is to unfold this transition further. The past months alone — defined first by mass social isolation, later by global civil protests — presented a catalyst for a significant shift in our collective psyche. The process of transitioning to a different reality has accelerated. Still, whether it be towards a positive direction or a stagnant vicious circle, it will depend on our commitment to evolve. It will depend on the clarity of our intentions and intuition. During these times, finding a moment of stillness to recalibrate our actions and expand our capacity to imagine a different future is not only a possibility; it is a requirement.


Editor in Chief – Creative Director
Luca Guarini

Editor in Chief – Publisher
Luigi Vitali

Senior Fashion Editor
Nicco Torelli

Art Director
Emanuela Amato

Michele Fossi

Contributing Editor
Mattia Ruffolo

Type Setter
Oliver Schleit

Copy Editors
Johara Gargiulo
Nam Satya Kaur
Alexander Salem

Digital Coordinator
Daniele Troiani

Published by
Seeds Project Ug
Berlin, Germany

Distributed by
Export Press
Paris, France

Printed by
Spaustuve Kopa
Kaunas, Lithuania

Dust Magazine
ISSN 2191-7604 

Coco Capitán
Image Group
Julia Hetta
Paul Kooiker
Delfino Sisto Legnani
David Lindert
Alasdair McLellan
Adrian James Mimnagh
David Gary Moore
Catherine Opie
Georgia Pendlebury
Walter Pfeiffer
Jack Pierson
Olivier Rizzo
Alessandro Saletta
Nicola Samorì
Blommers & Schumm
Rikke Wackerhausen-Sejersen
Casper Sejersen
Juergen Teller
Wolfgang Tillmans
Willy Vanderperre
David Wojnarowicz

Marco Alverà
Jacopo Bedussi
Simone Cipriani
Angelo Flaccavento
Maria Luisa Frisa
Allyn Gaestel
Fiontán Moran
Willy Ndatira
Sissel Tolaas
Stefano Tonchi

Isolation Days, 2020
Embroidery Adrian James Mimnagh

We asked embroidery designer Adrian James Mimnagh who works on the embroidery at Prada and Miu Miu, to create an artwork which summed up the days of isolations spent in Milan during the lockdown.

The embroidery is a collection of personal objects representing the life of the designer during a period of time between the 7th of March until the 4th of May, day in which the lockdown restrictions were lifted in Italy. The still life work is created using different embroidery techniques and materials which reflect the different textures and surfaces of the various objects.



Crisis is our territory — for all we know has been learned here. Crisis is our territory — for it has been the horizon, the background noise, the smell we cannot rid ourselves of, the taste of these years, the rough ground on which we have learned to stand and fall. This continuous state of crisis hasn’t just been a temporary disruption on the path, or a miscalculated error in need of fixing, but the very soil in which a generation was formed and has begun doubting everything in existence. Whether we are facing a social, economic, environmental, or health crisis, we know by now it’s always rooted in the same problem; the compromised and outdated premises on which the world hangs in the balance.

The crisis is the short circuit of a mindset we are leaving behind, the mirror in which we started to discover ourselves, realising what we are not and what we do not want — a chronically dysfunctional system that embodies the failures of what was before us.

The reason why we cannot find shelter from this continuous state of crisis is that its causes are deeply ingrained within each one of us. We are not only witnessing its repercussions; we are complicit in it. The crack between reality and what an equal space should be; between the narrative and our willing suspension of disbelief; between the cost of what we’ve been accepting and the low return we have gained from it; between the constant exploitative modus operandi and the common good, is nothing more than the reflection of the fracture we carry deep inside. Whether we like it or not, we are agents of crisis. This understanding should put us in a state of urgency in which no excuses can keep us from questioning ourselves. Recalibrating our thoughts and behaviours should be the primary responsibility of our times.

On a personal level, we know where to detect this fracture within ourselves. It resides in that same fear that holds us from loving — in that same idea that keeps us separate from the whole as an organism; in the constant dualism, we are caught in. The duality is present. The struggle of not understanding our place in the world is real — it has always been — but now we’ve learned we are not here to cover this fracture as hypocrites; ignore it as apathetic youth; indulge in it as failed artists; intellectualise it as smart neurotics; accept it as cynics; fight it as confused romantics, or glamorise it as if we had nothing to lose. All we are here for is to heal and reconcile this crack occurring between our awareness of completeness and the sense of lack we are wired to perceive constantly. Buying into self-diminishing narratives isn’t part of our present anymore.

We know that when we spend our time fixating on neurotic thoughts, we let our defence mechanisms and fears take over our choices. We know that when the choice is to numb our sensitivity, inventing any possible diversion to avoid facing ourselves and our pain, we are investing all our creativity into a losing game. We know that when we allow low-vibration thought-forms to become the basic projection of our collective psyche, reality becomes suffocating and toxic. The question is, can my way of thinking, acting and behaving harm myself, others and the spaces we share? We are the ones who contribute to the problem most of the time. If we are not able to care enough, do enough or fight enough, it’s because we have let our inner fracture allow us to not see the value in addressing the problem in the first place. We are aware that no real change is possible if we keep indulging in divisive social and internal narratives. To do nothing about it is to be complicit during these times of crises. 
If we are to dismantle the status quo, we know where to attack, where to go, because it’s only within ourselves that we can find the place where reality can be hacked and revised. Every single one of us can make the difference. We know that to generate a different future what is needed is to develop a mental capacity that can hold a higher quality existence based on heart-centred premises, and fueled by what we can call clean energy for the psyche. Imagining a different future requires the conscious choice to intervene on our mental vibratory input and create new premises on which a more just, inclusive and mutual reality can take its course. This is not only a possibility; it’s our responsibility and obligation. We can be confused and overwhelmed when everybody is telling us that the future is in our hands, but what we are actually feeling is that we are stuck in a pervading cultural numbness that dampens any real change. Even more, this is precisely the reason why gaining clarity and intuition should be a matter of absolute urgency. The crisis has already shown us that whatever we were doing until now was not a solution, whatever we thought about ourselves and the world was not that accurate, whatever we suppressed in order to fit in wasn’t worth it after all. This is our generational territory, because we are here, ready to give up everything that isn’t necessary, everything that does not serve us, everything that personally, socially or environmentally isn’t any longer acceptable. What we’ve learned by now is to welcome the crisis as the ultimate wake up call we can finally listen to.

The fear of tomorrow sits in low mental vibrations that interlock with feelings of anxiety, frustration, codependency and any sort of addiction. These low vibrations are the nest wherein fate, fear and victimisation thrive, creating a reality where we have no purpose but to endure the status quo. If society isn’t able to change an inequitable, exploitative socio-economic system that has already shown itself harmful to the people and the planet, it is because our collective psyche cannot sustain a real alternative. In a context of crisis, if privileged parts of society are playing the victim, we can only see it as an impersonal and unstable expression of emotional conditioning and undeveloped states of consciousness. Our answer should be different, no matter where we place ourselves. We must take responsibility for everything that we don’t like, everything that is corrupted, everything that we think is wrong, by subsequently locating it within ourselves, and start the change from there. That’s how we draw the line, and make sure we will not allow it again. The only way we are going to read and utilise the current state of crisis is as an incubator of self-empowerment, emotional maturity, and authenticity. What we mean by being authentic is understanding that our genuine expression sits below our continuous subconscious patterns and their negative frequencies. It is understanding that the vibratory input of our words, thoughts and actions creates our surrounding. The process we are in is all about becoming aware of how we direct our emotional state and how it impacts the collective psyche; in the same way as we are aware of our carbon footprint and its impact on the environment; in the same way as we are aware of our life choices and their impact on our immune and nervous system. Cultivating our own experience of what this means is about creating a reality distanced from misconceptions, divisive mechanisms and all the forms that undermine our empowerment.

We are not interested in building a personality. We have nobody to impress, nowhere to fit in, no one to ask permission to be accepted. What we care about is defining our identity, avoiding tribal identifications within groups, subcultures or categories but with the freedom of not giving a damn about what we are expected to be in any given context.
We will not identify as frantic hedonists through our bodies; we will not identify with our minds as neurotic intellectuals; we will not identify with our souls as delusional spiritual enthusiasts. All we can do is to administer and bring balance to these three different but complementary aspects of ourselves: the physical, the intellectual and the spiritual. In this way, our achievements cannot be measured with the meter of our fathers. We are not interested in creating our own success, because we know it’s a way for our minds to compensate for something we think we are lacking. Instead all we intend to do is to let our success create us because we know that the success we are looking for won’t happen by chasing it, but as a byproduct of our authentic expression, as the result of mutuality, not competition.

Everyone is capable of inner guidance; everyone is already made to stand out. The feeling of missing something doesn’t apply anymore. Self-mastery is what we are looking to achieve. Expecting somebody or something to make us feel complete, if not happy, is delusional. There is nothing outside that can fulfil us; there is nothing to desire, to crave, to miss. The outside ended up meaning nothing, looking for fulfilment there was a lost battle to start with. We call the crisis our territory because it showed us the void that constitutes certainties, conventions, belief systems or attitudes. It revealed the precariousness of all reality for the illusion we bought into. This is the territory on which we were raised, unable to imagine the future. This is the territory that didn’t give us space, but now we have claimed it back, and we have made it ours because we went and we took over the fortress. We went inside, into the self, where the fundamental of everything lies, and we started ruling from there.

This generational evolution is not something we will accomplish with the mind, or by intellectualising the question. It is only through experience that we will adapt to this time, and this means preparing our body and spirit; strengthening our nervous and immune system, activating our glands to secrete properly, and lighting up our sensory capacities. It’s a commitment from which there are no exemptions. A low immune system makes us unfit for these times. A weak nervous system is a reason for anxiety and stress to flourish, making us reactive and emotional. We are not interested in that. All we want is to welcome more, experience more, be more. Embracing the evolution which we are part of means bearing responsibilities for everything we feed to our body, our mind and soul. Cluttered and numbed minds aren’t producing anything relevant now. Our expression should go beyond our neurotic thought process and personality. The focus is not only to move emotions but energy, not only to make us think but to bring us closer to ourselves, there’s no point in echoing a cultural void that isn’t serving us. We don’t need another elaborated comment on the status quo, we don’t need to reflect upon that, we just need to get out as if the house was on fire. We can talk as much as we want about the future of creativity, art and fashion, but if we don’t have the mental strength to transform the existing, we’ll stay empty-handed and unable to bring anything new to the table.

It may sound abstract, but it’s not, it’s something very concrete and tangible for anyone. It’s about being fit for the future, recalibrating our psyche by increasing the speed of our neurons and the current in our system so that we can resonate with a higher frequency in which our usual neurotic junk won’t find space anymore. The result is that our unnecessary thoughts, obsessions, and worries, which keep haunting us and that keep that sense of fracture alive will eventually vanish, unable to catch up with the increased energy. This is what it means to be on a different level of reality, where it is not fate deciding for you, nor some defence mechanisms, nor your endless subconscious reactions to emotions and situations, nor your cultural conditioning, nor the past that is holding you back, but exclusively your free and pragmatic choice to give a damn about yourselves and others. It takes commitment; it takes self-discipline; it takes constant training and daily practice, whichever fits you best, but it’s crucial to keep mentally and energetically in shape to be able to overcome this challenge we call future. It’s a generational shift, and it’s happening now, it’s up to us whether we want to be part of it, or not. Those who are attached to the previous grid of reality are resisting this transition, defending outdated privileges, and reacting with ignorance and resentment. We see it happening in the world, sometimes even threatening our democratic cohesion. We are aware of the social and political forces in play trying to diverge and suffocate our ‘r-evolution’, but we know where to stand. As humans, we only have two choices: to direct our energy towards fear or love — towards what unites or separates us. It always comes down to that. They have opposite frequencies, but it takes just the same effort, just the same amount of energy to engage with either of the two. The choice will always be personal. We already made ours, and it will spread contagiously if we can keep our faith in it.

The crisis is our territory because here we’ve learned to shift its narratives and to turn difficulties into opportunities. Here we’ve learned that adversities propel us to rise, to step up, to progress in whatever shape or form it might take. Out of comfort, the crisis forces us towards expansion. And whenever an expansion takes place, it means a vacuum is created. It’s really up to us if we want to fill that vacuum by rising to the occasion and evolve, or instead by enhancing fear and hatred. The vacuum will need to be filled anyway. It’s our call to decide how.

The crisis is our territory because it is here that we’ve deeply stared into the vacuity of society and understood that we had no other places to look but within ourselves — where new premises could be found. This generation knows its purpose, and it’s about bringing higher consciousness to the ordinary human existence; it’s about giving sense to the world outside by turning matters into something meaningful; it’s about bringing sense and balance to what is lacking; it’s about recognising love as the primary aggregational force governing the existing. That’s the world we are interested in experiencing.

The continuous state of crisis in which we are living marks a transition in which our biggest challenge is to unfold this transition further. The past months alone — defined first by mass social isolation, later by global civil protests — presented a catalyst for a significant shift in our collective psyche. The process of transitioning to a different grid of reality has accelerated. Still, whether it be towards a positive direction or a stagnant vicious circle, it will depend on our commitment to evolve. It will depend on the clarity of our intentions and intuition. Whatever is coming, whatever is happening, whatever the situation will be, we know that if we can address our energy in the direction of a higher state of being, we’ll always find a way through the dust. The future is coming, and we are prepared for it because everything we had to learn has been learned here, on this same territory called crisis.

Luigi Vitali


photography Willy Vanderperre
fashion Olivier Rizzo 

1999 original edition t-shirt jenny holzer

1950’s original levi’s jeans

1980’s original Belgian Army boots 
hand painted Graffiti edition leather shoe-cover comme des garçons ss 2014

all from own archive

1999 original edition t-shirt jenny holzer

1950’s original levi’s jeans

1980’s original Belgian Army boots 
hand painted Graffiti edition leather shoe-cover comme des garçons ss 2014

all from own archive

padded and cut-out pièce-unique recycled 1997 high school football t-shirt comme des garçons aw 2018
1950’s original levi’s jeans
1980’s original Belgian Army boots
leather shoe-cover comme des garçons ss 2014

sleeveless shirt raf simons ss 2000
1950’s original levi’s jeans
1980’s original Belgian Army boots 
hand painted Graffiti edition leather shoe-cover comme des garçons ss 2014

all from own archive

sleeveless shirt raf simons ss 2000
1950’s original levi’s jeans
1980’s original Belgian Army boots
hand painted Graffiti edition leather shoe-cover comme des garçons ss 2014

1950’s original gas station uniform boiler suit
1950’s original levi’s jeans
1980’s original Belgian Army boots
leather shoe-cover comme des garçons ss 2014

all from own archive


Luigi Vitali in conversation with Simone Cipriani

The awareness that is spreading across our general culture can, in many ways, be an unpleasant experience, as it threatens the basis of our basic habitual patterns and familiar structures, demanding our attention for changes to materialize. Bearing responsibility for our way of living and taking a stance towards real action are the only premises on which we can guarantee ourselves a future. Changing the current unsustainable, unequal and unethical dynamics in the system has by now become a matter of survival. Among the many industries and systems that need to be reformed is our fashion supply chain.

