Elegantly reserved, intoxicatingly cultured and undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in his dynamic shaping of the fashion industry, Federico Poletti is someone you can't help but want to get to know more. Upon our recent interactions I've come to learn of a person who is forever expanding the horizons and limits of the norm, all in the most genuine and grounded manner.
As founder and editorial-director of his own web magazine, Man In Town, Federico has an array of interests and interesting accolades to call his own. Having started his career in journalism while studying Art History at the University of Pisa, he has gone on to create and produce in a way that combines the truest origins of fashion itself - art, history, culture and literature. His book 'The Fashion Set', published by ROADS, takes a timeless look at the most sensational catwalk shows from the world's most notorious fashion labels (see the images throughout this post). And were I to bet my life on it, I know I'd be safe in saying that there is much more to come and so many other distinct and intriguing adventures to be lived..
Tell me a bit about your journey into fashion journalism, where did it start?
It all began when I started studying art history at the University of Pisa. During my studies, I was so fond of researching and writing that I decided to call an Italian art newspaper (The Art Journal) and I offered to be their correspondent for free. I was 21 years old, enthusiastic and willing to work. Then after my degree, I moved to Milan to get a Masters in Fashion Communication. I always tried to find the artistic side of fashion. That’s why I started working with new emerging designers, and travelling to discover remote Fashion Weeks all around the world- something that nowadays has become a big trend.
The industry is changing so incredibly fast with online taking huge precedence over print. Instyle UK shut down late last year and yet I hope that print never truly dies. To hold a magazine the likes of Vogue and Porter, I.D. and Love magazine brings the dream and mysteriousness of fashion to life; editorials look so much more magical on physical paper. Where do you see it going? How do you feel it will evolve?
Yes completely. The last several months have shown us that the fashion business is radically changing. Just think about the “see now buy now” concept that allows customers to buy pieces as soon as they walk down the runway instead of waiting six months between the show and when they hit the stores. So magazines need to be in tune with the times and with the needs of their readers. I think there is still space for print publications, but they must be focused and have a clear message. If lots of big magazines shut down, it opens the playing field for independent publications to be born and rise to importance. It’s also interesting to observe how online publications are developing their editorial content, typical of on-paper magazines, in order to create something new and appealing that tells a story, adding a multimedia twist, that is often linked to an online shopping experience. This is a very important development for the industry. Online and print can compliment each other, but they have to be differentiated.
You have a majorly successful career with your own publication MANINTOWN, writing for hugely influential platforms such as the Huffington Post and BOF, curating ‘The Fashion Set’ with book publisher ROADS, not to mention paving the way forward for men and women the world over, how do you keep ahead of the curve? What inspires you to remain inspired?
For me it is so important and absolutely essential to travel to remote areas in order to discover local fashion and handcraft traditions. From Korea to Colombia, up to Denmark or to Georgia, there is an incredible landscape to be discovered in art, fashion and design. During these trips I always meet interesting people who really inspire me. I’m so thankful to have this opportunity, and make sure to always stay open and listen to the amazing stories about their lives and work. Curating books, like the Fashion Set, gives me the chance to compile all my experience and share it with readers. It's a great chance to show the results of my research.
Stepping onto the scene these days has become more and more accessible to young people and the industry has perhaps become somewhat over-saturated, what emerging artists and designers stand out from the masses to you right now?
There are so many cool artists and designers working in the shadows and striving to come into the spotlight. Recently, thanks to the WHITE tradeshow and the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana) we gave a young talent from Georgia the opportunity to showcase during Milan Women's Fashion Week. His name is Irakli Rusadze, designer and founder of the brand Situationist. He is 25 years old and his fashion aesthetic is a statement about the condition and charisma of women in his country, Georgia during the post-soviet era. It’s just one example of hundreds I could mention. Another one is Indian designer Suket Dhir from New Delhi, who is reviving local craft traditions in his contemporary Men’s collections. Countries beyond those of the four famous Fashion Weeks are demonstrating what incredible talents they have to offer just waiting to be discovered and promoted to the general public.
Fashion is brought together by art and culture, current affairs, architecture, film and everything in between. It’s edgy, it’s artistic. How do you find a balance between the imaginative and the everyday?
I keep my feet on the ground and I remember to myself that fashion is commerce, a product that has to be sold. Specifically, if it is ready-to-wear it is an industrialized product (mass manufactured); whereas if it is couture or demi-couture it is a niche product, created in a more special, hand-made way closer to wearable art, yet still intended for sale to a select few.
How would you describe true style? What makes one person stand out to you more than another?
I always look at the attitude that a person reveals, going beyond the clothes. For me true style means feeling at ease and mixing pieces that break the rules (which can sometimes result in disaster if done wrong). Think about Anna Piaggi who was able to create and customize artsy looks mixing ready-to-wear and vintage. She's proven to be a great modern style icon.
Fashion month has just completed its four city tour. With bloggers and influencers taking their positions in the front row alongside high-powered editors, and season after season becoming more and more 'influential'- what are your thoughts on the digital age and the rise of the ‘influencer’?
The phenomenon of influencers is a mirror of our times and of the growing importance of the digital age. It is huge battleground between journalists, editors and influencers. But it’s not right to judge bloggers for what they do in comparison to editors. Their work is clear but it’s not meant to be journalism, even if sometimes they do write and endorse designers. I know some journalists behaving like bloggers who promote brands in a subtle way and always look to be in the spotlight. Magazines also promote brands through paid advertising. As journalists, we should think about writing in the most responsible and objective way, but with the support of the publishers.
In your own life, how have you decided what you want to do next, whom you work with and what projects you say yes to? Do you have a moral code by which you abide?
The more projects I do, the more I look for quality and professionalism. I try to be coherent with my interests, accepting to work with people who really trust in what I’m doing and follow my suggestions and critiques. Expressing honest criticism for me is more productive than saying that everything is amazing. I’m not good at selling fake dreams, but I try to do my best to make things work better. That’s my mantra and moral code.
And finally Federico, if you weren’t doing your current job, what would you choose to do?
I wish I could have been a dancer or singer. I love the performing arts in motion... maybe in my next life!
Love R x