If the making of a garment is an intuitive search for how to elicit certain behaviours from its wearer, Maurizio Amadei is your psychic psychologist and his clothes compel you to be a viking and do what you want. Since the inception of m.a+, it has been Amadei’s preternatural understanding of the body and his devotion to creating a second skin that maintains its integrity which leave the inexorable human magic in every thing he makes. His designs are charged with a rare telluric electricity and the equal emphasis he places on process and product sees him construct them to an indestructible degree. Born and raised in Rome – where he continues to work – his spirit is that of Arte Povera’s nomadic being; he who refuses to yield to the stability and rigidity of the terms imposed, who exists in a situationist condition in which what matters is surviving ephemerality and contingency, who moves about in every possible space and finds nourishment in any context.
Nabil Azadi: Maybe I should tell you how I found my way here and to m.a+. I was living in Melbourne and one day I was stoned and walking around and I found a vest in a corner on the street. It was one of the hooded aviator vests – kind of dirty. But, of course, I couldn’t find a label on it.
Maurizio Amadei: [laughing] Of course. You found it in the street? Someone lost it!
NA: And then eventually someone said, “Look at that!” and pointed out the cross – which I had never even noticed before. And that was how I found my way. Before this I’d never heard of you or Carpe Diem so it’s sort of cosmic.
MA: Yes, it is! Very good.
NA: It was fascinating to me because I had found this inanimate thing to which I inexplicably had an instant, intimate connection. Now, it could just have been me anthropormorphising a little but it seems to me like something particularly astounding is that every thing you make never loses your mark – even with that hat over there with the unfinished hems and the loose knotted threads at the corners! You can tell that it has been in contact with human hands – specifically your hands. This is something that few people do or even see as important. Luxury exists in origins, and luxury shrinks when origins are overstated with long-winded histories – they should be imprinted on the product.
MA: Everything I make has this direct link to me.
NA: Ever since you were my age?
MA: Everything that passes through my hands. It’s a little bit impossible to do otherwise. [laughing] It’s very heavy, the responsibility…
NA: [laughing] And has it always been very clear to you what you needed to do with your hands?
MA: Since I was a baby. I never thought to do anything else.
NA: Now is a better time, I imagine, because it’s easier now – it’s just you. I know at Carpe Diem there were many minds at work.
MA: Yeah, yeah – I think it’s kind of putting together the experience of one life and finally whatever I like – it just has to be something that I like… I don’t have to compromise any more which I had to do a lot before.
NA: Do you now see the experience of compromising as something that made you lose a lot of things you loved, or as something that taught you how to fight for what you loved the most?
MA: The second. Sometimes not everything you do is something that you like!
NA: And one must produce so much surplus in an effort to perfect technique.
MA: Yes, I get experimental with many possibilities… and still there is a lot to discover.
NA: You know the vest I have? I see the soul of that garment in everything – you’re variating on a theme, I think, and that’s important because…
NA: Uh… Variazione? Is that a word?
MA: Ah! Yes, yes.
NA: So variations on a theme. First of all, you’re wearing your own clothing so it seems that you’re likely to be designing for yourself. And it is quite a concentrated specific thing that experiences minimal chord changes. I’m thinking of designers who flit between visual references because of a book or a pamphlet or a Lonely Planet city guide.
MA: Yeah, no – that’s why I hate it when people ask me about my inspiration!
NA: I have yet to hear an answer to that question that doesn’t destroy the romance of the clothing.
MA: Yeah, and I always don’t know what to answer with except harmony! To be in harmony with yourself before doing it, harmony between fabrics and accessories and cuts.
NA: Do you think this balancing act is a process that will ever be finished?
MA: No, I don’t think so. It depends on natural events, right?
NA: Natural events!
MA: You know, you can go out, something might fall on your head… You’re naturally finished.
NA: And that might not work so well if the guts of m.a+ require you to be draping on yourself! Are you still doing that instead of drawing?
