Alchemy SS21: Marco Panconesi between tradition and object design by

by June 1, 2021

Marco Panconesi embraces beauty since his first steps, assembling contemporary fossil-like jewels, by dipping them in color and mystery. In this way, original creations come to life, originating from an anthropological research with an ancient but never outdated taste.

Gea Politi: Konstantin Grcic, Ettore Sottsass, or even designers such as Alba Polenghi Lisca have created objects that could be used either as jewelry or as sculptures that occupy a space of their own. There is a subtle and often undefined relationship between design, fashion, art, and craftsmanship. How would you define your approach? How are your creations born?
Marco Panconesi: Ever since I was a child, I have been inspired by beautiful objects. My cousin was an artist and painter, so I would often visit her in her studio. My grandmother had an incredible collection of jewelry, so I would get my hands on anything that seemed interesting. My grandfather was a school teacher and carpenter; I would watch him build furniture in his workshop in Tuscany. I grew up in the country house in Florence in the midst of nature. I originally wanted to be an archaeologist because I thought it was a different way to be creative…to discover magnificent artefacts that have stood the test of time. The play aspect is very important in my practice. I’m inspired by the color experimentation of Ettore Sottsass and Gaetano Pesce and the radical rethinking of what can be defined as design. I am inspired by the past as much as the future. I grew up studying Greek and Latin literature, and being from Florence, I am inspired by both Etruscan and Renaissance influences and objects. For me everything is connected. I try to find interesting ways to blend traditional techniques with new technologies or modern materials to create something unique. I think of jewelry as a spectrum of object design.

GP: How does your creative process begin? Do you consider the material or the design first? Or are you guided by sensations?
MP: I am always drawn to color first and foremost. Color for me is something emotional and personal. I experiment especially with natural hues of stones and gems, and then play with artificial ones. Materials are important to complement the different shades. With the hybrid stones, I wanted to create a stone that looked like it came from another world, where the texture of the gems and the naturalness of the hue, blend with the iridescent enamel. I also love to explore different ways of manipulating traditional techniques and materials to create objects of a third kind. I collaborate with a family-run workshop in Italy, who have been creating jewelry for generations. Sometimes I come up with an incomprehensible, sometimes unfeasible project, but in the end, we always manage to find a solution using experimental techniques. In the end we are always surprised by the result, we manage to create something unexpected.

GP: You were born in Florence. A city rich in history, art, craftsmanship, and fashion. You now live in Paris. Where do you find inspiration?
MP: Florence is a walking city. It is like being in a museum everywhere you go. In fact, there is a strong awareness of craftsmanship and tradition, but also a sense of fun. There is a colorful Italian exuberance that I personally find really stimulating. I also enjoy the energy of Paris where several of my friends live and work. Many of our conversations end up becoming a creative project that we collaborate on.

GP: You made a very powerful editorial project in Morocco. What is your relationship with photography and video? And with magazines?
MP: During my trip to Morocco, I spent most of my time taking photographs. Upon returning to Paris, I decided to create a journal that would capture not only the technical and creative process of the Alchemy SS21 collection, but also the nature that surrounded us during the trip and what inspired me to come up with it. In all honesty, I’m not a good editor, so putting together a journal was really tricky, I couldn’t leave out any photographs! The process of working with art director Antoine Roux and New York-based communications agency Native Agents was a lot of fun. We were able to create something physical that you could flip through, capturing a magnificent place in time.

GP: After so many collaborations with major brands, what inspired you to start your own? How did you think to differentiate yourself?
MP: I didn’t feel like I needed to differentiate myself as the collections I’ve developed with other brands such as Mugler and GMBH are the result of very natural collaborations. The process was really easy — I had a lot of creative freedom. When I came up with the idea to make the Upside Down Hoops, I realized that it was something I wanted to keep for myself. The simple, flowing gold line expressed an important philosophy in jewelry and object-making like movement and transformation. The jewelry became an extension of the wearer. It was both technical and aesthetically beautiful.

GP: Have you ever thought about collaborating with artists or other creatives? If not on the product, maybe the narrative?
MP: I have collaborated with many of my friends and even family. Georgia Pendlebury and Lea Colombo, stylist and photographer, have both been integral to the growth of the brand. We work closely together to create images that express the brand’s identity. Last summer I went to Tuscany to shoot a film with members of my family. The process was so special and emotional, that the collection took on another meaning. We are launching the film next month with director Grégoire Dyer. I am looking forward to expanding my collaborations outside of fashion, into industrial design. I have designed a vase before, it stimulates me to work with different mediums, whether it is ceramic or glass.

GP: How is the pandemic affecting your business and creative process? What is your relationship with the digital world? How do you use it?
MP: The pandemic forced me to slow down and breathe. After the launch of the FW20 collection, my partner Jordan and I had planned to go to Morocco for just a few weeks, but it turned into a three-month stay due to the lockdown. I had a lot of time on my hands to reflect and listen. I used to view time as an enemy, but when you stop and start listening to what the universe is telling you, even time stops. This season we are launching our e-commerce website so that our customers can buy directly from us. I want to start using the platform as a space to launch special collaborations or evolving projects.

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