Sansovino6 | To Be Young, To Be Gifted, To Be Edward Buchanan

by Johanne Affricot - Published on 02/12/2015

Speaking of Edward Buchanan, pointing out the creative, professional, and especially, the “conscience awaker”, without sounding banal was a little hard, and luckily I found someone who is enthusiastic and available on the other side.

Buchanan does not hold anything in. He has no filters and he uses each of his available platforms to address his friends and both real and virtual acquaintances to debate on themes such as diversity, privilege, racism, homophobia, politics and much more. Maybe boring, delicate and hard to deal with for those who are on the other side of the world, but in the end, they get under your skin.

American, from Cleveland, Ohio. The Great Lakes region. Edward embodies a little of the American Dream, with a touch of Italy, Milano and its surroundings, to be precise.

He was raised in a closely knitted family of artists and creatives who shared and exchanged at all times thus he was always encouraged to excel in where his interests pulled him without fear.

In the early 90’s, he takes a one-way ticket from the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York and then ends up in Italy, personally chosen by Laura Moltedo to conceive a ready-to-wear line for the luxury brand Bottega Veneta. “Bottega was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse even if it might not have been my ideal choice at the time but the city [Milano] presented itself and I ran with it”.

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Alek Wek per Bottega Veneta, ss 2000 Milano –
Courtesy of Edward Buchanan

After six years of collaboration, in 2001, Buchanan creates Leflesh with Manuela Morin. This project allows him to experiment his own creativity to the fullest. Closed the experience, he created a capsule collection of home knitwear and in 2009 his creature takes shape: Sansovino6, a luxury label creating iconic garments entirely made in knitwear. A perfect fusion between American sportswear and Italian high-tailoring.

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Bottega Veneta Fittings for the first presentation in 1998 – Edward and Manuela Morin
Courtesy of Edward Buchanan

Today, we can find him at the Triennale among the protagonists of “The new vocabulary of Italian fashion”, an exhibition celebrating the present Italian fashion world and all those brands and creative minds that have renewed and recovered its traditional, cultural, technical and technological DNA over the past 20 years whilst rewriting it in a new and original language. “You know, I learned much of my training in working and creating luxury clothing in Italy, specifically at Bottega Veneta. I am extremely loyal. I learned many things about myself in Milano and also discovered what I wanted out of life. Quality was a part of that. Quality in life and quality in the type of work that I created for myself. It is not always perfect, but we learn and move intelligently, hopefully also teaching on the way”.

fw 15/16 | Courtesy of Sansovino6

How would you define Sansovino in the beginning and Sansovino today?

Each step is further education for both me and my team. What I wanted for the brand in the very beginning is very similar to where I started. The road that we take to reach my goals often changes but I keep my eye on the final prize respectfully.

fw 15/16 | Courtesy of Sansovino6

In 2012 you founded The Situation with Alessio Lepore, a consulting firm for companies in the fashion industry. How much does working to help others help your creativity process when you are back at working on your brand?

These worlds are often very separate. I enjoy collaborating with other creatives, business minds, and markets. I have learned how to separate and to wear different hats depending on what is in front of me. It is really a part of my training. Sansovino6 is an extension of me therefore it comes quite easily creatively speaking.

You have just been to Asia, would you tell me what you did? Did you find what you were expecting?

I am often in Asia for research. I am always interested in emerging markets, popular culture. I’m obsessed with information and cultural diversity and very fond of the Asian market especially for the risk factor in investing in new brands. They tend to be loyal and very interested in creative expression.

fw 15/16 | Courtesy of Sansovino6

After you left Bottega Veneta you launched Sansovino6. 2015 seems to be the year of exits. Alexander Wang ditched Balenciaga. Raf Simons quit Christian Dior and Aber Elbaz left Lanvin. What do you think about this trend since you have been through the same situation?

We have to move with the wind and progress in the market. Each creative must decide how much they can take and when they can take it. My life is not work, and my work is not my only life. A balance is necessary and when you feel that those things are unbalanced it is time to check yourself.

Do you believe that consumers are in a phase in searching for something rather refined and therefore ready to choose the “indipendent”? Or, do you think they want to play it safe, choosing bigger brands?

Interesting…we are in a time of information overload. Many consumers are convinced of what they need by the way of social communication and celebrity marketing. Not everyone makes a personal choice of what they really do want, but many make decisions only based on what others want. I am addressing the courageous and independent who are not looking for a dictator, but rather for an option to integrate within their existing lives. It’s all about options.

fw 15/16 | Courtesy of Sansovino6

It is not rare to see prominent figures from the music world having success in the fashion industry as well. Among these, the most acclaimed, at least visibility wise, is Kanye West. You have worked with another big shot from rap music, Sean – Puff Daddy – Combs. Who would you say is the best creative and “seller”?

They have very different approaches. I would not compare one to the other as they are very different individuals and both valid in their own way. I will say that Puff is one of the most intelligent business minds that I have ever collaborated with. I had a blast while doing it and I learned a lot about a world I was not a part of. Kanye is a real product of what is happening today and refuses to take no for an answer.