Now that we live in an age where few people can be blamed for being unaware of the cause and effect paradigm, thanks to the constant availability of information, we have to ask ourselves: what really constitutes ethical and sustainable fashion? Does the very concept of ‘sustainable fashion’ make sense when we refer to producing consumer goods? Or do we need to revisit this heavily overused word, in which it can be hard to distinguish between real action, impactful initiatives and simple marketing plots and greenwashing? How do we want our future fashion history to unfold and how do we create new narratives?

The questions surrounding these issues have been attempted to be answered by the United Nations, Ethical Fashion Initiative, a project founded by UN officer and founder of the initiative, Simone Cipriani. The EFI creates links between extremely marginalized communities — a majority of which constitutes women — to retailers and brands, ensuring fair labor standards based on human rights and the application of living wage logics in all areas of work.

DUST met with Simone Cipriani to talk about the current state of crisis, the idea of conscious capitalism and whether the concept of sustainable fashion even exists.

LUIGI VITALIYou used to move from one continent to another to follow the various projects for Ethical Fashion Initative, travelling all the time, how has your life changed in the last two months?

SIMONE CIPRIANI – It has since changed very much. I’ve been back home in Geneva mostly doing teleconferences with our teams on the ground. We have collaborations in many different countries, mainly in Africa, but also Central Asia and Afghanistan. The impossibility to travel gave us the input to create a new management platform for the Ethical Fashion initiative to stream activities online, reduce our travels and to manage our carbon footprint in a better way. As per policy, we were already compensating the CO₂ emissions generated by our travels through offsetting, but offsetting is simply not enough. Thanks to what we have experienced these past two months, we had to plan work differently, and I think we are ready for this shift. With the Ethical Fashion Initiative, we’ve launched many new ideas. For example, we held a Hackathon, an online form of brainstorming in which participants from the fashion industry from over sixty countries gathered together to generate ideas for the post-COVID recovery. It’s been a difficult period, a terrible period in general for humankind but it’s also been a time of new thinking.

L.V.Do you think the shift towards new dynamics and approaches that we all have witnessed in the last months are going to last even after this emergency?

S.C. – I think yes, the pandemic is giving a push towards a better and more sustainable industry. The hope is that we’ll keep on moving in a new direction even after the pandemic. For example, going more digital, reducing our carbon footprint, using more environmentally-friendly materials, implementing functional social structures for the workers. I hope that this will push consumers to demand more sustainable products, to buy less and to buy better, to care more about the story behind each product. This situation may also put an end to the crazy world of Fashion Weeks, in which a whole circus of people travel four times a year, leaving behind a huge carbon footprint from New York to London to Milan, to go to parties and to see the same products physically which are then sold online. It’s a sort of contradiction. Some organizers of Fashion Weeks, such as Shanghai or others who are environmentally-conscious, such as Helsinki, are already doing digital Fashion Weeks. Since COVID-19, we’ve also been seeing brands stating that they won’t do physical fashion shows anymore. In general, environmental sustainability will be a trend that will increase. More brands will try to use the overstocks of materials they have to produce new collections in order to give a push to the circular economy, or they will use environmentally-friendly materials reducing their carbon footprint. The hope is to move towards a real and reliable sustainable fashion.

L.V.But still, the situation is that the fashion industry is responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions, nearly 20% of wastewater, and it consumes more energy than both aviation and shipping combined. The term ‘sustainable fashion’ itself poses a sort of contradiction. We could argue that there is no such thing as sustainable fashion.

S.C. – I know, now it’s totally an oxymoron. It’s a contradiction of sorts because you have all these unsustainable practices present in the fashion industry and, at the same time, they claim to be sustainable when they are not. Nevertheless, we see a future in which sustainability in fashion won’t be a contradiction anymore, and in which the fashion industry will apply social and environmental standards throughout the whole of the supply chain. In that case, the fashion industry could become an engine for this kind of growth which it fails to be now.

L.V.This issue is called Crisis Is Our Territory, in reference to a generational condition where the crisis is not experienced through victimization but as an opportunity to change the status quo and build a different reality. This precariousness occupies all our horizons, and we have to come to terms with it by finding creative and new ways to live.

S.C. – I agree with you and, unfortunately, I’m not a millennial but one of the last baby boomers. I’d like to be a millennial. Your generation is one that often addresses challenges in a very proactive and useful way. What happened to my generation is that it failed to foresee and forecast the future. We took too many things for granted, and the development model that was adopted turned out to be actively unsustainable. We should have a duty now to engage more because we have to try to clean up the mess that we caused in the last decades. I love the title of your issue, for sure it resonates with what we do. All of us at the Ethical Fashion Initiative live in full-on crisis mode. We work mainly in war-torn countries: Afghanistan, Mali, Burkina Faso, recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We work in places where conflict, disruption, war, insurgency, terrorism are the normality. Where accidents happen continuously and where you always have to find a way to live with it, carrying on your activities. I must say that the kind of production we manage in these difficult places, which is all about creating artisanal communities, is extremely resilient because it’s based on people. It’s based on the best part of society, the women and men who willingly accepted to play good and positive roles in their communities. We are in permanent crisis mode over there because we live in places that have to live through that. Still, the social model that we created allows us to also contribute towards the mitigation of this crisis and towards regenerating the human capital of the places where we work.

L.V.That’s remarkable. Things are very different when it comes to mass consumption. The current situation has clearly shown how unjust the fashion supply chain is, with major brands cancelling orders and stopping payments for orders that have already been produced. Do you think that after reaching this ultimate tipping point things will change for good, for what concerns agreements and contracts throughout the supply chain?

S.C. – I would like to be able to change the situation overnight with a simple snap of the finger. That would make it beautiful, just and fair. But it won’t happen so quickly. Many fashion brands are cancelling their orders and, in some cases, because of public outrage, those cancellations have been transformed into very late payments, sometimes up to 180 days! How can a supplier afford to be paid six months late, especially when they invested their own money into fabrics and production? I see a lot of pain in the weakest part of the supply chains of the fashion and lifestyle industries. You know, fashion’s supply chain expands all over the Southern hemisphere and gives work to an incredible amount of people. These jobs are very precarious, considering that the supply chain is built in such a way that those jobs can be cut by the brands and the retailer at any given time. This is the business model of the current fashion industry. A lot of production is externalized so that the production cost is not a fixed cost, but a variable cost, and an external one that can be cut off at any moment. It is an unfair system that allows the accumulation of value only on one side of the chain, the brands and the retailers, while always keeping in very precarious conditions all those who stay on the other end, especially the manufacturers in the lowest tiers. The first tier of producers, the ones who receive work directly from the brands and the retailers, have long term contracts, while there are also social-environmental standards imposed by the buyers, by the brands, by the retailers and a normalized relationship. The first-tier suppliers may be in better conditions, but then there is the second-, the third-, the fourth-tier of suppliers, those to whom production is subcontracted. The lower you go, the worse the conditions get. The general assumption in this industry is that brands and retailers impose to the first-tier suppliers sustainability standards and labour standards, thinking these will automatically trickle down the value chain to all the other tiers. But we know it doesn’t work like that. This is a system built with the possibility in mind to exploit labourers without the need to take responsibility or accountability for their actions.

L.V.What has been put in place, in this sense, to protect the labourers’ jobs?

S.C. – There is an international organization called ILO, the International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, which has produced a whole corpus of fair labour standards that are available and accepted by all countries. These should just be implemented and communicated transparently to consumers. How are our clothes produced? It’s not enough to say we use the best artisans in the world or we monitor our footprint, in particular our social footprint. How do you do it? Where do you produce? What are the contractual conditions for workers? What is their remuneration? What are the safety conditions? What are their basic rights? We cannot keep on pretending this industry has a positive social impact on the supply chain because its social footprint is simply not positive.

The fashion industry and many other industries that have extensive supply chains in the southern part of the globe have the responsibility to think about the social impact they have on those countries. We should not be complaining in Europe about massive migration flows coming from Africa and the Middle East when, in fact, we buy products from there, and we don’t even offer reasonable remuneration and fair working conditions. On our side, what we want is to implement a global supply chain for fashion, to make it possible to move production anywhere, in search for the best comparative advantages and also to accept global responsibility. Global supply chain means global responsibility. The system now is the opposite. Global supply chain involving national or regional responsibility, and that’s wrong.

L.V.Talking about the future, now that many strategies would have to be rethought, do you think there is hope for what you call ‘Conscious Capitalism’?

S.C. – Yes, absolutely. Conscious capitalism is about having a purpose, also having a broader purpose in the business model. We all know that the objective of a company is the maximization of shareholders’ value, and this means profit maximization. But where are the social objectives? In a company, there are shareholders who have invested capital and expect their economic return, but there are also stakeholders. These are the workers in the company, the workers in the supply chain, the environment, the communities who live around the places where production takes place. Conscious capitalism thinks about creating value for these wider numbers of stakeholders. Companies are still focusing on the profit, which is a discipline, and it forces you to be efficient and efficiently allocate the resources. Still, there is also a wider purpose which is having a positive impact on the broader community. This requires conscious leaders inside the company. The CEOs, directors and so on have crucial roles in society. The key element in the world of today is social and environmental responsibility. Whoever wants to do business now has to be more knowledgeable about that.

L.V.More and more people are able to appreciate the values of ethical and sustainable clothing, but these are still often too distant from regular customers. In the mind of the consumer, the production costs of these garments automatically translate them into expensive luxury pieces.

S.C. – They are more expensive, yes, but for a real reason. On our side, we try to negotiate the best selling price with our buyers. It’s about having an open margin attitude. These are my costs, and my costs are higher because I pay people fairly, because I offer good working conditions, as I offer a decent life to the people who work here. I know the buyers have to maintain their margins, but if we can cooperate and they can reduce some of their margins here and there, we can make a provision for it. It’s always a dialogue like this, and it’s a very tough dialogue. We’ve lost buyers for these reasons. They went away saying it was too expensive. What we always look for in our relationship with our buyers is to sell the product and the story behind the product. That’s our main point, but it’s a struggle. A continuous struggle.

L.V.It’s all about the consumer’s sensibility to this theme; in the last decades, we have witnessed a boom of wellness and growth in self-care industries that have led the customers towards a more holistic and informed approach towards what they consume. We can talk about SlowFood, which was founded in Italy in the 80s and how it made people start thinking about food differently, educating consumers to spend more and eat healthier. But if with food and self-care products people clearly see the effects on their health, when it comes to fashion, the difference between an ethical piece and a non-ethical one is mainly in the story behind it. Something that only a small part of consumers are sensitive to.

S.C. – Exactly, it would be great if one day we could reach the goal of slowing down fashion. There’s certainly a difference between a fast fashion garment and an ethical one, and it’s not only felt on your skin, whether cheap fabrics leave you rashes or not, but it’s mainly on the ‘skin’ of workers in unprivileged parts of the world. We need a psychological shift in the thinking of consumers and the industry alike. And, most of all, we need leaders in the industry to engage seriously with these matters. Being proud and satisfied with wearing an ethical piece leaves you with a sense of joy, and people are starting to resonate with it.

L.V.It’s a different understanding to which people are slowly opening themselves to. It’s not only about the look and exclusivity in a garment, as it is not only about the taste and deliciousness of the food, but, rather, it is about more subtle aspects that influence our being on a much deeper level because they imply social responsibility, healthy and sustainable visions. A garment that has ethical values is not only good on paper, but it affects us psychologically, and we can even say energetically, impacting our radiance, our projection, it makes us feel good and look good. We actually feel different when we wear them, recognizing that the story behind them has an impact on the garment itself and us the wearers.

S.C. – Yes, absolutely. Reaching people’s consciousness is the struggle we find ourselves in. On our side, we openly communicate everything we do. We have a solid and well-defined social and environmental impact assessment system. We know exactly what the social impact of the work we do in Africa and Afghanistan is. We communicate these to people, to our buyers, to our customers. I see more and more people understanding the importance of ethical choices, not only for the society or the environment but also for themselves. Now we want to develop our brand to sell directly to consumers and to communicate our values directly to them. We are creating an online platform where we can sell from. I cannot say anything because we still have to launch it. It was scheduled for September, but it will depend on the situation. It’s an umbrella platform. We call it a meta-brand. It’s about time that people start being conscious and responsible for what they wear, there’s a new emerging sensibility that is growing stronger and stronger within the new generations.

L.V.You’ve been working for the past 30 years in Africa, a place that, as you said yourself, produces innovation out of necessity and limitations, and that gives a human face to problems. What did you learn there?

S.C. – Africa is an incubator of a different kind of innovation, for example, look at their use of circular economy, or how they recycle materials. People there are very resourceful when it comes to recycling. In the sub-Saharan African countries where we work, there’s another element which astonishes me, and that is the capacity of people to be resilient, to create jobs and work out of nothing. It’s the so-called informal economy. You always see people that develop some small businesses, trying to make the best out of what they have and recycling existing things. They produce new products. I’ve also seen incredible initiatives in my years of travelling across this wonderful continent like the one of creating a 3D printer out of computer waste.

Also, I remember that already more or less fifteen years ago in Kenya, people were able to transfer money to each other via phone when in Europe it was still science fiction. This system, called Mpesa, allowed cash transfer directly between people. What we can have learnt from Africa is the capacity to adapt and to find hope and the desire to live even in the most challenging conditions. People live in shacks without any sanitation, without potable water, cramped in tiny spaces. What you see in Africa is the ability of humankind to find hope, even where the situation is hopeless. And this is admirable. Among all the places where I have lived and worked, Africa is where I found some of the most admirable and beautiful spirits.

L.V.As you said, you work in some of the most impoverished areas around the globe. These places have something in common; they are located on the geographical line where the desertification is increasing at a worrying pace due to climate change. How did you witness the effects of global warming in these places?

S.C. – I want to give you an idea of this with a mental image. Many do not know that the war in Afghanistan in 2019 alone produced more deaths than the wars in Syria and Yemen combined that same year. Now, in that context, in the western region close to the border with Iran where we work, there are more people displaced by climate change than by war. There has been a very bloody war there since 2001, but the majority of people are displaced because of climate change. They are climate refugees. We see the progressive advance of desertification. The seasons of sandstorms have increased. In Western Africa as well, you can witness days and days of sandstorms in which you can’t even see the sky. Other countries in which we work, like Mali or Burkina, have continuous conflicts between different groups because of the lack of access to natural resources. We witness this every day. Climate change is a reality, and climate change is growing very fast. It’s not even conceivable here in Europe how quickly it has grown and how heavily it impacts populations.

L.V.Did this influence your way of conceiving your businesses?

S.C. – Yes, absolutely. We started producing a lot of cotton in Western Africa because it was pluvial cotton. It doesn’t depend on an irrigation system, and it doesn’t need watering. We do a lot of this organic cotton avoiding pesticides that also allow us to have a different relationship with the farmers. We are trying to promote forms of rural integration of activities by merging the production of food with the production of crops, improving the plantation and the use of trees and plants that retain a lot of CO₂. I can tell you something that is not known to the public yet. We made an agreement with the European Union Commission (our main partner and funders for all our development work) and the management of Virunga Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the cultivation and transformation of bamboo crops. Why bamboo? Because it grows very quickly, it’s a resource for the gorillas that are part of the protected animal population of the park and, above all, for its amazing properties. Bamboo absorbs CO₂ four times as much and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than a regular tree. Per year, one hectare of bamboo absorbs even up to 50 tons of greenhouse gases, and 12 tons of carbon dioxide. At the same time, you can transform its fibre into yarn and make a great fabric with antibacterial properties. We are actively pushing forward this kind of integration of activities to get closer to the root problem of climate change.

