|Luca Benini at SlamJam HQ, Ferrara / Italyi|
Jörg: How important in the WWW for your daily life and how has the WWW changed your life?
Luca: I am not someone who is extremely limited to or connected to the Internet. I prefer telephone calls to e-mails, meetings face-to-face to conference calls. But I must admit that, in spite of my rather retro nature, I am sometimes ecstatic above the power and speed of a means that, with only one click, puts you in touch with the entire world.
Jörg: What are the positive or negative aspects of the WWW?
Luca: On the positive side, the Web strengthens connections that would otherwise be impossible to maintain intact, it makes it possible for us to become aware of and learn about the unthinkable, at a speed that provides us with unlimited access to the latest news. Art, fashion, music... by means of the Internet, they are available to everyone, their message is immediate and direct. On the negative side, with everything that this speed and unlimited access creates, being connected with the entire world does not necessarily mean having a lot of friends. Today, if you want a particular CD, for example, all you have to do is find a website and order it, but do you go out looking, even as far as New York, touching things with your hands, discovering worlds that you otherwise might never have encountered, new contexts, new experiences, yours and those of other people, like you once did. In the past, people spent hours at home with their friends talking, listening to music, word-of-mouth was everything. There was a rituality to social interaction that today has turned into a kind of social loneliness.
Jörg: Please give us a short personal briefing.
Luca: I was born in Voghiera, a small town of 3000 inhabitants not far from Ferrara, and that was where I started SlamJam. I am very connected to my roots, to the area I come from. I had all of my first experiences in Emilia Romagna, a region rich in stimulus and traditions.
Jörg: How did you get involved with music and fashion?
Luca: I'm involved with both as long as I can think.
Jörg: What was the music/fashion scene like when you got interested in it?
Luca: I have lived through them all, the most diverse, in the most convinced and deep ways. I have always been fascinated by both, one of which became my profession, the other a hobby that continues to influence my work. As a young man, I experienced and absorbed all kinds of influences, overturning my tastes and often changing them radically, enriching my background each time. But it is thanks to the fact that I never set limits for myself that today I am who I am.
Jörg: How did you get in touch/stay in touch with your friends outside of Italy?
Luca: I use the telephone really a lot, but whenever I can, I meet with my friends and the people I work with abroad. I believe that human contact is extremely important in any field. Certainly, these days, it is also easy to keep in contact by means of the Internet but nothing is better than a dinner and time spent talking face-to-face.
Jörg: What was DEFUMO all about?
Luca: "DEFUMO" is an acronym for "DElta FUtura and MOde". A project begun in 2000 as a collaboration with Giorgio De Mitri and a team of people from Sartoria with the objective of saving one of the historic Italian clubs - Il Graffio.
Jörg: Do you remember what your childhood dream was of what you would like to do as a grown up?
Luca: To do what I am doing today.
Jörg: What was the first job you got paid for?
Luca: I was once a baker for three days, but I don't remember how I spent my earnings.
Jörg: What did you do before SlamJam?
Luca: The same things, without them being called SlamJam.
Jörg: When and how did SlamJam start - what did your operation look like and which brands were you selling at the time?
Luca: I would say that SlamJam began in my garage in the 1980s, when I started selling products from the States and England, such as Troop, Lonsdale and others. Slowly, the garage became popular not only with a circle of friends, and the number of brands sold grew. I started working with Carhartt and Stussy. Still today it's thanks to these two brands that SlamJam reached its actual identity in terms of image and commercial values. Not only. It's thanks to these two brands that I've met and known several people fundamental for my own growth and for the one of my company.
Jörg: How did SlamJam evolve into the "SlamJam Brigade"?
Luca: SlamJam Brigade began as a joke. At first, it was made up of the skateboard team and then slowly became an actual brigade.
Jörg: How important was the commercial aspect of SlamJam to you then and now?
Luca: Like music is for a musician.
Jörg: In which areas does SlamJam operate?
