Time is the cruciable of creative achievement. Interview with Ezra Petronio

Ezra Petronio: “In the speed-obsessed era we live in young people feel under pressure to “make it” right at the beginning of their career. Surrounded by examples of peers making entries into the Olympus of fashion by way of a couple of lucky Instagram posts, they tend to strive for instant success too. I won’t deny that this acceleration of career paths is bringing about some positive changes to the fashion system – we are seeing ever-younger people occupying roles of responsibility, which in turn is bringing lots of fresh ideas to the fashion conversation. However careers in fashion have become much more volatile than in the past. One day, this frantic system shoots you to the top; two years later, nobody is interested in your name anymore. So resist the siren call of “Insta-success” and take your time to build a solid professional profile. Finish your studies. Expand your cultural horizons as much as possible, without forgetting the too-often neglected history of fashion. And take time to collect as many and diverse work experiences as you can, without being too snobby about it: never be ashamed of being an apprentice! It’s during an internship that we are most entitled to make mistakes and when we learn to overcome the natural fear of getting things wrong. Especially at the beginning of a career, mistakes are golden. During one of my first presentations to my mentor Rei Kawakubo, she said, “Nice job but where are your other tries?” When I told her they were in the bin, she told me that next time I should bring the bin! And she was right: the design she chose was there! Far from being failures to hide and feel ashamed of, mistakes and imperfections represent a valuable resource. Take the time to retrace your steps, analyse them, evaluate them, and honour them with the attention necessary to derive lessons from them. Throughout your career, this will be the secret ingredient with which to transform a good job into an excellent one. In our industry, details are everything. I will never forget the time Mrs Kawakubo called me from the other side of the world to ask me to increase, by one tiny unit (!), the font size of the RSVP line of an invitation card. Or the day I met with Irving Penn to present to him a new Prada fragrance bottle I had designed, and for which we wanted him to shoot the campaign. He drew a beautiful sketch which I faxed to Mrs Prada. As far as I was concerned, that idea was good and I was sure that she would be pleased. To my surprise, though, all I got as feedback was a laconic: “Is that all? Can he do something a little more modern?” Her answer had more to do with her philosophy of work than with the actual quality of the image: Miuccia Prada notoriously thinks that there is no project, not even one shot by a master of photography like Irving Penn (!), that cannot be improved. This prompts her systematically to ask her collaborators to add extra refinement cycles even when the design process looks complete – in a strenuous, maniacal quest for the “ultimate detail” that could make the difference. To quote Voltaire, “Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time.”

Ezra Petronio is co-founder of Petronio Associates

 

Pubblicato su L’Uomo Vogue, Novembre 2019

Testo raccolto da Michele Fossi

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