Bartolotta& Martorana is a fantastic design-duo. Two emergent designers who decided many years ago to join together and create a unique ideal world of enchanted and intense beauty. Discover their story and fall/winter 2018-19 collection in this interview.

Simone Bartolotta e Salvatore Martorana

The first time I’ve seen the creations of Simone Bartolotta and Salvatore Martorana was at Fashion Graduate Italia last November and immediately caught my eye. Not with bold colors or strange concepts, but with the immense power of seductiveness. To be honest their style at first sight could appear decorative, hyper-structured, in some case dramatic. But looking better, they’re evolving from chrysalis to a light butterfly.

Bartolotta & Martorana at Fashion Graduate Italia with Academy of Fine Arts of Brera

Tracing back the evolution of their story, the sense of transformation is the better way to describe what they are doing since their first experiments.

A strong friendship born after a first moment of adolescent incomprehension during the high school and the healthy competition in the laboratories of the Academy of Fine Arts in Palermo, where they have both studied Decoration in the 3-years undergraduate course. It was to pass an exam that the two young talents discovered a common passion for fashion and decided to work together and build their future in this field.
Creation in paper and plastic by Bartolotta & Martorana

In the next 2 years they apparently moved in different directions. Salvatore in Milan to study fashion design at Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and Simone in Florence, for visual art in the Academy of Fine Arts of that city. Separated but always working together, they improved their skills.

Initially their ideas about fashion were strictly connected to the artistic approach of academic environment. Clothes more similar to sculptures than to something really wearable, but incredibly beautiful, strong and communicative. Really young, they explored the artistic side of fashion experimenting with unusual materials like plastic, paper or wood, recycling everything and infusing to creative gesture also a deep ecological meaning.

A dress in paper realized by Bartolotta & Martorana

Working hard and becoming even more interesting, they started to participate to numerous fashion contest, winning a lot of important prizes. In 2015 they won the Moda Movie Award with their collection “Soul”, mixing different cultures, from African tribes to oriental colors and Japanese shapes, creating dresses and accessories using woven cordons or unusual materials like pasta.

In 2016 were the winners of Premio Moda Matera and Fashion Puglia. We’ve seen them also on tv, for the Mediaset’s talent show “Fashion Style” with the showgirl Alessia Marcuzzi and for the tv show “Detto Fatto” with Caterina Balivo.

Collection “Soul” by Bartolotta & Martorana

But the last part of 2016 was the moment of the great change. In June they participated to Milano Moda Graduate, then in collaboration with A CODED WORLD (a platform to support young designers launched by Bali Lawal) they presented a great solo-fashion show during the Milan Fashion Week with an intense Haute Couture collection in black, white, red and grey.

Sculptural, powerful dresses like enchanted and protective armors that emphasized the strong femininity of their models. Another world. The beginning of the evolution that is transforming those two young artists into some of the most interesting names of young Italian fashion design.

Spring/summer 2018 collection presented at Milan Fashion Week

With the fall/winter 2018-19 collection the butterfly is definitively flapping its wings. They presented their last fashion show two weeks ago, during one of the coldest day of the Milan Fashion Week. Despite the freezing weather the girls on catwalk appeared so light and delicate to warm our hearts with a romantic touch of poetry. Graceful, hyper-feminine and perfectly tailored, the collection is maybe the beginning of a long way towards a bright future.

I met Simone and Salvatore just after the show, exhausted but happy. That was our friendly conversation.

I know that your favorite designer is Alexander Mcqueen, but in your fashion show I’ve seen also some reference to Stephane Rolland. What do you think about his style?

Well, when someone asks us who we like, our usual answer that is McQueen, who was very dramatic. We like his way to use materials, but we also love the Rolland’s clean lines, because he’s able to create an entire world with only a few lines. Our concept is similar.

Maybe he uses a bit more traditional artisanal techniques, while you use these technological laces. How do you make them?

It’s a resin that we cast with a kind of “sac à poche”. Our work is artisanal, so there’s a contrast between what is modern, innovative or unusual with some handcrafted techniques. Often these decorations are made directly on the garment, in other cases were realized and then applied on. But are really soft. Practically it’s a kind of gum which remains elastic and soft.

So you apply it on tulle to have the nude-effect of the real lace. Where did you find this inspiration?

Yes, it’s a techno-lace. Well, you know, we both come from sculpture and painting. We brought this approach with us. Looking to our past, we made a lot of wearable plastic sculptures, enornous. But we use also other materials and currently meters and meters of fabric.

Bartolotta & Martorana fashion show fall/winter 2018-19

Speaking about your style, you don’t want to appear strange at any cost as many other. Not classic, but avant-garde without being too excessive?

That’s what we want to be now. At the beginning we were really strange, but now we’re looking for something different, trying to make fashion, while before we made more costume design, connected to an artistic and artisanal concept. That is still here, in fact our collection is completely handmade by us.

So you are patternmakers and tailors. Is it more Haute Couture or ready-to-wear?

We make everything, from sketch to prototypes, down to the last thread! We can call it prét-à-couture, also if we decided to make some ready-to-wear pieces. We want to use our past experience as concept. Before we made those huge fused plastic sculptures or other things completely in paper.

From something more theatrical to today, are you moving to a cleaner work?

We began with something theatrical, casting the resin to create a texture on plastic, little by little arriving to this technique that is really difficult. If you make it directly on a dress, is one-shot and if we fail, it’s waste. Now we’ve got the hang of it, but we threw out many pieces. It’s only fair, it served to improve our skills.
Bartolotta & Martorana fashion show fall/winter 2018-19

What are your biggest faults? And how you work together?