L.V.Another point worth discussing with you is about women and equality. Let’s comment on the fact that fashion and the production system are real patriarchal systems, and the gap between men and women is more than evident in this industry. Even though 80 per cent of the people involved and employed in fashion, from production to retailers to consumers, are women, they only own 10 per cent of the global capital of fashion.

S.C. – Yes. It’s absolutely true, and it’s something that has to change if we want to shift to a sustainable industry. In the places where we operate, we try to reverse this trend by working with social enterprises and cooperatives of artisans, of which 80 per cent are women. This is our small contribution to the fashion industry, where a more significant role is given to women. I think the 21st century is the century of women, the century in which women stand on the main stage and show us what history can look like.



photography Casper Sejersen
fashion Rikke Wackerhausen-Sejersen

in collaboration with food stylist Marie Holm


Text Willy Ndatira aka Willam Cult

Life has been one crisis after the other for generations born after the late 80s. Sixty per cent of the world conflicts have lasted more than a decade, creating the phenomenon of wars with no end. The global economy has seen two major recessions, and a third one is looming due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19. And let’s not forget climate change, the seemingly slow, yet fast-moving catastrophe with its summer fires, floods and melting ice caps.

Born under the rule of Neoliberalism and austerity measures, how could they be blamed for sinking into despair. Yet, there is hope for a better future and little space for cynicism. The rise of social media, coupled with the collapse of the old media structure, makes self-representation for people and ideas easier. It amplifies the voices of those who were not heard before while highlighting issues which have been with us for some time. Society is being shown that it is not as fair, open-minded, racially-inclusive or as feminist as it thought it was, or wanted us to believe through the old media apparatus.

The mass protests that have broken out during the past few years across Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Arab world share three important commonalities: they have no sole leader, they were born on social media, and they are organised and mediated through technology. Paris, Hong-Kong, Chile, Lebanon, Spain and the US have all seen what has been referred to as ‘leaderless rebellions’. These rebellions are not driven by one single political party or have any specific manifesto.

These uprisings reflect the discontent of the people and the youth. They are inspired by hashtags, rather than being guided by party leaders or slogans drafted by central committees. The lack of leadership can mean failure or confusion for some, as governments do not know with whom to negotiate. Leaderless rebellions are a reflection of the youth’s discontent with the status quo.

Social media is a space where people curate and perform their identity politics. Identity is not only performed, but it is also broadcasted. For some young people, their political identity is slowly being shaped and expressed on those same platforms where they connect to exchange messages and share images or videos.

The internet is also a place for young right-winged radicalised white men to recruit other members on gamer platforms or chat rooms like 4Chan. Essentially, Web 2.0 is not a political-free zone made up only of memes, cat pictures and YouTube videos.

While reporting on the Hong Kong uprising, a journalist from The New Yorker, Jianyang Fan, postulated that, for what concerns protests, there is a divide in comparison to previous generations. The difference is linked to social media. On social media, we are regularly reminded not only to choose where we stand but also perform it and broadcast it. She posits that young people view the world as a stage and space where political identities are expressed. Standing for what they believe in is a fundamental part of expressing identities. Social media has ushered in a time in which we must not only pay attention but it has also encouraged us to choose a side and be willing to take to the streets to bring about change.

The more cynical view has been that some are turning to activism for the gains of social capital or clout and displaying performative allyship. The fact that Pepsi’s 2017 advert featured Kendall Jenner and a group of attractive young people having a good time at a protest didn’t help. The protest was supposed to be a Black Lives Matter protest, although the signs had vague slogans like ‘Join The Conversation’. In the advert, Jenner brings about peace and ends racism by handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer.

There is truth in saying that some people see protests as photo-ops and a chance to make a funny banner. In the same respect, others see protests as an opportunity to loot and live out their chaotic fantasies as seen in The Joker. But the majority of people at protests are there to advocate for something.

At the start of the year 2020, a deadly virus began its journey around the world. Moving from animals to humans, COVID-19 infected and killed millions, shut down the global economy and changed the way we live. Those who were fortunate enough to be healthy went into self-isolation, and world-wide lockdowns were put in place. On May 25th, George Floyd, an African American man, was killed by the police in full view of bystanders and phone cameras. It was yet another senseless Black death at the hands of the American police. The video was shared on the internet and sparked a Black Lives Matter protest which spanned 50 states in the US and 18 countries around the world, making it the greatest civil rights movement in world history. This happened during a pandemic, and this cannot be stressed enough. People of all races mobilised online and on the streets to demand justice. The police and government’s answers in the US was to wreak havoc by bringing in the armed police and army to use tear gas and shoot rubber bullets into crowds of people who had set out to protest peacefully. Tear gas causes people to cough, pepper spray renders masks unwearable, and mass arrests send people into a highly contaminated prison system. People were seeking justice and an end to police brutality, but instead, America, with its stubborn and virulent brand of racism, chose to go up in flames and create a super virus-spreader. In the same way the government has failed to respond to the pandemic by having inadequate testing and contact tracing. America and its reality TV star president have failed protesters.

People in the US and around the world assembled and formed what Nobel prize winner sociologist, Elias Canetti, calls a reversal crowd. The reversal crowd happens when members of a stratified society, in terms of inequality, assemble to end an injustice. It is the moment when people realise that as a crowd, they may succeed in getting what was denied to them singly as individuals. The French revolution, the ongoing Hong Kong protests and most revolutions are made up of reversal crowds.

Modern society has many crowds: the sports event crowd, the shopping crowd, the religious crowd, the concert crowd, the Coronavirus put an end to all of those, except the reversal crowd: the crowd which seeks to change a situation or reverse an injustice.

Young people find themselves in the peculiar position where they are empowered by digital technology and simultaneously disenfranchised economically, socially and ecologically.

Adults celebrate young girls like Greta Thunberg (climate activist, 17 years old) and Emma Gonzalez (gun control activist and survivor of a school shooting in the US) for their sacrifice. Still, they remain apathetic to meet their demand or change the law through voting or legislation. The adult world tends to abandon and glorify the young at the same time. Media simultaneously portrays young people as the saviours and cellphone zombies who are addicted to technology.

But today’s youth carries a lot of longing — the longing for an end to inequality, racism, fascism, economic crisis and environmental issues. The list is long, and the longing is expressed through their actions of taking to the streets or organising themselves through online activism. The reversal crowd could become a common sight in the 21st century if those in power do not pay enough attention and hear their voices.



creative direction Mattia Ruffolo
photography Delfino Sisto Legnani and Alessandro Saletta

LOUIS VUITTON via Monte Napoleone, 2, Milan

CELINE via Monte Napoleone, 25/2, Milan

from: Matt Ruffolo
to: Luigi V.
date: April 26, 2020 – 02:10am
subject: Dust to lust: Montenapoleone

Ciao amo,

I just got back home now. I went for a nice walk around via Montenapoleone and at one point the dinner we had a couple
of years ago at Bice’s came to my mind, the one with me, you, Luca and Zacchini, when we were talking about – or should I say trash talking – runway shows. Who could ever have imagined this lockdown situation…
I’m on my own in a house in via Borgospesso; I rented it this weekend because I needed to write and I can’t really concentrate at home. But here I can. Did you know that a house that used to be worth €200 a night, would go these days for €35? The Hotel et de Milan is closed. What a shame.

I’ve not been seeing anyone. The only reason I have for leaving my house is to buy food: the only human interaction I’ve had this afternoon has been with a sax player who was playing Tchaikovsky from her living room, above Jil Sanders’ boutique. Her window was open and I could make out her figure from the street; I stayed there and listened for a while. This evening I was stopped twice by the police, they asked me where I was going and I told them I was heading towards the pharmacy near the Duomo and they let me go. They wanted to know my address before I left though.

It’s crazy. Seeing Milan like this makes me so sad. When I was a student, I used to pass by Montenapoleone every day on my way to the Accademia in Brera. In the mornings, it used to look different, maybe more chaotic – I think I preferred it that way. It didn’t look as formal, or as pretentious, also because of the (hot!) guys parked in double lines while unloading goods for shops.

Now it’s deserted. I hadn’t been there for two months and it’s so surreal. Not even a car in sight and shop windows have not been changed since January. It’s quite disappointing, you know? I’ve never seen it so neglected. Spring has started and everywhere is covered in pollen, it’s warm and some shops still have jumpers and wintery coats displayed in the windows. Those garments that would usually be so extortionate are now there on display, covered in dust. They’ll put everything on sale soon, or they’ll burn it all.

I didn’t expect from such a fina – as the Milanese would say – high street like this that they wouldn’t even lower the metal shutters. I thought they’d have issued a public notice, at least for a question of decorum… You know how it is in these situations – when there is sufferance and death involved, luxury can be considered offensive. I would still expect these kinds of formalities from the zealous Milan. Cartier was the only brand to have done so. I really appreciated that gesture. I thought it was quite elegant and respectful towards everything that has been happening recently… On the other hand, out of fear, other shops have emptied everything they could. As clean and intact as a Spalletti sculpture. In those empty windows, I was able to daydream more. Just as well.

I ask myself if it’s still considered exceptional to be able to go to these types of boutiques. Is it possible that no one is capable of conceiving spaces and the whole shopping experience in a new way? Imagine that to be in that fashionable area, they spend up to 13k euros a year per m2. Is it really worth it? In these cases, the state of negligence is obvious. As if they were saying to themselves that if the market continues to thrive we’ll make the effort, if not, we’ll just abandon ship. But this is exactly one of those moments when the market should be taken care of, when it’s in such a fragile state. Don’t you agree? They prioritize e-commerce above all. And, in a way, this represents the end of wandering as an aesthetic practice, of meandering around. It’s the death of le flâneur.

My friend Anna Franceschini’s latest exhibition is all about this. She wants to turn shop windows into study cases. “Vetrinologia” (a term she coined herself). It’s still quite a marginal subject but she would like to relate it to archaeology, a shift between the present and the past. Shop windows become ruins; like the Colosseum, or Diocletian’s thermal baths.

It feels like I’ve been wandering around ruins these days. Everything is silent. I wanted to tell you about it. We should ask Delfino Sisto Legnani to shoot a reportage for DUST’s next issue. Seeing Milan like this has already become part of history. No fashion week in September. So I’ll have to come to Mallorca.

Kisses. My regards etc. etc., Matt x


DELVAUX via Bagutta, 10-12, Milan

miu miu via Monte Napoleone, 2, Milan

chanel via Sant’Andrea, 10, Milan

via Monte Napoleone, 2, Milan

vacheron constantin via Pietro Verri, 9, Milan

vacheron constantin via Pietro Verri, 9, Milan


Michele Fossi in conversation with Marco Alverà

In 1874, Jules Verne foresaw that Hydrogen would one day provide infinite energy for humanity. Today, amidst our current climate emergency, this abundant resource appears to be the missing resolution to our fossil-based dependency — one that has the potential to inject large segments of our global economy with clean, green, and renewable energy — alleviating geopolitical tensions, while supporting emerging countries to develop their economies. Can Hydrogen revolutionise our future?

DUST spoke with Marco Alverà, CEO of Snam, Europe’s largest gas infrastructure company, and a passionate advocate of Hydrogen-based energy. Alverà is the author of Generation H.

MICHELE FOSSI – “It’s 2050, and the world is set to feel the first refreshing effects of global cooling. Temperatures have stabilised — rainforests and reefs thrive. We can trade, prosper and travel while respecting the delicate equilibrium of our planet. When we take a long-haul flight, or turn up the heating we are using clean energy. Ships, buses and cars no longer spew toxic fumes and CO₂, but pure water. The pipes leading into our homes carry gas derived from recycled waste or renewables. We are harnessing the power of the wind and sun — transformed into Hydrogen.” Does this reassuring prophecy ring any bells?

MARCO ALVERÀ – (Laughs) It does! It’s an excerpt from my first book, Generation H. I’m now using my time at home during lockdown to write two other books on the same topic, including one for children. The interest around Hydrogen is growing very fast.

M.F. – These ideas of a green future seem more akin to the likes of Greenpeace or Jeremy Rifkin. How is it that the CEO of Snam, Europe’s largest gas infrastructure company, has arrived at this conclusion?

M.A. – Hydrogen presents a huge opportunity, both for Snam and the world. Some might think I am pushing this agenda because I’m afraid that the alternative — to go all-electric — could harm our business. We should all remember that you can only electrify so much of our economy — a percentage that is estimated around 40-50% to 2050. So we need to think of other carbon-free energy sources besides clean electricity if we want to reach the goal of net-zero CO₂ emissions by 2050.

M.F. – So, where can we ensure the remaining 50-60% if we want to divest from fossil fuels entirely?

M.A. – That’s still an open question. No one’s talking about how to substitute our coal, oil and natural gas dependency for heavy industries today. Bill Gates — who’s also a big Hydrogen advocate — says, “whenever people come and talk to me about the energy transition, I always ask them the same question; what’s your solution for steel?” Experts predict that we’ll have millions of new city dwellers in the next 30 years. Cities are made of steel — and you cannot reproduce steel, and likewise fuel large sectors of the industry entirely with electricity.

M.F. – So, what do you propose?

M.A. – In my book, Generation H, I explain why I think that Hydrogen is the solution to achieving carbon-free, clean steel production while solving many other older problems that remain unresolved today.

M.F. – Like what?

M.A.. – Think of the problem of the seasonality in energy consumption — which today is considered one of the biggest impediments to the development of renewable energies. In many areas of the world, such as continental Europe and North America, there is a massive shift in energy consumption between summer and winter months. Because of heating, cities like Berlin or Milan consume something like six times more energy in the winter than in the summer. As of today, there’s no way you can replace natural gas with renewable electricity. You cannot use a battery that you charge on the 5th of June to heat your home on the 15th of December.

M.F. – But can Hydrogen do the trick?

M.A. – Yes. And precisely because I have this vision, I would like to turn the energy company I work for into the world champion of Hydrogen. And Biomethane — which is CO₂-neutral Methane obtained from organic and agricultural waste, too.

M.F. – Methane, Hydrogen… Before we go on with the conversation, let´s quickly outline the chemical properties of these two gases. Methane: we combust Methane to produce energy. Methane is considered cleaner than oil because when burned, it produces only CO₂ — sparing our cities of toxic smog. However, for the very same reason, it contributes to climate change. Hydrogen: when combusted, you get energy too. However, instead of producing CO₂ as a side product, you get pure water! Too bad Hydrogen does not exist as a naturally-occurring gas on planet Earth. We have to produce it ourselves from water.

M.A. – It’s true. Hydrogen is hardly present in its gas state on Earth. But because there’s a lot of water on this planet, there’s also plenty of Hydrogen. We just need to decide to go and get it.

M.F. – To divide water into Oxygen and Hydrogen, we need to provide energy. Depending on which source of energy we use — ‘dirty’ coal or clean, renewable solar or wind energy — some ways of Hydrogen production are cleaner than others. So-called ‘grey Hydrogen’ is obtained by combusting coal as a source of energy to divide water, which makes it overall ‘dirty’ because it’s production is linked to CO₂ emissions. A cleaner option is ‘blue Hydrogen’, this being Hydrogen produced from coal or other fossil fuels, but where you capture and store the CO₂ before it is released in the atmosphere. Last but not least, we have ‘green Hydrogen’ — Hydrogen produced from solar, wind or other renewable energy sources. What is the percentage of green Hydrogen today, compared to the others?