MA: Yes, absolutely – sometimes I draw small things but that’s just to remind me of the idea. But then I have to add the fabric so I can still see it all.
NA: When you first started making menswear were you twenty or so?
NA: Can you still see a connection between what you felt was correct to make at that time and what you do now?
MA: Actually, now is the time that I am mentally at that moment again.
NA: So it’s like it you went back?
MA: Yeah, a lot.
NA: Really? How come?
MA: I don’t know, I started because I just wanted something that I couldn’t find around so I started to make pants or a bag… And then people started to ask me, “Make one for me! Make one for me!” And when I was nineteen it was better than what else I made ever. So at that age it was very free because you have no limits – you’re nineteen, and especially in my time you were quite clean-minded. So you had no idea of what the rules are, you don’t know what you have to do and what you don’t have to do, and what you have to learn… So I just went by myself.
NA: The longer I live the more it seems as though we spend our time flitting between the same parts of ourselves. It’s like dilating time. There isn’t a straight line of progress necessarily, or it’s hard to see it as that.
MA: Yes! Exactly.
NA: Right. So what is this thing? This shift across time?
MA: I don’t know but that’s why I gave the name to this project – “across”. And in the end when I finished with Carpe Diem I was quite depressed because it was a beautiful project but it was just going to die because of the disappearing energy…
NA: It’s hard enough to work with your best friend, let alone work with people who you work with before you got to know properly.
MA: Well, we all had great relations in the beginning and collective dynamism. But in the end, one person always tries to go in one way, and one person in another way. And so when I finished I didn’t have any new ideas about starting a new story but then it just came. People came to me and asked me to make things, like they did when I was younger. Back and forth through time. But this time they were clients who knew me, and… And so here we are?
NA: Was it difficult to get back into the groove of finding people to work with?
MA: Not at all, there were people who were with me and people who wanted to work. Everything it just happened without much work from me.
NA: So was Carpe Diem a kind of rite of passage?
MA: For me it was, of course, a window to lots of people. And that was very helpful. From when you are a child, you always have some friends who are giving you a good example or ideas… I think everybody has had someone who has been important or a rite of passage. You have always to want something because no matter what people can help you with, you have to go a certain way and you want to learn it. You don’t have to look around and talk to many people. You just have to trust yourself and do what you feel like.
NA: And plus there is dishonesty in aggregating what other people say and living one’s life accordingly.
MA: Actually, I think the best way to be dressed is to be naked. In the wild. But as we have this habit of dressing ourselves let’s try to make something that follows the lines of the body. For Carpe Diem I made a big story on the anatomy – I made some pieces that were cut to follow the lines of the muscles in the body. It was incredible.
NA: You got a cadaver, didn’t you?
MA: Yeah! It was supposed to be done directly on the client’s body.
NA: Bespoke muscle-wear?
MA: It was more a concept than a reality. It was such a long operation that we made some just for some individuals – it wasn’t commercial.
NA: Most great things are. I have a friend who’s interested in trying to reproduce his skin and make a jacket out of it.
MA: Wow, that could be great! I saw a documentary about some people who were reproducing human leather in square pieces.
NA: Are most of your fabrics still coming from Japan these days?
MA: Yes, most of it. They work very well. They still have a reality made of a small group of people working in an old way, so they can produce small amounts of fabric and I can go there and speak with them and choose the thread and how it’s used, and the design, which in Europe we no longer have the right to do. There is good quality but it usually is flat and industrial.
NA: If you’re going to go to the effort of draping something on yourself so that comes from you, and making what you love, there might not be much value in making it out of a fabric that is now made from a machine that has replaced a family mill. And there’s an unsuspecting advantage to hand-make clothing from hand-made fabrics
MA: Yes, when something is handmade it always comes out different but that’s nice. That’s the point! Maybe it’s better or…
Interview and photography by Nabil Azadi.