Magazine Contacts

Giovanni Maria Conti, Marina Spadafora

Knit Design, tradition and innovation

01 June 2021 — 6 minutes read

Owner and creative director of the homonymous brand, Marina Spadafora, collaborates as Senior Design Consultant with famous brands like Ferragamo, Prada and Miu Miu.
Her work has always been characterized by originality, experimentation and a strong attention to social and environmental issues, also confirmed by her commitment to Auteurs du Monde, a fashion collection produced by artisans from South East Asia, Africa and South America belonging to the World Fair Trade Organization.
All of Marina Spadafora's activity looks in the direction of responsible fashion in the conviction that fashion can and should have a mission where ethics and aesthetics share the same objectives.

In the Fashion Lab of the Department of Design, Marina Spadafora speaks with Giovanni Conti, Associate Professor of the Department where he carries out teaching and research activities in the field of textiles and knitwear.

Marina when did you start this work, when did you start with the archive and what does this archive represent for you?

Well, I am happy to be here at this prestigious University and I must say that I have chosen the Politecnico as the guardian of my Archive because it has the absolute best Knitwear Course in Italy. It all started when my career as a knitwear designer began, around 1983 and so this is the result of a life’s work, experimentation and love for knitwear that I find to be the most creative fashion practice because we start from a fabric already made, we start from the yarn and, just from the yarn, we can create wonderful things. In my opinion when you knit, creativity is at its best.

Marina, you started as a designer, working first for your brand and then for other brands, experimenting in an absolutely free way. In your opinion, how is this work and this sector changing?

This sector is improving above all from the point of view of raw materials; every year at Pitti Filati we notice how every company, is trying to certificate themselves as producers of sustainable yarns. Italy has taken an increasingly "green" direction in the field of yarn and fabric production. The main evolution that I have seen in the world of knitwear is having caught the Zeit Geist, the spirit of the time, and having put itself in line with what are the current needs and requirements.

«Because today we have to do what is necessary to still be there tomorrow and what is necessary now is to follow the sustainable turning point and thanks to the Italian spinners we can have the possibility to choose sustainable yarns.»

I agree, the knitwear sector is revitalizing. I have been studying this sector for twelve years and I noticed that for a period of time there was no talk of knitwear but much more about clothing or sportswear, while I notice that today a lot of people are coming back to designing knitwear and I think this is very interesting.

Yes, because knitwear is comfortable, knitwear is almost borderline sportswear, in the sense that when you wear a beautiful sweater, a cardigan or a shawl you are comfortable, warm in winter or cool in summer wearing beautiful things in linen, hemp or cotton. Knitwear is something that you can pack very easily; it can be folded or rolled up and so it's all a more relaxed and casual way of dressing that I think is the direction Fashion is looking in today.

In your career have you seen if and how the technologies applied to knitwear are improving?

We have some wonderful things, all the companies that make knitting machines every year find new solutions and there is continuous research and continuous evolution especially from a technological point of view and I think this is wonderful. We find improved yarns that come from milk, corn and soya and more generally from recycling. You can create beautiful yarns by recycling for example the Denim that falls down when you cut a pair of jeans, collecting all this waste and preventing it from going to landfill.

Marina, why did you choose to donate your Archives to our University?

I had the honor and fortune to work for the Fashion Insitute of Technology, which has its headquarters in Milan right here at the Politecnico and I had the opportunity to appreciate the Labs and everything that revolves around knitwear here; when I thought about who to donate and what the excellence in teaching the art of knitwear in Italy really was, I immediately thought about Politecnico because you are the excellence.

I would like to thank you. Actually, in the offer of the School of Design is today provided the specialization in knitwear where the students of the third year of Fashion Design can choose to specialize in knitdesign; in the Department of Design we have a working group that I have the honor and I am happy to have created that does research in this area; in our system we therefore carry on teaching through the School and research through the Department.

About young people and their approach to the world of fashion in general and knitwear in particular, are there any different attitudes to this way?

Let's say that lately I have noticed that, even between young people, knitwear and the study of knitwear has become cooler. I have been teaching for years in this field have noticed that specializing in the fashion world, in knitwear for example, opens up more possibilities to find an interesting and satisfying job that leads young people to be more interesting for the industry that seeks and hires young experts in Knit design. Giovanni tell me how you decided that your field of research would be knitwear?

Rather than a choice, this research field was entrusted to me; I was becoming part of the structured staff of the Department and the School signed the agreement with FIT in 2007 that brought the first knitting machines into the Laboratory. I started knitting with Giuliano Marelli just to understand how a yarn worked and how knitting worked; this led me to discover a world of Italian excellence that still preserves the entire supply chain, including spinners, knitters, laboratories and dyers, brought me to study knitting, to do research and to form a small research group that together carries on the work.

My field of research for me is also a fun and I must thank the Coordinators of the Courses of Study who have always believed that this area could grow. Over the years we have trained PhDs, we now have an executive doctorate and then a national agreement with a large knitting factory in Reggio Emilia thanks to which one of their project managers will study with us for four years. We won Menzione d’Onore del Compasso d’Oro thanks to a research that lasted almost 3 years, partially financed by the Regione Lombardia to digitize the archives of the Mario Fioroni- MF1 knitwear factory on which we written a book.
The idea was to digitize and make public an archive that usually contains well kept but somehow hidden objects; as you pointed out, a lot of young people work and want to work in this sector and thanks to our app we designed through the research work, today the MF-1 knitwear factory is online and many designers and many young students can dialogue and get to know the archive.
Research in this sector is growing and we hope to continue our research activity also thanks to this archive. In the next few months I think that your Archive will be the subject of master's and doctoral theses that will focus on its valorization. I also hope that it can be a tool for project innovation because, as you said, creativity that starts from the thread is absolutely free, so I suppose that the Archivio Marina Spadafora can really be a place of research as well as a place of discovery of what has been done.
I would like to thank you very much on behalf of all of us starting from the University, the School and the Department for this donation that is not only pride for us but that will obviously be a very important working tool. We hope that the archive will probably be available by appointment, for all students starting from the first months of next year and will be placed in the Materioteca located in the Library of the Campus Bovisa.

Thanks to you, I am happy that my Archive is in good hands and that it will be consulted by young creative people.