What are beauty, style and diversity to you? What role do they have in the fashion industry and in everyday life?

Beauty and style are to me confidence and security. Diversity is the reality of the world we live in. We unfortunately have to sometimes demand what reality should be. Combining all these things in daily life for me is natural.

Edward e Debra, Sansovino6 s/s lookbook 2016
Photo by Piotr Niepsuj

Speaking of diversity, according to Business of Fashion’s calculations, white models still make up the vast majority of those appearing on the catwalk. Of the 3,875 model bookings made during the past fashion weeks, only 797 were models of colour (categorised as black, Asian, non-white Hispanic and other), basically that 79.4 percent of the models that walked the runway were white. Black models were the highest represented minority, accounting for 10.2 percent of bookings, followed by Asian models at 6.5 percent and ‘other’ models, including those of Indian and Middle Eastern descent, at 2.3 percent. Hispanic models accounted for only 1.6 percent of model bookings made. How much would you say has changed ever since you started and how long do you think it will take to see concrete changes?

Well as I have been in the business for over 20 years I have seen waves of change for the better and for the worse. Change has initiated many times but then forgotten seasons later. The responsibility has to be everyone starting from the core. The hiring process of executives, designers, stylist, hair and makeup artist, art directors, casting agent.

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We are all responsible of being conscious of where this leads. You cannot have a diverse exterior without a diverse interior. It is impossible. I refuse to let this go unheard from my side and I speak out with any platform I have. Change takes a team of many who are willing to collaborate on the same page.

Yes, but if on one side prominent personalities like the former model and activist Bethann Hardison, supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman, Edward Enninful, the style and fashion director of W Magazine, and our Franca Sozzani, director of Vogue Italia, are raising their voice, on the other side there are brands doing very little to change this tendency, or worse, fuel, even involuntarily, this gap. The last case is from a month ago. It has H&M [South Africa] as a protagonist who, in response to a customer complaining that there are not black models in the posters inside the new stores, answered that black models do not convey a positive image. A very bold statement, successively retreated, but surely not coming from a small and unknown brand.

Absolutely and we need to be conscious and responsive. Now not later. Do you know how many art directors and photographer books I see that have no models of colour in them? I’m talking about young creatives at the top of their game who call themselves the future of fashion…its a lazy and one dimensional game they are playing and requires looking at the inside from the outside to see it often.

In the ‘90s you could count supermodels on two hands. It seems like Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of celebrity have become longer, thanks to social media, allowing everyone to push [sometimes bomb] their own image. Three names of models/social celebrities that, at the end of the vanity fair, will remain?

This subject I really am not so interested in. Celebrity to me is a loose canon. I respect many public figures and artist for their art regardless of what they wear and how they wear it. I’m just looking for artistry and honesty. This seems hard to come by in these times.

Do you have a muse?

I have many beautiful and independent women that I work with that inspire. Debra Shaw is a friend and swan and happens to look great in everything that I create! Lea T is also a friend with great personal style that wears my pieces in a different way than Debra. Each one stands for their own personality, which is the respect game I am interested in.

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Debra Shaw | s/s 2012, Courtesy of Sansovino6
Edward Buchanan and Lea T | Courtesy of Sansovino6

You have been living in Milano for many years. How important is your Milanese family and how does it support, inspire and condition your choices?

My Milano family is extremely important. I always say that I was raised in Ohio, New York was my zone to discover me, and Milano put both of those experiences together formally. I have a support structure of long-term friends that collectively make my experience here that much more integral. Milano is my home.

The city is very creative, it offers a lot of ideas but it is frenetic at the same time. Is there a place where you go relax?

I’m a city rat. I love the frenetic fast pace of an energetic city. My first love is still berlin. I have a long history going to Berlin, in fact it was the first city in Europe that I ever visited. I can relax there, as well as, be inspired. I also have a special place in my heart for Ibiza where I go every summer with my friends. I am always searching for the peace within the chaos, which is my perfection.

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fw 14/15 | Courtesy of Sansovino6
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fw 14/15 | Courtesy of Sansovino6

What is your house like?

Well…it is changing in this moment as I’m in the middle of starting to move, but I like clean lines. A bit of an organized mess. I need to know where everything is and I’m fond of good design and art specifically.

What is it that you miss of Ohio and of the US, and what is it that you do not?

Well… naturally I miss the close proximity of my mother and immediate family. I love NYC but I don’t miss living there.

Ok, I am done. From your last collection, what garments would you choose for your mother, for me and for a good friend?

For my mother I choose an oversized boiled wool assemetrical sweater. For you I would feel more comfortable with you choosing as clothing has to be comfortable for the individuals needs. For a good friend they also can choose what works for them….but i sugguest the 5 guage cashmere pullovers.

Sansovino6 | Sansovino6 on Facebook

Cover Image | Rankin Photography LTD

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Johanne Affricot
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Visual and performing arts, culture and music, traveling: I could just live on this. Graduated in International Cooperation and Development, I am an indipendent Culture Curator and Producer, and Artistic Director of GRIOTmag and Spazio GRIOT.