M.A. – As of today, it is still quite low, unfortunately. Almost all of the Hydrogen in circulation is grey. But still, with the use of grey Hydrogen, we are paving the way for the arrival of clean, green Hydrogen — hopefully soon. By testing with grey Hydrogen, we are refining the way we store, transport and get deeper insights on how to make use of Hydrogen in general. And also how to sell it.

M.F. – But why don’t we start with green Hydrogen?

M.A. – In the absence of a CO₂ tax, there’s no incentive to go green — green Hydrogen is still more expensive to produce than the grey. But in five years we could reach the tipping point over which the first will be cheaper than the latter. To accelerate the transition to green Hydrogen, governments could consider subsidizing it with incentives.

M.F. – Grey, blue and green. Are there other colours for Hydrogen?

M.A. – You also have ‘pink Hydrogen’ — Hydrogen made from nuclear energy. And there’s ‘turquoise Hydrogen’, obtained from pyrolysis. Similarly to blue Hydrogen, in the production process for turquoise, the carbon is stored in solid form and prevented from contaminating the atmosphere. Except for grey, I support all these different ‘coloured’ types of Hydrogen, as long as we can keep the CO₂ involved in the ground. Let’s always remember that carbon, per se, is not harmful. We’re made of carbon. Trees grow with carbon; carbon feeds plants. We eat carbon at every meal or drink it when we order a beer.

M.F. – Even a girl’s best friend — diamonds — are made of carbon.

M.A. – Yes, even diamonds! Carbon is ‘bad’ for the environment only when it is released into the atmosphere in the form of CO₂, as it absorbs heat and contributes to the heating of the planet. But if we can capture it during the process, we are left with a solid byproduct that we can use to build many objects, from tennis rackets to skis. I even like pink Hydrogen: if you’re in Japan and you have a lot of nuclear energy at your disposal, pink Hydrogen is a cool way to employ it.

M.F. – I’ve heard about the many qualities of this clean fuel since I was a child. In your book, I found the idea of using a Hydrogen engine was already foreseen by Jules Vernes back then! In 1874 Vernes wrote, “I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that Hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable”. So if the idea of Hydrogen as a fuel is not new, what makes you so confident it will suddenly be adopted by humanity in the next few years?

M.A. – Many scientists of the past — starting from Jules Vernes, who was a scientist besides being a novelist, and Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the first battery — were convinced that Hydrogen, being both flammable and largely available, was the solution for humanity’s quest of energy.

M.F. – But then oil came in the way.

M.A. – In the 1930s, in order to overtake Germany, Churchill converted the British fleet from coal to oil — a decision that historians consider marks the beginning of the oil industry revolution. After the War, oil became so cheap that Hydrogen, for mere cost reasons, was put on the side. Oil is cheap because our society does not acknowledge its real value. When we burn a litre of oil in our car, we are consuming a liquid that has taken nature millions of years to produce, and is not renewable. It should cost far more than a dollar or two.

M.F. – In the early 2000s, in the wake of growing concern for climate change, Hydrogen re-entered the debate for environmental reasons, as a cleaner substitute for fossil fuels.

M.A. – Correct. In 2002, when I was working for an Italian electricity company, I attended a global conference on Hydrogen. In those years Hydrogen was mostly considered to be a vector to bring nuclear energy into cars. Japan, in particular, was pushing its automotive industry in this direction. Renewables were still very expensive at the time: solar energy cost 100 times more than oil. The reason why I got so excited about Hydrogen, to the point of writing a book and deciding to turn Snam into a Hydrogen leader is that, in the course of the past 10 years, the price of solar energy has fallen by 30 times. For the first time in history, the idea of producing Hydrogen by splitting water with solar energy became suddenly economically feasible. And looking forward four or five years, I am pretty confident that we will be able to make Hydrogen from the sun at the same cost of oil.

M.F. – In the book, you explain that producing Hydrogen in the desert from solar energy would solve an old problem, transporting the renewable energy produced there over long distances, to wherever it is needed.

M.A. – Hydrogen is a fantastic connector. It will connect energy sectors that are totally separated today.

M.F. – How?

M.A. – When you generate Hydrogen from the sun, you are creating energy in the form of a gas, which means you finally have a way to transport it over great distances. Due to dissipation effects, this has never been the case with electricity, which cannot be transported over long distances without losing power. On the contrary, gas can travel for longer distances with minimal energy loss.

M.F. – So, if we convert electricity into Hydrogen, we suddenly have an efficient way to produce enormous amounts of solar energy in the Sahara, and subsequently, move it to continental Europe through Italy. Or to generate wind energy in the North Sea, and then efficiently transport it in the form of Hydrogen to Sicily.

M.A. – Yes! By converting electricity into Hydrogen right where it is produced, you get to solve another old problem of renewable energy; its storage. Electricity is not only expensive to transport, but even more to store. Batteries, as we all know from our experience with mobile phones, may well be cheaper today, but they are still not that performative.

M.F. – In the past months, Snam successfully tested the feasibility of adding 10% Hydrogen to the Methane transported in the company’s pipelines.

M.A. – These are such great results! Not only have we shown to the world that you can use the already existing gas infrastructure, but that we can burn Hydrogen together with Methane, without changing anything in the hardware. Last December, we increased the percentage of Hydrogen to 10% and, again it worked just fine. These results mean we have suddenly found a way to introduce non-electric, renewable energy into factories, at no cost.

M.F. – So Hydrogen is the Trojan horse with which we can hope to inject also the so-called ‘stubborn’ sectors of the industry — the most reluctant to embrace the energy transition — with renewable energy.

M.A. – Yes. The industry of steel, as I mentioned earlier, is only one of the many. And imagine if we did the same for heating our homes!

M.F. – Explain how Hydrogen could play a role in heating our homes.

M.A. – What are your choices if you wish to heat your apartment with renewable energy? A first option — and a very expensive one — is that you install electric heating. The other is that you keep the same boiler, the same radiators and the same pipelines, and start using a mix of Methane and Hydrogen, powering your home with clean energy for heating and cooking, at no extra cost.

M.F. – Do you have a specific time frame in mind? When do you think we will be ready to transition to Hydrogen? How far is this goal?

M.A. – I am confident that the European Union will use The Green Deal as a sort of Marshall Plan to help Europe restart and rebuild itself. As we aim to restart Europe after this crisis, we need to do it in a future-proof way. We need to equip ourselves with the technologies that will allow us to have clean air as that we breathed in Milan during these days of lockdown. Can you believe that, for the first time, I can see buildings I had never been able to see before?

M.F. – Is Hydrogen playing any role in the plan for decarbonising Europe?

M.A. – We have calculated that by equipping just about 1% of the Sahara’s surface with solar parks for green Hydrogen production, it would be enough to meet all of Europe’s energy needs! In practice, the plan is to meet, with Hydrogen, between 25 and 30 per cent of Europe’s energy demand and to provide the remaining 50% with renewable electricity and the rest with Biomethane, produced from waste.

M.F. – What would be the geopolitical consequences of a massive shift from oil to Hydrogen? Would it destabilise the planet?

M.A. – Quite the contrary. Being a fair gas that can be produced virtually everywhere from sun and seawater, Hydrogen will soothe many geopolitical tensions. For the first time, emerging countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia will have the opportunity to become energy producers. The sunnier parts of the world, which also happen to be the poorest, will gain a lot from this energy transition because they will finally be able to export solar energy. Globally, Hydrogen will create lots of jobs too.

M.F. – Last September, writer Jonathan Franzen wrote a controversial article in The New Yorker titled What if we stopped pretending, where he writes, “the struggle to rein in the global carbon emission and keep the planet from melting down has the fuel of Kafka’s fiction. The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts, we’ve made essentially no progress towards reaching it”. By realistically accepting that we won’t meet the climate goals and that the temperature increase will be most likely higher than 2°C, he argues, we might be more efficient in finding ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. What’s your response to Franzen?

M.A. – Reading that article put me in a bad mood for a week. I kept receiving it forwarded from my friends. A week later, I prepared a written answer for them, in which I explained why I could not agree. On the one hand, we indeed need to start thinking about mitigation, because we are still way off the trajectory that we’d need to be on to stay within two degrees increase. However, we need to keep on working very hard to keep it between two and three degrees. We need to believe that we will make it and work hard for this goal. There is no room for defeat here. The cost of doing nothing is just too high.

M.F. – Too bad we are all concerned more about the virus than the climate during this period.

M.A. – Yes, but after the virus, the number one problem in the world will be climate change again, and how we respond to that — Hydrogen represents a massive solution.

M.F. – But how safe would it be to introduce this highly flammable gas in our daily life, be it in our homes or our cars? I’m thinking of the explosion of a Hydrogen-gas plant in Norway in June 2019.

M.A. – Look, every energy source has its safety concerns. Think of electricity, how many people get electrocuted in the world every year? Toyota — the world’s biggest carmaker, and one that is betting everything on Hydrogen — has done a test to show how safe their Hydrogen car, Mirai, is. They first filled up all its tanks, and then threw it off the tenth floor of a parking lot. The car crashed and didn’t explode. Then they took a machine gun and started firing at the car — still, no explosion.

M.F. – How come?

M.A. – It’s the lightest gas of the universe. In case of a leak, it flies away very fast, thus making the actual risk of explosions very low.

M.F. – In October 2017, you delivered a TED talk about Fairness in the work environment, that collected 3 million views and in which you explain why, for a company, treating the employees fairly pays off, at all levels. It’s worth remembering here that Snam, under your guide, has been nominated by Forbes as one of the best 150 companies to work for in the world last October.

M.A. – Science has highlighted how detrimental unfairness can be. When you have an unfair boss, the psychological response in the employee is so negative, that no bonus can help — they just disengage and stop performing. When you feel the victim of an unfair boss, the same part of the brain lights up as when you experience physical pain.

M.F. – So social pain and the physical pain are — at a neurological level — identical.

M.A. – Yes! And this has a terrible overall impact on the global economy. It is estimated that unfairness at work costs the US economy 550 billion dollars every year, due to the disengagement and loss of participation it causes in employees. The good news is that when you are fair, magical things happen. People relax, and when they are relaxed, they dare to express their opinion or come up with their own solutions to a problem. When ideas circulate freely, the company thrives. It’s like with jazz; you get the best jazz music when musicians improvise.

M.F. – How did you develop these beliefs?

M.A. – My very first work environment in a global financial services company was extremely competitive — if you did well, you got a big bonus; differently, you got fired. A few years later, when I moved to a large Italian state-owned energy company, I was assigned a large team of people to manage. Although I did not have a budget for bonuses, the team worked just great. So I asked myself, “can it be that the high performance of this team is related to the work environment being uncompetitive?”. This intuition urged me to talk to neuroscientists, psychologists and headhunters. What I discovered, somewhat not surprisingly, is that what motivates people at work is far more than money or fear, having a ‘purpose’ in what they do. But fairness goes beyond the workplace. Today more than ever, social commitment and having a social purpose is ever more important. Individuals, and companies, have a moral duty to help others. That’s why, with my brother, in our free time, we started Fondazione Kenta, a non-profit organization that pays homage to our grandmother, Kenta Alverà, who was a writer and an activist for women’s rights. Today, the foundation is active in the neighbourhood where it stands – Milan’s Isola – where it promotes initiatives to help the local community. And that also includes helping girls in local schools to discover their purpose and pursue it.

M.F. – Do you anticipate Hydrogen, besides becoming the future of energy and delivering on environmental targets, will also serve as a great sense of purpose for Snam’s employees?

M.A. – If a company can discover a superior purpose than just profit-making, it is a strong company. In Snam, we believe that Hydrogen can help us become a leader in the energy transition, which is one of the ways through which we want to contribute to the world.



paintings Nicola Samorì

The Degeneration of Daniel
oil on panel, 40 x 30 cm 
Bagnacavallo, Italy
May, 2020

The Degeneration of Daniel
oil on panel, 40 x 30 cm 
Bagnacavallo, Italy
May, 2020

Picture taken in the studio
buttercups immersed in ABS
Bagnacavallo, Italy
April 21, 2020

Breccia Medicea marble slab on which the work on pag.xx will be painted


photography Coco Capitán

cotton boxers shorts SUNSPEL
embroidery COCO CAPITÁN

suit, cotton shirt, tie and socks PRADA 
little girl underwear and white socks COCO CAPITÁN

evening cotton shirt DIOR MEN

cotton boxer shorts SUNSPEL

ribbed cotton briefs GUCCI 
socks MUJI

ribbed cotton briefs GUCCI 
socks MUJI


photography Juergen Teller


photography Blommers & Schumm
fashion Gary David Moore

wool trousers PRADA

trainers MARNI

checked trousers and jacket PACO RABANNE

crocodile printed loafer GUCCI

skiing gloves FILA

studded denim jeans STEFAN COOKE
cotton tie PRADA


photography Alasdair McLellan

Wiltshire, United Kingdom
May, 2020

Yorkshire, United Kingdom
June, 2020

Yorkshire, United Kingdom
June, 2019

Hampshire, United Kingdom
May, 2020


on David Wojnarowicz’s 1990 exhibition In the Garden
text Fiontán Moran

In collaboration with P·P·O·W Gallery, New York

Mock-up of an advertisement for David Wojnarowicz’s exhibition
In the Garden at P·P·O·W, New York, 1990
Black and white xerox
Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York
©Estate of David Wojnarowicz

A formal portrait of culture, 1990 Kodachrome color photograph 27.9 x 35.6 cm 
Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York
©Estate of David Wojnarowicz 

Smell the flowers while you can:
David Wojnarowicz’s In the Garden

‘These are strange and dangerous times.’ dw, 1991

‘These are strange and dangerous times. Some of us are born with the cross hairs of a rifle scope printed on our backs and skulls.’
DW, 19911

On 22 July 1992 David Wojnarowicz died aged 37 from complications related to AIDS. He was in the home of Peter Hujar, his friend and former lover, who had passed away from the virus only five years before. Witnessing his condition deteriorate in the weeks prior, the writer Cynthia Carr noticed that Wojnarowicz would sometimes be confused as to where he was, noting ‘as things wear down to their essence, he has not defined himself as someone with a home.’2

For Wojnarowicz, home was not somewhere associated with happiness. Growing up in an abusive household, neglected by each of his parents, he ran away and spent periods of time living on the streets. Instead Wojnarowicz found solace in art, sex, and nature. As a child he would escape to the forest where he didn’t have to care about ‘the Universe of the Neatly Clipped Lawn’ and made ‘human forms out of mud and sticks’ that he would throw against trees.3 While the dilapidated warehouses by the piers along the Hudson River offered a landscape for sexual encounters with anonymous men.

Throughout his career Wojnarowicz sought to counter feelings of isolation through work that emphasised the importance of bodies coming together, both in sexual union and in protest. This became all the more vital with the rise of the AIDS pandemic that was largely ignored by the US government and led to a culture of fear and prejudice.