We should say that we are really critical, both about other people’s work than on our. Maybe worse, being very critical to each other. To avoid critics we can’t make a mistake and we try to surprise each other, never being satisfied until the result is strong. We can’t work separately, because it’s a common path also if we don’t work together to each single dress. Starting from the inspirations that we find looking around and speaking about our feelings and ideas, we work sharing our tasks and expressing our thoughts.

You’ve made 35 outfits, that are a lot for emerging designers. Completely satisfied about them?

Someone works better, but we left also a lot of dresses in atelier. But we are satisfied of those that we presented in the fashion show. And in the collection there were also sweatshirts. We’d like to overcome the structured shapes evolving to become more market-friendly, because Haute Couture is not the more viable fashion sector. Surely is the most visionary, but it can’t financially sustain our brand.

About the schools you’ve attended, can you tell me something more about those experiences?

After the Academy of Fine Arts of Palermo, Salvatore studied fashion design at Brera, while I was in Florence for visual arts. because we wanted to continue our artistic approach and at the same time doing something more linked to fashion. Brera gave us many opportunities. For example they choose us two times for Fashion Graduate Italia also if we were both already graduated. And we showcased also at Milano Unica last year.

You partecipated also to Italian Fashion Talent Awards, is it true?

Yes, thanks to the school. In the contest we won the prize for innovation. Are all opportunities that helped us to proceed, knowing also many fashion designers for collaborations, increasing connections. Also the work of Brera’s teachers was great. They take care of us and with many of them there’s a beautiful friendship. They helps us with tips, also about events or contests. In terms of education there’s a lot to learn and thanls to them we arrived to the real work with a great know-how.

Did you learn tailoring techniques in Palermo or elsewhere?

Thanks to Mrs. Cettina! It’s a long story. At school our teacher prefered to make a different type of course, encouraging us to make hats using recycled materials to make an exhibition. But at the very last minute the invitation cards were all wrong, announcing a fashion show instead of an artistic exhibition. So we quickly made black dresses draping plastic garbage bags. It was a success. Honestly fashion was our desire since we were children. We tried to make something different, but fashion came back to our life.
So we began to create plastic dresses. At the first contest “Fashion Stylist” they selected us and we presented two plastic and paper dresses with a descrete success, but we couldn’t continue the show because unable to cut and sew real fabrics. So we decided to learn the tailoring techniques, before by ourself trying with paper only and then finally asking to Mrs. Cettina, a teacher of a professional course. In one month only she explained us all the pattern-bases and some transformations. We absorbed any lesson, but wanting to do something more complicated. We started working very hard, making all the collections by ourself. That’s the way we grew up.

Now you have some support behind you, like A Codec World. What kind of supports can be useful for you?

Some investors, but today it’s really hard. We are doing our best, imposing our characters in some way because it’s too important. We work hardly, collaborating with many companies, because they’re economically helping to move on. And it’s also an interesting exercise to create different style for other designers.

About your last collection, what is the inspiration and how it evolved your style?

The inspiration is a spring in winter, like a cold bouquet with delicate colors and some more shocking tone like pink, purple or blue. Usually we prefer pure colors, not nuances. But here we experimented with colors and it was funny. In the future we’ll have also prints. We’ve already made prints in a previous collection inspired by gothic stained glasses, with all the decorations digitally printed on PVC.

So the collection is an evolution about colors or something else?

Well, not only in colors. We maintened our trait in the fluent lines and sense of feminity, but it’s less structured. We’ve a passion for exaggerated volumes, but they needs a structure, becoming further away from reality. So here we became more soft about structures, maybe with many layers but really light and with very soft and fluid silhouettes. There are tunics that can fit to every body, feminine and glamour. We love this hint to minimal shapes in contrast with these baroque resin decorations.

Is your a kind of romanticism?

Each woman should feel beautiful. Our is a kind of modern romanticism, not too campy or sappy. We haven’t real laces or sparkles. If a day we’ll use jemstones maybe they will be opaque or broken-mirror effect. We are not too traditional or conceptual and definitevely not campy.

The Sicilian tradition is present in your style or not?

Surely our tradition is a bit faded living outside our land in different situations. It’s inevitable. But in some decorations, some sinuous lines it comes up maybe subconsciously. Sometimes we deliberately move away from our tradition because it recalls the imaginary of Dolce & Gabbana. So also if it could be interesting to use for example a lemon print or other decorations we can’t do it. We are Sicilian, a design-duo, the comparison could be too evident.
Is there something that you’d never do and a dream not yet reached?

Sometimes we see some improbable color-matching, but it all depends by your taste. We never rule out anything. About what we’d like to make… it’s bridalwear. In the previous collection there were a lot of white outfits and many ateliers asked us about them. We believe that today brides aspiring something more than the classic wedding dress. Not every marriage is in church, not everybody wants a traditional dress, but every bride wants to feel beautiful and well-dressed.

Projects for future?

Our first goal could be someone who can invest in our brand, because it could be more easy. Otherwise we’ll make smaller collections more affordable and commercial-like, for example with a line of sweatshirts which are successful. We can’t live only with compliments! But we want to maintain the poetic approach. Another goal could be an important testimonial, like Madonna with Scognamiglio. Now we have a very positive feedback, so we’ll move on this way!

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