Luca: Our brands range from the highly technical to the latest, most conceptual. I have a team of trained young people who look after the various sectors. As a general rule, there are two well-defined lines that define our style: the red and the black. The red line consists primarily of all the street brands, while the black line is for the research brands, the experimental projects, everything that is more related to fashion.
Jörg: Besides the actual business, SlamJam is also involved in many different areas - art shows, parties, events. What are some of the highlights in recent years?
Luca: When I actually stop and think about it, we have really organised a lot of activities. Starting with Beautiful Losers, a terrific exhibition of street art, which we sponsored in 2006, all the way to exhibitions of artists of the calibre of Boogie, Shawn Mortensen, Kostas Seremetis, that crazy artistic collective known as The Changes and made up of Misha and Shawn, PAM designers, Sk8thing, BBC designers and Fergadelic, the creative brain from Tonite. And let's not forget Slam Trick, an international skateboard contest that is now in its ninth year, the graphics for which were designed by Fergadelic.
Jörg: When and how did your fascination with Japanese brands develop?
Luca: I came to Japan following the natural evolution of my own taste. The Japanese are a marvellous people, they use a sacred rituality in the smallest gestures and have a maniacal passion for detail. There was no way I would not be fascinated.
Jörg: You opened your own shops - in Ferrara, Milan, Verona - and there is your retail project in Barcelona - Chikashitsu x SlamJam. What was your motivation to start your own retail outlets?
Luca: To make brands that are as yet not very well-known visible, with the goal of gaining them recognition and, at the same time, of raising the awareness of point-of-sale customers and SlamJam customers.
Jörg: You also opened a showroom in Milan a few years back and now a temporary one in Paris, too.
Luca: I got the chance to open a showroom in Milan when I founded Edwin Italy. The showroom has been thought to give visibility to Edwin and to some niche brands, mostly from Japan. It has been our first challenge, our first European showcase. It has been a great success, very stimulating, it is also the reason why this is the second season we are showing in Paris.
Jörg: Which brands do you represent there and how - in one or two words - would you characterize them?
Luca: Each of these brands is definitely part of the new panorama - young, eccentric, streetwear that becomes fashion. Our target is young people (20-50 years' old) in search of their own style, not standardised and yet easily recognizable as belonging to a niche of designers who have created real new trends. The luxury of simplicity combined with the most unusual and eccentric details. P.A.M., Unrivaled, Forfex, Be Positive, Tonite, Gourmet, Alife... Each of these brands has character and offers a well-defined product. This year, we have also the pleasure of hosting Carri Munden, the creative mind behind the Cassetteplaya project, in our temporary showroom. I believe that collaborating with such talented and innovative artists during the Fashion Week is absolutely an excellent way of communicating as fast and as incisively as style evolves.
Jörg: How would you say does the Italian market for fashion differ from the rest of Europe?
Luca: At first, it was not easy. A few years ago, Italy was distanced from, almost allergic to, any type of change or proposal that was even slightly outside the usual parameters. But, luckily, as time has gone by, thanks to increased involvement from the media, interest has begun to grow. Not so many years ago, only a few people, those who were able to spend time travelling, could actually buy those brands. But, today, the Internet makes information easy to acquire. Certainly, other European markets, such as those in France, England and the Scandinavian countries, all of which are more open to new ideas, immediately embrace change and new proposals. And yet, I am optimistic about our country, fascinated by the evolution of the streetwear into fashion.
Jörg: What are your next travel destinations after Paris?
Luca: Eindhoven for the next CHANGES show...
Jörg: How do you relax - what is your most favourite spot on the planet to find calm and quiet?
Luca: At home, I make something to eat and then it's the sofa and Proevolution!
Jörg: What is on your desk?
Luca: My desk is the SlamJam kitchen table.
Jörg: What are your five most valued items at the moment?
Luca: Sincerely, I don't know.
Interview and photos: Jörg / Beinghunted.com | A big thanks to the SlamJam Brigade and family!
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