Today, living in an age of contagion, government inaction, and the renewed visibility of institutional racism, Wojnarowicz’s life and work continues to be a rallying cry against all forms of injustice. It poses important questions about vulnerability and loneliness, what constitutes a home, the responsibility of state and religious institutions, and our relationship with each other and the natural world. For Wojnarowicz deeply understood how the treatment of those with the virus was merely an extension of how marginalised people are neglected by both the state and a society that is permitted to treat human life ‘as nothing more than clay pigeons at a skeet-shooting range.’4 His declaration, ‘WHEN I WAS TOLD THAT I’D CONTRACTED THIS VIRUS IT DIDN’T TAKE ME LONG TO REALIZE THAT I’D CONTRACTED A DISEASED SOCIETY AS WELL,’ could equally apply today and acts as a reminder of how illness exposes the fault-lines in society.5

Wojnarowicz’s visual, textual and activist energies were distilled in his final exhibition In the Garden, which opened on 3 November 1990 at P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York City. The title, which came out of a text responding to his artwork Where I’ll Go After I’m Gone (1988–9), was his reflection on the idea of an afterlife:

‘Hell is a place on earth. Heaven is a place in your head. The garden is the place I’ll go if I die. I don’t believe in afterlife, really… But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the ideas of tiny angels or ghosts accompanying people in life and death and offering them small comforts in unimaginable ways. Gimme a dozen angels; sweet, sexy angels; little creatures that fly around like dumb bugs in the wind outside the windows coughing in the exhaust of the buses that stop below. So this garden is where I’ll go…’6

In the exhibition, that first sentence formed the title of a close-up photograph of a bee with the faint imprint of a newspaper headline in the corner. It was an example of a more nuanced approach to image-making that was an attempt to challenge the perception of him as an ‘angry artist’, explaining to a friend that he was tired of being solely seen as ‘radical’. The previous year he had been at the centre of a media storm and court case when his work was seized upon by conservative politicians and lobbyists, specifically the American Family Association, who protested against government funding of exhibitions that featured work that they believed attacked the Church and considered pornographic.

For the exhibition, rather than create explicitly political or sexual material, Wojnarowicz used the concept of the garden, as a man-made site of birth and death, pollination and parasites, to express his frustration with society, what he called the ‘pre-invented world’, a world of injustice. However, this did not dampen his activist spirit, as shown by the exhibition invitation that placed the head of Senator Jesse Helms on the body of an arachnid stamped with a swastika, who Wojnarowicz explained on the accompanying text was ‘responsible for cutting all Federal funding for safer-sex education designed to inform lesbians and gay men, thereby leaving scores of the population at risk of contracting AIDS.’

Having recently opened his first retrospective in Normal, Illinois, the shift in approach may have been a response to his own mortality and history. Wojnarowicz had difficulty in finishing all of the work for In the Garden due to his failing health, so the opening gallery featured 25 prints from one of his oldest works Rimbaud in New York (1978–9), which had never been exhibited before. It depicts an anonymous figure wearing a paper mask of the poet Arthur Rimbaud as he moves through various New York locations, which Wojnarowicz described as his attempt to use the literary figure to explore his own past of being homeless. The series was accompanied by his collage Untitled [Genet, After Brassai] (1979) that depicted Jean Genet as a modern day saint with an image of Christ shooting up in the background. Wojnarowicz had defended it that summer against the American Family Association by explaining that Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers had helped him to process his sexuality and experience of being a sex worker.

These works reflected Wojnarowicz’s long-standing fascination with identity and his use of art to process his personal experiences. And yet most of the works in the exhibition were largely devoid of human life, that included an illuminated globe featuring repeat silhouettes of the United States surrounded by a sea of black, and a surreal landscape of a bee made out of a banknote approaching a flower composed from an old map. At a time when the queer body was increasingly represented in the media as a site of political and personal conflict and pain, In the Garden revealed a way to deal with identity politics that did not rely on conventional forms of self-representation.

At the heart of the show were a set of four paintings depicting exotic flowers with small photographs inset into them. Each flower was based on a photograph taken while at the US Botanical Garden in Washington D.C., which he projected onto board and painted while in Normal. If formally they have an affinity with the beauty of a Georgia O’Keeffe flower painting, the early title for the series of Fleurs du mal (Flowers of evil), a reference to Charles Baudelaire’s book of poems, suggests that the association was one of illness and pain. Wojnarowicz brought this to our attention by literally sewing small, mostly monochrome, photographs of organs, skeletons and landscape scenes into openings in the painting support. The red thread holding each image in place had previously been used in his film Fire in My Belly (1986–7) where his bleeding lips appear to have been sewn shut and a split loaf of bread is threaded together. By attaching these images to the painting they function as messages that were intended to literally interrupt a scene of life, they could be described as ‘Postcards from America: X-rays from Hell’, the title of Wojnarowicz’s 1989 essay on the AIDS epidemic.

Other messages appear in the form of long passages of text exploring ‘war, death, disease, dreams’ that Wojnarowicz screen-printed on top of the paintings, some of which came from his memoir Close to the Knives that would be published the following year. While a few describe erotic encounters, many convey concerns that echo our contemporary moment. In one painting he declares ‘Americans can’t deal with death unless they own it’, and goes on to narrate his visit to the museum of the Atomic Bomb. In another he speaks of the alienation and anger felt by those that do not fit into what he calls the ‘one tribe nation’, feelings that are exacerbated by the thousands of people who are distracted from reality by mass consumerism and mass media. Faced with these long passages of prose, the viewer is forced into a new form of ‘reading’, and a new relationship with the surface of painting. We can no longer be a passive spectator. Instead, as you navigate your way around the composition you are called upon to literally and metaphorically pay closer to attention to the composition, and by extension society.

Whereas text operates in the flower paintings as one part of a multi-layered scenario, in a series of black-and-white photographs it offers poetic explorations of the relationship of word to image. They feature insects that he had photographed in the Adirondack Mountains in 1989, and creatures stuffed in formaldehyde that were taken at a State Lab in Normal in the summer of 1990. In these works nature is presented as an object for study and analysis, which are accompanied by short passages of text that function as a type of subconscious to complicate our understanding of the image. For instance, in Pinworm (1990) a photograph of a list of illnesses scrawled across a blackboard includes a text where Wojnarowicz describes the experience of looking out onto workmen building a swimming pool and worries that his ‘sexual fantasies would become strangely audible’. Expressing the feeling of isolation that is sometimes associated with desire and infection, it also points to how sexuality and identity is classified, monitored and controlled by society.

One exception to this group is a work depicting a small cardboard house sitting within a landscape of partially clipped grass. Conscious of the garden as an extension of the home, it is treated in a similar manner to the other specimens, only in this case an inset photograph shows another view of the house with smoke billowing out of its windows. If we are in any doubt as to the meaning of such an image, the text enacts a more didactic function by explaining that ‘in this house many things go on’, which range from laughter and dreaming, to crying and starvation.

The burning house had been a motif of Wojnarowicz’s work since 1982 and here he returns to it as a reminder that the house is still on fire. As an embodiment of conventional society, a space that is meant to protect but can often oppress, it is a message that continues to hold relevance.

For people are still dying from AIDS, from racism, from loneliness, from poverty. You can ignore it, drive past in your automobile, watch another TV series, but unless you venture into the garden, use your imagination and question society, nothing will change.

These are truly strange and uncertain times, but Wojnarowicz’s art and life shows that we have been here before. While hell might be a place on earth, Wojnarowicz reminds us of how art can transform personal struggle into a call to arms, to move people to create space for a more compassionate world.

‘Smell the flowers while you can.’

1 David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives, 1991, p.58

2 Cynthia Carr, Fever: the Art of David Wojnarowicz,

  exhibition catalogue, New Museum, 1998, p.87

3 Close to the Knives, p.152

4 Close to the Knives, p.58

5 Close to the Knives, p.114

6 Wojnarowicz, ‘Where I’ll Go After I’m Gone’,

  In the Shadow of Forward Motion, exhibition zine, 1989


Money bee, 1990
Color photograph 23.5 x 35.56 cm
Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York
©Estate of David Wojnarowicz 

Inside this house, 1990
Silver gelatin print, 34.3 x 48.3 cm
Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York
©Estate of David Wojnarowicz

Inside this house many things go on. Many people. Many lives. Many personalities. Some of them dream. Some of them don’t. Some of them eat. Some of them starve. Some of them cry. Some of them laugh. Some of them wake up. Some of them go to sleep. Some of them fall into their dreams. Some of them walk in their dreams. Some of them fly. Sometimes the interior of this house resembles a universe. Sometimes the movement of bodies create a rhythm that is an exact thing like science: rotations for periods of time and then collisions. Words float like particles. Collide like meteors. Sometimes a little dog comes out of the house and makes sound and the sound carries and the sound shifts and rises
up over the treetops.
There, inside this house, lives a little girl. This little girl has dreams that not everybody understands. And the dreams sometimes go far away. Far far away.

My brain is driving me crazy, 1990 
Silver gelatin print, 57.8 x 68.6 cm
Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York
©Estate of David Wojnarowicz 



photography Image Group
fashion Nicco Torelli

sunglasses BERLUTI
python platform boots DRIES VAN NOTEN
crocodile neo bag BALENCIAGA
brass ivy graduation wreath and necklace ANN DEMEULEMEESTER
astrakhan beret with safety pin embellishment VERSACE
python card holder and cotton cap D’HYEGERE

python and faux fur lunchbox MARNI

sunglasses PRADA
weekend bag LANVIN

necklace LANVIN
corkscrew D’HYEGERE
safety pin DIOR MEN
padlocks earring BALENCIAGA

leather boot PRADA 
leather sacoche BERLUTI 
necklace VERSACE 
plastic bag LANVIN 

earrings D’HYEGERE 


Text Jacopo Bedussi

“When a person enters his thirtieth-year people will not stop calling him young. But he himself, although he can discover no changes in himself, becomes unsure; he feels as though he were no longer entitled to claim to be young.” These are the opening lines of Ingeborg Bachmann’s collection of stories, The Thirtieth Year, written in 1961 when Bachmann herself was thirty-five.

The first time I came across it was in 2002, when I was fifteen years old. I had no idea who Bachmann was, but Pier Vittorio Tondelli often quoted her in his books. Tondelli had burst into my life like an epiphany of vital references. He wrote in a language which strongly resonated with mine but that, until then, I had never imagined could be used in that way. It sounded like new, perfectly-sounding music. The stories he told about Italian provincial towns twenty or thirty years before, replicated everything I saw out of the bus window on my way to high school, in a provincial town probably similar to any other provincial town around the world. This perception overlaying with my personal growth, shaped my becoming an adult. Mainly because Tondelli was a gay journalist and writer and as a gay and aspiring journalist and writer myself, I felt a strong connection to him.

He told a unique story — his own — which seemed universal and was almost a recipe to cook up the perfect contemporary homosexual: cultured, white, cisgender, urban, reflective, wise and, obviously, left-wing — yet not uncritically so — while also being progressive comme il faut, affluent but also sufficiently reckless not to make an aspiration or a reason to boasting out of it, but enough to be able to look at the world’s marginalised with fascination. There was also a certain enthusiastic nostalgia towards a youth spent on cheap vacations riding international trains, trips filled with heart-rending love affairs and clandestine sex.

Here was a whole list of ingredients gathered together, some of them, perhaps, a little past their expiry date (Tondelli, by the way, had died of AIDS more than ten years before), but most people were still perfectly ready to be included in that sentimental handbook for the small group of initiates I ardently wished to belong to.

There was everything that I knew I was going to become and everything I knew I was going to feel and experience: The Smiths and Morrissey, with all the right quotes, like that line from Break Up The Family which goes: “I’m so glad to grow older / To move away from those darker years / Oh, I’m in love for the first time / And I don’t feel bad” and then there were the Bronski Beat, the strange story of how Yma Sumac became a hit in the discotheques in the 80s. Then the lascivious summers in Romagna, the wild nights in Ibiza, certain sexual-literary archetypes about boys who are a source of love and pain — a veritable Linnaean classification of pricks and hearts, like using Vondelpark to describe the classic blondes: vaguely hippy, slightly maudit individuals who frequented the famous park in Amsterdam, or the Wrong Blond, the only possible blond, in the words of W.H. Auden to describe Chester Kallman, who became his life partner following an equivocal affair that occurred in a bedroom). Tondelli always describes the combination of love and pain as being inextricably bound together, a sentimental mission, always extreme and irreversible because of its power to undermine the rules of how we are supposed to behave in the world and leading to a total detonation of the personality. A sentimental education in a series of complete amorous annihilations from which he rises again like a magical phoenix. Education in the fitful search for the other, which, in his books, is always absolute and irreplaceable, as well as a sensual realisation that one is oneself, perfect and irreplaceable, for the other. Education also entails suffering because of a presumed difference that has nothing to do with the stereotype of a sexuality rejected by the world but is more like the conviction of belonging to an elite of unique beings, more aware and sensitive to the world’s finiteness.

The prelude to a crisis appeared like a ghost in the first house I lived in by myself, just after leaving high school. Despite my parents playing the role of a personal welfare state and generously supporting my move to a big and very expensive European metropolis — which included indulging into quite a few of my vices — the life I had imagined for myself and which seemed ready to open up to me, had simply not existed there for decades. Maybe it had never existed at all, except in success-distorted biographies of a minuscule assortment of intellectuals and artists who were blessed with genius and also a considerable amount of good luck. It didn’t take long to understand that in 2008, with a global crisis that was beginning to pour like an avalanche onto the periodicals, and which was affecting the lives of billions of people, that nobody was about to ask a twenty-something-year-old to write for a magazine about the naivety and melodramatic rants he was non-stop splurging across Myspace.

And it also didn’t take long to understand that the life I could afford, despite the support of a generous but modest family and my being an only child, while also holding down a part-time job with no previous experience, was rather different from what I thought I deserved — especially after accomplishing nothing more than reading Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden while suffering the tortures of adolescent heroism in my room and being pampered by understanding and liberal-minded parents in a small, boring but affluent town in the province of Brescia.

But the full-blown crisis had to do with something much simpler and more essential than that: I was simply not good enough. And, incredibly, I wasn’t even special. I’d had an inkling of this when I came out to my parents. I was 16 years old and it wasn’t a decision I had thought over but a confession I spontaneously weaponised to avoid being punished with the intent of going to a party that was important to me. My naive and flimsy ploy was more or less the following, “I’m gay, and that party means something for me that you straight people will never understand, so if you accept me and are as open-minded as you say you claim to be, then let me go”. It didn’t work and, when my parents told me that they’d already known for a long time, but they were happy that I’d shared it with them, I felt like a jerk.

But the problem was another: assuming that my sexual orientation made me part of a minority, it still didn’t make me stand out, or feel pre-chosen for the life I had imagined. As I gradually got to know different kinds of people, some more cosmopolitan than myself, more cultured, wealthier — with everything that being affluent implies: richer in travel, in the elite experiences that I had always dreamt about but that had always been inaccessible to me, in interesting and picaresque family dramas, in the kind of snarkiness and irony that only a bored and moneyed life allows you to cultivate. I also did meet people who were poorer than myself — full of experiences and solutions to problems I had never had to face from the heights of my lukewarm geographical and class privilege — also accompanied by a certain detached cynicism that later, as I grew older, I would recognise as awareness — and I began to realise that my plan for success was sketchy and it didn’t quite hold up. I couldn’t blame this on a hostile destiny or a lack of financial means or a lack of love. I wasn’t starting out disadvantaged; in fact, you might say I was in the upper-middle rankings. I was average or, to use a word that would upset me beyond the point of nausea, I was ’normal’.

Accepting my condition of average-normality was maybe the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, and this makes it glaringly obvious how privileged that life was. Just turn on the TV or look out the window and you will see how many people there are in this world who don’t see the normality of a white middle-class young man as a frightening spectre to flee from or to give into reluctantly. It was also easy to realise how much my lifestyle and that of my peers was and continued to be enabled by the depletion of resources coming from other countries and the exploitation of millions of people being worked to death — a kind of random and imponderable correlation. Yet, the connection between my paying 6 euros for a T-shirt and the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Dacca, Bangladesh in 2013, in which 1,129 textile workers were killed and another 2,500 were left injured (one of the many triumphs of the cognitive repression of our affluent Western society) was there for everyone to see. Every day we walk over corpses while trying not to fixate on that action.

After my acceptance phase was over, I moved to Milan. In Europe, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent debt crisis of EU member countries meant that it was nearly impossible for a twenty-year-old to access the labour market, thereby prolonging my adolescence indefinitely. Those who couldn’t afford the luxury of fucking around had to make do with some temporary, poorly-paid work. Others with university degrees, began applying for internships followed by more unpaid work with the aim of gaining professional ‘visibility’ with ridiculously-low reimbursements for expenses.

And then there were people like me, who had been moping around after high school, stupidly and pretentiously trying to find their way in life, going off to university, working in a club’s bar 3 or 4 nights a week, just to make ends meet.

And that was how, after three years, I was able to graduate with some kind of degree in advertising and already with a pretty good career as a party-goer under my belt. Milan had slowly turned into an alluring and attractive place. Tourists were starting to show up (which would have once been unthinkable) and the coolness in the air was generating work for copywriters and various potential cultural-minded workers.

I ended up working in retail in a clothing shop but I never stopped publishing witty little stories on Facebook to feed my ego with the number of ‘likes’ they got. Some friends began asking me if I might have considered writing some entertaining, snarky piece on some topic or other, often for ridiculously low sums, if not for free.

After that, maybe by chance, or perhaps because the core business to get into for gay people in the city is still within the fashion industry, I began to write opinion articles on this or that fashion show, on this or that designer or trend, or on some dynamic in the system. And, surprisingly enough, I was paid a little more every time, while appearing in publications that were a little more prestigious and, finally, in periodicals that were printed on paper and sold at newsagents, which people spent money on, in order to possess, read or even put on their coffee tables to show their guests they had a certain savoir vivre.

When I turned thirty, I decided that my adolescence was over and that, effectively, just as Bachmann had said, I no longer had the right to pass myself off as a youngster. My body too became aware of this new crisis as it slowly and inexorably began to put on weight, transforming itself into the figure of a fully-fledged man after a life of excessive thinness — which is very cool when you’re twenty. I have never been vain, but I still haven’t succeeded in getting to terms with the inelegant lines of my figure, and I’m a little annoyed when I look at myself in the mirror.

I have begun to consider my body when I dress, after a lifetime of only thinking about the clothes. It’s not something to get upset over, but I admit I miss it.

I later decided that I had no right to wallow in that narcissistic suffering made up of Morrissey and grandiose feelings. That flabbiness that had been feeding on the whole pop avant-garde period when I was twenty, relived as the bourgeois failure of averageness, from the fucking big television in Trainspotting, to the Ryslampa lamps made from unbleached paper to create a relaxing atmosphere in Fight Club, that petit bourgeoisie I began to enthusiastically embrace and materially-recreate. A steady partner with whom I have an unconventional relationship with, whom I love sincerely and without whom I couldn’t imagine a meaningful future, a home bought with a mortgage — which, if I ever managed to pay off, would mean I will have lived longer than I expected.

I have (almost) stopped taking drugs and going to parties, I allow myself long aperitifs with colleagues, I have interesting friends, and now they are quite like the ones I used to imagine having at this age when I was in high school. They invite me to the kind of parties and vacations I could only dream about when I was 15, and I have learnt how to behave in accordance with convention, sometimes even managing to excel brilliantly at it.

Yet, in spite of everything, I’m still not sure whether I am any good. Because the problem is that maybe standards are always shifting and have no prior memory. Writing is part of my job, but it’s not my only job. I could live off only by writing, but I wouldn’t live the way I do now. And what I write is almost always on commission. I tell myself if I was really good then I could write what I want to and I would be able to find someone who couldn’t wait to print my words, and I could help put an end to the publishing crisis by bringing mountains of money to publishing houses all over the world thanks to my books.

But then I think that, actually, I am very lazy, that it’s been ages since I’ve written anything for the sheer pleasure of it. Now I laugh at the notion that you’re a writer if you get up in the morning and the first thing you want to do is write, because, though I like writing, I never really feel like doing it. I only do it when someone makes me.

Now that the new decade has kicked off with a global crisis of cinematic proportions which was hard to imagine (pandemic plus recession makes an exceptional combo) and it being also the second in ten years, people my age are asking themselves whether we aren’t members of the crisis–generation, or something along those lines.

I don’t believe in bad luck, but a little reflection has given me the impression that what we call a crisis is more like a permanent state, rather than a sudden upheaval of the status quo.

Maybe this is just salon nihilism, but if that is the world we are living in, and if the time we have for things is limited, then we should make the best of what we have. Let us fight for what is right and let us struggle for a world we don’t enjoy. But to act in a tragic way about it serves no purpose at all. Ettore Sottsass said: “There is very little that needs to be taken seriously almost nothing unless you take seriously the fact that almost everything boils down to human stupidity. In that case, there is always the possibility of suicide, but even suicide is difficult to get away with it in an elegant manner. Most of the time, suicide is the result of a chain of rhetorical reactions that end in a gesture that is even more rhetorical”, and, for the writer, being rhetorical is an unforgivable sin.

During the lockdown, I started smoking again. Not that I’d ever completely quit, but I smoked very little before this. Sometimes I would go a day or two without lighting up one. Not smoking seemed like another step towards the completeness of adulthood. But working from home brought me to up to twenty cigarettes a day. While putting together the sources for this piece, I came across the biography of Ingeborg Bachmann and I read that she died on the evening of October 2nd in 1973 in her house in Rome, by accidentally setting fire with cigarette ash to her nylon dressing gown while in a state of torpor, probably induced by the tranquilisers she was taking to relieve stress from a period of overwork. I wondered whether this wasn’t a message for me, but then I thought I was at no risk of overworking myself and, above all, I never wear dressing gowns.



photography Walter Pfeiffer

Paris, France

Vienna, Austria

Zurich, Switzerland

Berlin, Germany


Text by Allyn Gaestel

For those blessed to have a home they feel safe in, the pandemic is offering something essential to our personal and social evolution. Quiet. Rest. The real kind. The kind where we lie in bed, indefinitely. We don’t ask ourselves to get up (where would we go, anyway?) and we rest so long that we blink and find ourselves standing, cooking, writing, photographing, dancing. We’ve moved past effort to the modality of effortlessness and flow. We sleep so long that we don’t need to anymore. And from this space we have the beautiful opportunity to observe ourselves.

If we relinquish all ideas of what we should be doing, what do we do? This might teach us what we are meant to be doing.

It is in Lagos that I learned how to rest. Lagosians rest. They talk about the need to. They talk about the irresponsibility of not resting. They know that physical, spiritual and mental exhaustion interweave. That if we are too tired we can fall ill. That if we are depressed, we are tired. That our anger can break our own selves and each other. From shopkeepers to luminaries, when there is free time, and we are tired, we rest. After major creative growth, artists here rest.

I am American. I grew up in Los Angeles in a home I did not feel safe in, so I never rested there. My feet, my wings, my mind took me as far as possible from that dark interior. Other people’s homes felt warm, but I was a guest, so I couldn’t fully rest. Otherwise, I danced myself to freedom outside. As a child, I figure skated from five in the morning until I started classes at school. In high school I took extra seminars on ethics and religion in my free periods. I worked at Starbucks from the day I turned 16. I had three jobs in college. In my twenties I was a freelance journalist, so I traveled constantly. I spent years with no home, so my life was a mosaic of projects, few of which had a living stipend, which means I was always working. As long as I was working, I was alive. This was the system I lived in. It sounds, on a micro scale, not unlike capitalism.

But Lagos is a strenuous city and, also, time is different here. So after I moved here, I found myself confused to find myself reclined, often. My friends encouraged me to rest. From that supine position, incredible revelations occurred. Resting turns to writing very easily for me. But resting can also be scary; as this pandemic period is scary. We have to face the void, the absolute uncertainty that is in fact constant but that we build entire structures to defend against — especially in America — and we have to face ourselves. In the quiet, all of our demons can surface (why else would we be running all the time?).

Though I know it sounds heartless, when I look at the pandemic on a macro scale, I think it serves us. In the years I was a journalist I was constantly moving: from country to country, project to project, human rights crisis to war zone, to cholera clinic, to maternal death emergency. I saw pretty much the whole world, from the gilded quiet opulence of European streets paved in Colonial gold, to the mines they were stolen from and the people living shortened lives in poisoned bodies. I saw the perpetual apocalypse of our present system. And our estrangement from our own humanity. I was annoyed at first to read Americans hand-wringing about the apocalypse, now, when anyone who was looking deeply was aware that the way of life we had built and chosen had long been perpetually catastrophic.

But sometimes it takes a breakdown for us to face ourselves, to slow down enough to see and feel ourselves. I only stopped my perpetual running when I was forced to. A few years ago, I was in a degenerating abusive relationship (once again), my best friend was moving countries, my work was in chaos. The pain in my psyche made me rash and it broke me. I was running on just my tendons and, finally, one actually snapped.

In that slow time, resigned to recline, the pain I had been fleeing enveloped me. I thought I was drowning. Everything I believed in, everything I built, felt like it was crumbling. And so I began to excavate my own underworld, to study my self, my shadows, and the cracks in my own system. Psychoanalysis, acupuncture, tui na, reflexology, meditation and yoga all surfaced wounds so devastating that they cracked the roof of my mouth. I found grief, trauma, hypocrisy and violence on an unfathomable scale. Traumatic fugue states lasted days. Pain wafted off me like fumes. I had no sense of time at all. The past drowned me, the future looked terrifying or unimaginable, and my present was only pain. I’m describing my interior, but it sounds like a representation of our present social context.

So this is a love letter from Lagos to anyone suffering in physically comfortable interiors. A whisper that: there are other ways of organizing absolutely everything. From the calendar to our psyches, to the economy itself, to food distribution, to how we care for each other. Everything can change and, as I learned from my own profound healing process: when we heal our wounds, we transform. That same breakdown, if we work with it, can be the pathway to liberation.

As my spiritual center shifted to Lagos, I experienced time bending and stretching, histories layering on top of one another, the future becoming visible, if we learn to look closely at the present (clairvoyance comes from the French: to see clearly). My sense of time changed completely. So I was relieved when I learned about chronemics, which is the study of time. It is a concept I became obsessed with as I, reclined, encountered different time zones in myself. Monochronic time is the way of telling time common in the US. It was created during the industrial revolution to regulate time codes. The clock, the calendar, the work week are constructs that started as tools and ended up controlling us. In the monochronic system, time can be wasted, spent and used. But the idea that time is a commodity is just one framework for reality. Polychronic time is different. Time is infinite. There are seasons. Many things are happening at once, and they land at the right moment. Another alternate system of time is kairos, which means “the right time” and is contrasted with chronos, chronological time.

Though we don’t know chronologically what date on the (constructed) calendar the pandemic will be over, if we believe in it — and if we are open to experiencing other modalities of time — we can know that it will end at the right time. It will be over when it’s finished. And we can choose to suffer and resist the crumbling of our constructs, or we can take this moment to face ourselves.

If this period is painful, if it is difficult to be with ourselves, we are offered the opportunity to encounter our interiors, to unspool ourselves, to take off our masks, and be with whatever is broken, whatever is perpetuating our suffering. If we are frightened, perhaps we can just feel frightened, and feel it all the way through, let it rip us, convulse us, shake us, until we’re done being frightened. Then we can investigate that fear. What are we afraid of? Here, in this limitless, liminal space, what is our house built of? What have we brought inside? Everything that is bleeding in the world was already broken. The fissures present in society, capitalist health care, bodies forced by inequality to be unfairly exposed. All of this was ever present in our deadly systems. But we were running on fumes; averting our eyes or devoting our lives to bandaging incessant bleeds. Suddenly the tendon snapped and now we see how broken everything has always been. The only way out is to face it, feel it, study it, and then release it so we can imagine something else. All of this takes time, but we have plenty. Silence might be the most productive thing on offer.

From a cosmological perspective, from a transformational perspective, it’s not our duty to get through this period, but to let this period do what it is here to do. To grow, to transform, to accept the medicine this pain is bringing. This too, is what this interior time offers us. Time to consider our structures, to see the ways they are not serving us, and realign them to allow us all to be nourished and cared for, free, and able to rest, always.


Years ago I wrote a note in cursive and left it on my desk: embrace the void. My first encounter with the void was fear, emptiness and loss. I walked along dark canals in Berlin with a poet who loved the void. He said that emptiness is like a womb, full of potential. I had no idea what he was talking about. Even my womb I had met in loss. The void felt like uncertainty which felt like nothing. My first notes to self about the void started from that uneasiness: do not fear the void. Later, as I encountered it, I graduated to embrace the void. And then, as I started leaning into all that is possible in the unknown, the unseen, I wrote demand the void. Protect the void. Those long open hours in my office became full of things much broader, wider, freer than I had ever imagined when I had constrained my future with all my plans. I later started telling my friends: if you’re wondering if there’s more, the answer is always yes. The void became not emptiness, but rather: infinite. Ideas, destinies and projects expanded and unspooled wider than I could have ever envisioned. My relationship to the world became much more supple and receptive. Pain became something not to fear, but something to study and untangle, something that softened my rigidities as it passed through and out of me.

In my uncomfortable early forays into leisure, I realized that I had an underlying presumption that if I lay in bed as long as I wanted to, I would lie in bed forever. Why else would we force ourselves to get up? But, in my explorations into unlimited reposing, I discovered that in a life of no obligation, I still did things. I actually still did everything. I filed my invoices. I worked. I took care of my community. I took care of my body. I meditated. I ate well. All without force or effort. I discovered that I have the natural urge to do all of the things that society forced me to do, and I could just do them, without the force. As I followed my every inclination, every wonder and wander, I didn’t lose my mind, I found myself. I healed.

So, when I watched the virus send everyone home, I smiled. As I watch the US straining with overrun hospitals facing bankruptcy without elective surgeries, and Nigeria tussling with the question of how to feed the masses so they can stay home. I think: what excellent questions, what useful skills we’re developing. People were already hungry. Our health system was already broken. That’s why we are facing a catastrophe. Because our systems don’t work for us. Journalists and scholars have been reporting, explicating and illustrating our social ills for years.



But sometimes it takes a breakdown to face what was already broken. And sometimes it takes many months of pondering to get past terror and get into the dreamscapes, to allow ourselves to design future utopias. The future can be beautiful if we let it. Perhaps the revolution is reclined.


The home I built in Lagos, I selected, curated, designed and loved to be a space for thoughts to fly. A home to grow in. There are wide windows, golden light. The library is intentional and rich. When I returned this year, I pruned it and composted the books that offend me. It is a space in which to ponder and to practice what I call //the already extant other world//. There is a world within our world in which we are free. We find pockets of it: spaces, relationships (with others and with ourselves) in which we are allowed to be whoever we are right now. Our definitions and identities stem from our own explorations into ourselves, our inclinations, histories, choices and desires. They shift, as we do. They are multiplicitous, fluid, expansive, specific. All of our needs are met. We are nourished: spiritually, intellectually, physically, emotionally. We must live in the world that we intend to create for all of us. Spread it outward from the strength of our core. This, too, is what this interior time offers us. Time to consider our structures, to see the ways they are not serving us and realign them to allow us all to be our full selves everywhere.

When the artist Manny Jefferson moved in, I was out of town, but he could feel my house: its expanse, its energy. He loves the place more than I do now. I’m outgrowing it. I’m quarantining elsewhere, in another artist space across the city. Artists are in residence, all over the world. Manny calls his series ‘Home’. His photographs are intimate, slow and embody the other time zones within.

The house offers him what it offered me, and what now we offer you. Something soft. Something loving. Something freeing. Something luminous. Something growing.

With love, from Lagos.



photography and words David Lindert

Berlin, Germany
May 1, 2020

Plný dřez
London, UK
March 17, 2020

I wash

I wash the dishes all day long
I start washing when I get up
There are always dishes in the sink
Some cups and glasses with ash that I have to wash
We do not play any roles in our relationship
I simply wash the dishes
If there is something I hate more than dating a chainsmoker
it is ash in a glass or cup
Smokers are always incoplete
You are constantly missing something
Either a lighter or tobacco or papers
Smokers tend to smoke on drugs
Drugs stop working in the quarantine
Smokers become aggressive and can hurt you
We pig our all the time during the state of emergency so
I just wash
When I get tired of washing I stare to an empty pipe
next to the window
I grasp the pipe and turn it all the way around but there is
nothing to light up
I knew it
Nobody knows when this state ends
My left palm is squeezing it tight
hoping for a miracle
I can hear your laptop vibrating
I can hear you snoring from your G sleep
but there is nothing
I go back to the dishes

U babičky
Ostrava, Czech Republic
March 22, 2020

Ostrava, Czech Republic
March 22, 2020

I turned over from my left side to my right side
I am resting on my right elbow
I stood up to eat a tomato
I refused to do a few push ups
I walked to Lidl and realized it is Sunday
I asked my boyfriend whether he knows a dealer
I deleted my insta story
I made some coffee again
I jerked off
I opened the fridge and closed it again
I scrolled down FB
I slurred to the air
I refused to grasp the book on the table
I have sat here for so long
I checked my e-mail
I asked strangers on Grindr for drugs
I fucked up the pdf of my book that I was proud of
I changed the sofa
I burnt incense
My nose is runny
I checked the age of local victims
I did seven push ups
I power napped
I tried insta filters
It is 4 pm
I can hear my heartbeat
I took a shower
I am staring into the flame
I told my boyfriend to get something
I kissed my boyfriend
I went back to my couch
I stood up to walk to the fridge
I sat down
I reread my post
I drank coffee with ice cubs
I disinfected my phone and keyboard
I am charging my phone
I ate raw carb sticks
I am smoking a joint that I hate
I rebooked his parents‘ flights
I do not want to sleep yet
I put on a sweatshirt
I did a YouTube meditation
I sniffed a lavender sachet
It is snowing

Berlin, Germany
April 18, 2020


photography Paul Kooiker
fashion Georgia Pendlebury

In collaboration with set designer Pieter Eliens

upcycled plastic earring TÉTIER BIJOUX
leather and acetate pearl mule Y/PROJECT
resin handcrafted bag OTTOLINGER
gold plated necklace DRIES VAN NOTEN
silver earcuff JADE HOUDEN 

Swarovski crystal pursy LUDOVIC DE SAINT SERNIN
brass minaudière, goatskin wedge heel sandals LANVIN
upcycled plastic necklace tétier bijoux for preen by THORNTON BREGAZZI

leather high heel sandals GUCCI
upcycled plastic necklace tétier bijoux for preen by THORNTON BREGAZZI

upcycled plastic earrings TÉTIER BIJOUX
silver ear cuff, silver ring JADE HOUDEN
resin handcrafted bag OTTOLINGER
calf leather sandals with crystal VERSACE
brass drop chain bracelet LOEWE

leather bevel knee high boot RICK OWENS
brass bracelet ACNE
metal with strass earring ALBERTA FERRETTI

brass and resin necklace, brass and resin rose earring, resin and crystal loop earring DIOR
patent leather heel sandals PRADA

brass and resin necklace, brass and resin rose earring, resin and crystal loop earring DIOR
leather spiral sandals Y/PROJECT
brass graphic ring set GIVENCHY
brass earring ELLERY
silver studded necklace D’HEYGER
brass flower earring Y/PROJECT


Mattia Ruffolo in conversation with Sissel Tolaas

Evolutionary biologists tell us that in primates, the sense of smell served as proof of sexual affinity — a primordial factor. “How one smells is a unit of measure for the smell of other people, and whoever is familiar with his or her own odour can understand his or her degree of attraction for others” as biologist Peter Kappeler stated. With a few exceptions, we are social animals, and we weren’t created to be divided. Since the world came to a stop because of the pandemic, I soon realized that being shut in the same apartment indefinitely not only had an impact on my social relationships, it also restricted my sensory field — the foremost of these being the sense of smell.

Eighteenth-century anthropologists were very interested in odours, especially the odours of bodies, and they produced a whole genre of hygienic literature and philosophy that came out while epidemics were raging around the world. “If according to Kant’s aesthetics, the sense of smell arouses the lowest appetites and instincts and is located on the bottom rung of the hierarchy of senses, in Locke’s philosophical ‘sensism’, it rises to the level of an intellective factor — presaging the Enlightenment and Pasteur’s revolution — including Rousseau for whom the sense of smell enters into the sphere of psychology and ultimately leads to ecological sensitivity” Le miasme et la jonquille, Alan Corbin.

But how can all this anthropological, social and aesthetic analysis based on human interaction continue to dialogue in the absence of bodies?

The fact is that meeting up with people has become a taboo and every new impulse to stray outside the house into the world is no longer something we can obey spontaneously. While solitude may have once been a personal choice, it has now become a rule that is being applied to the entire human race, from the most individualist societies to loner misanthropes. In the space of a few months, we have had to shed traditional and inherited ways of expressing ourselves and abruptly take our place in an unreal and immaterial world.

No movement allowed, neither in the city nor outside; no human contact at less than two meters of distance and with your face covered. We have become islands.

And bodies or their simulacra have cast a pall of uncertainty over all the spaces they inhabit and in which they vibrate. For example, my house, where I used to spend at the most 8 hours a day (now 24) was never equipped to accommodate me for such a long time, though maybe I never made an effort to turn it into a hospitable place. For years I lived in makeshift and spare arrangements, preferring to invest my resources on travel and clothes rather than on furniture and appliances. This kind of contemporary nomadism gave me the possibility to experience life outside the house. While until the mid-twentieth century, the bed symbolized life and death the two opposite moments of human existence today it is a place that represents me and millions of others like me who do distance work in their beds.

The human body, sexuality and the home environment all raise questions that need to be discussed with someone after three months of isolation. SISSEL TOLAAS — a pioneer in smell research — was the most qualified person to talk to on this subject.

SISSEL TOLAAS has been working, researching and experimenting intensively with the topic of smell since 1990. She has developed a wide range of revolutionary projects worldwide gathering smells based on her knowledge. In 2004 Tolaas established the SMELL RE_searchLab Berlin, supported by IFF Inc. Since then her special skills in smell recognition, analysis and reproduction, have been applied in many different contexts and disciplines; and her research and projects have been shown in many museums and institutions, including the MoMA, NGV, DIA, CCA, TATE MODERN, and VENICE BIENNALE. She has worked with universities such as MIT, Nanyang Technical, Harvard and Oxford. Up until this day, Sissel has worked on 55 City SmellScapes research projects, and she has created several types of smell archives such as Smell & Language, Smell & Coding, Functional Smell and is currently working on smell-molecule communication/preservation/conservation archives on the topics of our world’s oceans, nature, biodiversity and extinction. Another major field of interest for her is emotional (smell) artefacts, specifically the smell heritage of New Delhi, Detroit, and Australia’s indigenous past. Tolaas’ collections of smell molecules and smell complex structures from 1990 till 2020 include more than 15,000 samples.

In the fashion world, she is known for her collaboration with Demna Gvasalia, and for having created specific smells which were diffused into the Balenciaga runway show venues, for the past two seasons.

MATTIA RUFFOLOWhere are you at the moment?


I am here and now.

I am in my flat / lab/studio in Berlin, in Germany / Europe / World.

M.R.What does it smell like around where you are right now?

S.T. – Interesting and complex, as always.

Since I also live next to my laboratory, I am also surrounded by multiple additional smells, beyond what is there already.

M.R.How are you getting through such an unstable time (pandemic)?

S.T. – The world has been ‘lost in translation’ as it tries to make sense of this fiction film in which it’s been playing the main role.

Fear frightens.

And there are too many words for me to be able to say anything anymore.

I take precautions partly because of social pressure and partly because intellectually I know they are necessary. But my survival instinct just isn’t doing the job at the moment, because I simply don’t feel like my survival is at stake.

We need to renegotiate with the world, see this as a chance to rethink the meaning of life and what it means to be alive.

I feel like I am part of a live experiment.

Suddenly the air that I breathe is mine alone.

Its effects are mental as well as physical, in the sense that it threatens to attack that most essential of human rights, the right to breathe.

And I am trying to make SENSE of the AIR, starting with my own breathing. I take 16 breaths per minute; 960 breaths an hour; 23,040 breaths a day. With my breathing I move 12,7m³ air.

All that air contains millions of smell molecules.

I have been very busy breathing in the world, and now I have time to smell myself. I am trying to detect unfamiliar smell molecules/chemical compounds emitted by various microbes that my body is hosting. Bacteria and viruses have been around longer than humans, and they perform an important role in the ecosystem. Chemical compounds are used, by all species, for the purpose of communication, including bacteria and viruses. The invisible is ‘talking.’

Now is the time to seriously accept that we are not alone and that inside and outside our bodies, there are multiple living organisms we have to learn from and co-exist with a kind of species reset.

M.R.Have you been able to be creative in this period? If so, what are you creating?

S.T. – I find myself utterly alert and sensitive these days, perceiving information from the macro and micro levels of surrounding actions and reactions.

It is, at times, very exhausting. I am reading and researching a lot about the absence of language and alternative modes of communication.

For example, as I mentioned before, I am trying to find a way to communicate all this invisible information that is currently in the air: how to turn that information into a system beyond semantics.

Learning any ‘language’ is, in many ways, tied to learning how to perceive.

And any act of perception is, simultaneously, an act of self-perception. In other words, the act of currently learning more about myself, as well as learning differently about the external world, both enhance the meaning in a context which can then result in new forms of communication.

I wake up in the middle of the night, making weird sounds, so obviously, the topic concerns me both consciously and subconsciously.

M.R.Have you been able to work on smell research during the lockdown?

S.T. – Every breath I take is smell research.

I was already working on various projects that are works in progress.

I am also doing a lot of smell recording, i.e. in addition to recording air samples/breath samples, I also try to capture some of the fear/anxiety that I sense all around me.

Each day of the quarantine has given an abstract smell molecule a smell content code.

The various combinations of those molecules will then become a complex smell structure that evokes memories and information of the current moment references for future communication.

What is the smallest amount of words with the maximum amount of content I can pass on?



M.R.Is there any living being able to recognize the smell of this virus?

S.T. – Everything, including viruses, have specific smells.

Many cells produce volatile organic compounds that have distinctive smells that are present in, i.e. our breath, saliva, urine, tears.

Dogs are currently being trained to detect COVID-19 in humans.

Dogs have up to 300 million smell detectors, humans around 6 million.

One day I hope to be able to explore the chemical capacity of the virus – record, replicate and smell it properly.

M.R.According to some studies, the countryside will repopulate again. Do you agree with that?

S.T. – The city is definitely deprived of the oxygen of sociability.

People are definitely flocking back to nature and rediscovering that nature can alleviate some of the sufferings.

I think this is definitely one of the reasons and a very good reason.

In the absence of social life, exposing oneself to natural beauty stimulates our reward pathway and smelling various plants reduces adrenaline. When working with soil, for example, the smell of the Mycobacterium Vaccae raises serotonin levels and improves cognitive function and memory. Because of the virus, our interest in the microbial world has also changed. Biodiversity is suddenly fashionable. I think this newly-found relationship with nature will definitely influence the future-planning of living decisions.

M.R.How do you imagine the future after this?

S.T. – I am pretty optimistic about the future. The pandemic will definitely change what it means to be human. All goals have shifted; we need to renegotiate the world. We will be better collaborators. We are not only part of nature but also part of a single organism. Emotion will be the new rational. The key would be to solve the problems we do not yet know exist. I can smell tomorrow, but I do not know about it yet.

M.R.How do you imagine the smell of Athens in ancient times?

S.T. – Memory is a persuasive editor. Smelling archaeology and anthropology is what I do best. This means I need to be present in the setting.

M.R.Most young people today live in small studio flats because bigger houses are unaffordable in big cities. What do you think about the “breath” of houses? Have you ever worked on the smell of houses?

S.T. – Every person has a unique smell, as unique as a fingerprint. In addition, various other factors determine the smell of people’s houses, flats or the like. These factors can be, i.e. hygiene, building material, food, body, animals.

I have done multiple projects around geography, space, body and identity.

M.R.The relationship between hygiene and depression is well-known; people tend to avoid bathing when they are depressed. Do you think this could make us become wilder?
If so, how will it happen?

S.T. – More tolerance cannot hurt.

M.R.How will eroticism change after social distancing? Smell is essential for sexuality: will we ever use molecular scents to simulate real meetings?

S.T. – We might need to start using our imagination differently. And also use various new means to trigger the imagination, i.e. with a smell. Smell is the biggest trigger of memory and emotions, so I am sure it can be helpful at least for a short time.

M.R.Social distancing will probably last a very long time. Do you think it will have negative effects on our biological system?

S.T. – Mostly on humans. We will suffer the longest. But as we live in the ‘new world’, we have learned to appreciate other organisms, and we might be able to gain compensation somewhere else. Why not start by hugging a tree or touching a flower or an animal differently? And we have multiple senses that can finally be activated properly. Changing perspective could also be healthy for us. For example, we can become deeply connected to the world again by paying the most careful and fearless attention to what we smell, wherever we may found ourselves.

M.R.How will the pandemic compromise us?

S.T. – It will not compromise us. Humans have survived far worse disasters than COVID-19. But we will need to rethink our behaviours, globally.

We will have to adapt and accept new measures. My biggest concern is xenophobia, discrimination and social inequality. The intensely vulnerable: immigrants, refugees and the undocumented will face even more obstacles then they already are. Diversity and tolerance are necessary in our societies, otherwise the world will face even bigger problems.



photography Catherine Opie

Three Rivers, California
April 6, 2020

Coffee and peanuts
Three Rivers, California
April 8, 2020

Three Rivers, California
April 14, 2020

Birthday gifts
Three Rivers, California
April 14, 2020

Three Rivers, California
March 31, 2020

Three Rivers, California
5 April 2020


Mattia Ruffolo in conversation with Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi

“Feeling a touch of swine flu… So not coming to work today. I’m sending you some clothes… Wear what you like, meiselpic it back to me. xxSteven.” (Meiselpic by Steven Meisel, Vogue Italia, December 2009). This message from 2009 was addressed to models working with Steven Meisel and who he was about to meet soon after on set. But, because of the flu, he wasn’t able to carry out the job. Life’s unpredictability. Every model had to interpret the given look for the editorial: Christy Turlington, Natasha Poly, Gisele Bündchen were taking selfies in the mirror; Agyness Deyn was wandering the streets of London dressed head-to-toe in leopard print and with a punk hairstyle; Naomi Campbell was sunbathing on a sun-bed; Lara Stone was being completely deformed by a filter; Kristen McMenamy was jumping on her bed with her dog.

It is unknown whether the photographic set aimed to simply provoke both the distancing and elevation of the téchne photographer to turn him into a creator of ideas or if the flu really prevented Meisel from being present on set. Nonetheless, similarly creating a photographic set remotely has become the new normal in the last three months. Photographers, stylists, make-up artists, producers and other freelance creatives have had to find solutions that are available remotely in order to continue working.

The impact that this situation has had on universities has been equally as drastic, with millions of students and professors being forced to follow their classes remotely. We have officially entered a moment in time where learning must evolve and work alongside with technology in order for it to happen though teaching with the aid of technology is still a vast and unexplored territory. Cambridge University has already announced that the next academic year will take place virtually.

At this point, analysing what is considered to be normal when comparing it to only three months ago is impossible: from one day to the next, COVID-19 confined more than 30% of the global population to their homes. Alas, the whole fashion sector has also been englobed in this percentage: from universities to ateliers; from supply chains to the publishing sector. This has been marked by a global recession that is affecting everyone, and everyone has had to shift their personal and professional paradigms to fit the situation. If all of this had happened ten years ago, the world would have been in a much worse standpoint compared to nowadays.

To reflect upon and gain a clearer perspective on the matter, I have spoken to critic, curator and professor at IUAV University of Venice, Maria Luisa Frisa, and Chief Creative Officer of L’Officiel, Stefano Tonchi, who have both been dealing with the pandemic, also in their institutional roles.

Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi co-founded and ran Westuff magazine from 1984 to 1987 while also curating the exhibition Italiana: L’Italia vista dalla moda 1971-2001 (Italiana: Italy from the point of view of fashion from 1971 to 2001). Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi have been friends for some time. The interviews took place at various stages over the phone.

Venice, the 13th of May, at 6.03 pm

MATTIA RUFFOLOWhere are you just now?

MARIA LUISA FRISA – Where do you think I could be, Mattia, if not at home, always at home.

M.R.What was your quarantine like?

M.L.F. – I spent it at home in Venice while struggling with the desire to do things that I’d wanted to do for years but never had the chance to.

M.R.And were you able to?

M.L.F. – I didn’t read anything of what I thought I was going to read. I didn’t write anything of what I thought I was going to write. I didn’t watch anything of what I thought I was going to watch. Because my ability to concentrate has definitely decreased.

M.R.Your sociability has considerably changed.

M.L.F. – I think my relationships have deteriorated. Distance can hinder these. Because, you know, phone calls only work when you know you’ll be able to see that person. Hearing from one another without being able to see each other is a great cause of suffering. I’m really missing my relationship with friends and students. Online classes are a real pain.

M.R.By the end of the first week of lockdown, I realised I had been using my iPhone a considerable amount. I spent a daily average of 7 hours and 14 minutes (increasing my usual usage by 34%) with almost 41 hours on social networks alone. All of a sudden, information, work, sociability and fun found themselves all in one app behind one screen. This is what gave me fear. You’ve been teaching for 15 years, so can you tell me whether directing a conversation to black screens while doing online classes gives you a feeling of alienation or not?

M.L.F. – This is why I often ask them to let me hear their voices. Because, in a way, class discussions have ceased to exist. I always try to instigate debates among my students because I think Italian students are not used to expressing their thoughts as they should. I also make my judgment based on their marks, their behaviour, their posture.

M.R.You mean body language…

M.L.F. – Exactly. A body’s sensuality is very important to me. I need to feel that I’m receiving interest from the other person.

M.R.Being able to gauge whether someone is interested or not through Zoom, Teams, FaceTime must be challenging.

M.L.F. – But I’m also reckless, and I don’t let myself feel immobilised. I had to use Zoom? I did it. I had to use Teams? I also managed to do that. Now I even do yoga classes on video conference.

M.R.So it does also have its pros! Long-distance classes have also made it possible for you to integrate more guest lecturers than before. That’s a good sign, right?

M.L.F. – Yes, this situation, although limiting, has made it possible for me to invite guest lecturers who weren’t able to come other times either because they were always too busy or because there wasn’t the estimated budget to bring in an external guest. My students are happy about this. I want this format to stay until the end of the academic year.

M.R.What about the following one? Making people travel is also a problem from a sustainability point of view.

M.L.F. – What you’re saying about this topic in relation to sustainability and ecology is absolutely correct. We should reduce it to the minimum. But physical presence is fundamental, as we all know that the history of culture, the arts, literally everything, is made of gatherings among people and their interest in spending time together and getting into discussions. That’s it. I wouldn’t like this situation to cease.

M.R.What are you doing with your laboratories?

M.L.F. – You especially know just how fundamental our laboratories are. We’re currently trying to understand whether our students will be able to return to their labs in July or August because younger generations, I must admit, are quite unhappy about it. But they do react. Someone took out their knitting needles or another student also created a loom from a grill. This manual dexterity or domesticity has found ground and, with time, we’ll see what it’ll be capable of producing. From what I’ve heard, even Alessandro Michele has started crocheting.

M.R.And the end-of-year show?

M.L.F. – It won’t take place in June. We’ll try to organise a smaller version in September. Because it is fundamental for them: think about all the adrenaline linked to creating the garments, looking for the models, arranging the set. In those kinds of situations, there is a chaotic force that makes everyone work like crazy and gives the slightest contribution. For a student to give up on this is comparable with giving up on your own life.

M.R.What about politics?

M.L.F. – I think that a lot of topics have managed to be marginalised. I think not enough efforts were made for students. Especially for twenty-somethings who are giving up an important part of their development, their consciousness, their ability to live for themselves, their promiscuity. These are such important things that make you grow up. I wouldn’t want this closure, this return to home and the family to leave any traumas.

M.R.The pandemic has paralysed our world and also the whole fashion system. It’s difficult to be optimistic these days since worrying is inevitable. From a working point of view, will these young generations be capable of being independent?

M.L.F. – I don’t believe we have yet realised just how much emergency there will be in terms of jobs. We’ll have to keep alive both the creative and industrial sides. Keeping alive the production and creativity of the fashion industry will be a challenge.

M.R.How has fashion publishing been dealing with this shocking situation?

M.L.F. – I have the impression that there isn’t a real reflection being given to this situation. I think it would’ve been important to have known what problems were present even before the spread of the virus. This pandemic has left a crisis in every sector where it’s been present. But this isn’t necessarily all negative. It obliges us to take part in a destruction process because the transformation that comes out of it will have to be radical. Commercially-driven periodicals have lost their identity. They want to please everyone and that’s not interesting. When you open a magazine today, you end up asking yourself, really, is this all there is?

M.R.And the editor? The journalists?

M.L.F. – A lot of journalists are limiting themselves to talking about whether next month we’ll be wearing pyjamas or tracksuits. I find this aspect really worrying.

M.R.What will you do as soon as you get back to reality?

M.L.F. – I hope I’ll be able to buy myself a dress; not the act of buying the dress per se but because that will mean that everything will have gone back to normal in the world. Like girls who, during the war, would draw a line on their legs with a pencil because they couldn’t afford actual stockings. The sole thought of wearing stockings made them feel better. Fashion can also embrace the role of saviour. It’s not like just, as a result of the lockdown, that we have to punish ourselves further.

M.R.Some people long for the past and dream about the countryside.

M.L.F. – Currently at the MoMA there is Koolhaas’ exhibition about the countryside. I’m not too sure; it’s like going backwards for me. In any case, living in Venice, I am able to find time for myself. Maybe we’ll go back to a new Middle Age.

M.R.In Milan, for instance, sociability had already been compromised way before the lockdown: there has been a going back to private gatherings, a new sense of closure. Here fashion is completely separate from clubbing. There’s been an alienation at work that prevents a sense of community from emerging. This doesn’t happen in other cities.

M.L.F. – I agree with what you’re saying. I’ve never felt attracted to Milan’s events. This forced sociability is also Milan’s own limit. #milanononsiferma (#milanwontstop, hashtag promoted by the city in late February) was an inconsiderate act that contributed significantly to the spread of the pandemic. And all just to preserve its nightlife, which is also pretty uninteresting for me.

M.R.There is nothing intellectual in that.

M.L.F. – I agree. I’ve also always thought that Milan is quite toxic.

M.R.How do you see the future?

M.L.F. – “The future doesn’t need us”. It’s an article I was reading today. But it’s the truth, the future will be the future, with or without us.



New York, the 13th of May, at 9.10 pm

MATTIA RUFFOLOWhere are you right now?

STEFANO TONCHI – I’ve been in lockdown in New York since the 10th of March with my family: my partner David and our two daughters.

M.R.What has your quarantine been like?

S.T. – It’s been intense… I’ve been working from home a lot while my kids have school this remote learning is quite complicated but it’s definitely been a new experience.

M.R.You used to work at W and now, since January, at L’Officiel.

S.T. – Yes, I came here to take care of the organisational aspect but, shortly afterwards, the whole world was put on hold. I found myself on my own in front of the computer and I decided to make the most of these two months by getting to know the editors in chief of our thirty magazines in the world, including the various digital ones.

M.R.A vast number of people are coming to terms with smart working; at Twitter you can even request it permanently.

S.T. – I’ve also discovered it. Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium, Brazil, it doesn’t matter where I am. I can work from anywhere.

M.R.And, from an editorial point of view, will you increase the digital investment at L’Officiel after COVID-19 is over?

S.T. – Absolutely, though this had already been decided before the virus. We will have to move towards a re-balancing of sorts, and the term ‘digital’ will become an adjective rather than a simple noun. When people talk about digital content, you immediately associate it to low quality, or something made stupidly. But this is not the case: it’s as if for centuries the stupidest things and the ugliest pictures hadn’t been printed out. Just because something is printed, it doesn’t mean it’s done or written well or that they make sense.

M.R.I’ve also started working with digital editorials, and I completely agree with you.

S.T. – Considering it was already going digital, now it’ll take an even further step towards it. Whoever says that these two months have slowed down things is wrong. On the contrary, they have speeded up these processes even more. Things have not stopped, they have doubled in speed.

M.R.It is revolutionising the way we communicate. Have you noticed how a lot of designers have opened up recently and have started sharing their private moments that they would previously have kept to themselves?

S.T. – There is this tendency of oversharing that could be avoided or even dealt with better. The Kardashians have always done so, and they certainly know how to do it.

M.R.With the interruption of consumers’ demands, a chain reaction has been created that has decreased the budget of every company. Giorgio Armani and Dries Van Noten have openly discussed being against the old fashion production system and the way this is presented. What do you think about it?

S.T. – That kind of fast pace is a sign that the capitalistic system has gone crazy. The industrial revolution was also presented as a complex subversion of the value system that had been put in place beforehand. What must an English aristocrat in the countryside have thought about the fact of someone building a factory that would destroy his beautiful rose garden? He certainly can’t have been understanding. We should concentrate on the fact that this world made up of bloggers, influencers and various ignoramuses is completely turning the world of journalism upside down together with their elitist rights and advantages. Neither one nor the other are right, hence why there will be a re-balancing of values in the years to come.

M.R.What would you suggest?

S.T. – I don’t think that going back to seasons would make any sense, neither would talking about seasonal sales. When will fashion ever go back to seasons? Our bodily temperature is what matters now. When fashion is a product for the masses, it becomes distribution for the masses. The quantities are so vast because the public is so vast. We need to be realistic about it, leaving hypocrisy to one side. Some solutions are more contemporary than others, like ‘drops’. I find a world without seasons where the value is enclosed in its temporality and longevity much more interesting. And it will be important to find the right balance between massive industrial production and the survival of craftsmanship, in order to safeguard the arts and abstract values.

M.R.For what concerns fashion publishing: I’ve noticed there’s a certain tendency to politicise everything now.

S.T. – Yes, but fashion holds a socio-political value in itself. It doesn’t need to declare itself as being politically active in order for it to be considered substantial and relevant. If you’re involved in that world, you are implicitly also making history from a social, political, propagandistic point of view. In the sphere of intellectuals who deal with fashion, there is an incredible amount of inferiority complexes. The real power of it is rather ignored. In contemporary art, for example, you don’t necessarily throw a political and social headline onto the front pages.

M.R.It is a lack of means of abstraction.

S.T. – Exactly. Also because we are travelling in the opposite ways, towards an increasing ability to create abstraction. We have gone from figurative fashion to an abstract one.



creative and art direction PZtoday

All clothes and accessories FENDI

creative and art direction

art assistants
Diego Diez, Wilhelmina Lou

post production
Eliott Villars

Hide Shimamura

printed at home 2020©


photography Jack Pierson


L’esercizio è importante, ogni santo giorno
di Angelo Faccavento





















Non essere


Exercising is important, every given day
by Angelo Faccavento

Stretch yourself
Relieve yourself
Hover yourself


Erase yourself
Absolve yourself
Exalt yourself


Shame yourself
Undress yourself
Unveil yourself


Perturb yourself
Hold yourself
Compress yourself


Slice yourself
Sit yourself
Taste yourself


Cover yourself
Crack yourself
Bury yourself


Outline yourself
Displace yourself
Split yourself


Expand yourself
Exceed yourself
Give yourself away


Sharpen yourself
Roll yourself
Screw yourself


Delete yourself
Whiten yourself
Blaken yourself


Be not


photography Julia Hetta

sailor cap with visor and cord embellishment SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO

‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did
I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deepand suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion’.

– Henry David Thoreau , Walden (or Life in the Woods) 1854

DUST is published biannually by SEEDS PROJECT UG.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole part without written permission from the copyright holder.
All releases are the responsibility of the contributor. DUST is not responsible or liable for the accuracy of the information contained herein nor for any consequences arising from its interpretation.





Text Luigi Vitali


Luigi Vitali in conversation with Simone Cipriani


Text Willy Ndatira aka Willam Cult


Michele Fossi in conversation with Marco Alverà


David Wojnarowicz’s In the Garden


Text Jacopo Bedussi


Text by Allyn Gaestel


Mattia Ruffolo in conversation with Sissel Tolaas


Mattia Ruffolo in conversation with Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi


Exercising is important, every given day by Angelo Faccavento