With a last name like that, there is now wonder that her fate has been inextricably tied to the world of fashion.
Beatrice Fontana, the famous Fontana sisters founders of the namesake Atelier, and the Fontana Milano luxury accessory brand share values like a love of beauty and know-how.
A fashion designer, interior designer, and trendsetter, Fontana discovered her passion for design in its broadest sense even before starting school. Talent was already engrained in her DNA, but she polished it like a raw diamond in years of study and valuable experiences. To name a few: Bulgari, Fendi, Armani, Serapian Milano, Parker, and Waterman.
Just like the most precious, multifaceted gemstone, she has proved that she can naturally and dynamically move across all microcosms of creativity, from fashion accessories and jewelry to interior décor and tableware.
Today, she is extremely popular on Instagram, where she shares her research, gives fashion tips, and comments on looks while never being self-celebratory. Genuine and sincere, Fontana doesn’t mince her words, and has her say without hesitations. “I’ve reached an age where I don’t need to butter anyone up!”. We fix a telephone appointment, and our long, exciting call leads to this interview here below. A sort of handbook to keep and follow close!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I approached fashion when I was just three years old. I knew right there that it would be the leitmotif of my life. I used to dress my dolls, and to give tips when we played as children. Not long after, I started to put my creative ideas on paper by drawing different daywear and evening looks for women, and elevating them with the most diverse accessories. I have a little story about this: recently, on social media, I heard from some primary schools classmates who found my sketches on their diaries!
It came natural to me to enroll at a dedicated school, so I attended the Marangoni fashion institute in Milan. The Italian fashion was living golden years back then, and as students, we witnessed the extraordinary, almost psychedelic creative whirlwind of our teachers, brilliant minds from the elite of fashion. We were in the ‘80s, and after several other experiences, I later went back to that school as a teacher myself. Once my studies were over, I interned at a company in the Marche region, which introduced me to accessory design. It was a lucky chance (design was only about clothing at the time, and I found some new breeding ground for me) but also the realization that I was determined to specialize in that field bridging accessories and jewelry. I was not that sorry about leaving fashion design behind, since it also requires manual skills besides design ones.
The essence of my work is this creative whirlwind: when I start the engine of my research and draw from the most diverse inspirations, I truly give my best! My career peaked at Bulgari – eleven years of experimenting with accessories. Today, I can say I am where I wanted to be in that field.
You have collaborated with many prestigious international brands. While you have never made it official, your social media (#lovemyjob) and rumors from the field would suggest that you designed Bulgari’s Serpenti bag, a true cult (not to mention collabs with Armani and Fendi). What makes a piece iconic?
For me, there are three rules behind an iconic piece:
- It needs to be beautiful in the moment when it is made. It needs to be contextualized in that precise moment, you should not think that it is made to become iconic. The here and now is key.
- It needs to be desirable, to make you want to want it. An iconic piece generally goes hand in hand with spot purchases. It hides an evocative power, an illogic force that makes you wish for it. Sometimes, it is also in step with the idea of a showing an ideal lifestyle, a social status.
- It needs to tell a story, to dare to stand out from other items from the same category. Iconic pieces are often peculiar items that dare to express their unique identity in a homologated world.
Your Instagram feed looks like a real digital cabinet of curiosities. Why did you decide to share inspirations and ideas, and how?
It all started by chance when I heard about this sophisticated social medium. I have always created picture moodboards, it’s a way to make classy storyboards, a real procedure that Instagram allows me to follow to keep track of a chronological path. It is a tool that I use not just to “fix” my research, but to find new worlds as well. Social media allow you to approach fantastic worlds, to catch prompts everywhere. I traveled a lot to do research in the past, but nowadays, it is hard to find local crafts. Now, ironically, it is by digging into Instagram that I find the most interesting features.
What’s the #BeaMood?
I introduced the #BeaMood during lockdown in order to highlight the myriad of premium crafts hidden in very corner of Italy through my Instagram gallery. I noticed how many creative fires there were to be sparked, and the #BeaMood intends to be the glue that holds them together. In some cases, I was involved as an art director to improve their glam perspective. Beautiful, exciting collaborations were born, bursting with extraordinary energy. The plus was that these stories were all about women celebrating their love for the Italian know-how with no greed to make business.
Interior design, lifestyle, fashion, table setting, jewelry, and hospitality design: which sector do you feel closer to today? In which one would you like to try out your creativity?
I call myself a product creative, I can sense what people like. I study trends, and creativity is boundless to me. I do feel wrapped up in one only dress like the one of accessories, style comes in many shapes, and I love to dive into things without limiting myself to a single category. I am an accessory in everything. Right now, I feel like focusing on Instagram, and doing a mix and match of things I like.
#OldisNew is a recurring hashtag of yours. After years of overproduction, pollution, and seasonal mismatches (and sometimes, a consequently overwhelmed creative process), many have been bucking this trend by going back to vintage. What future do you expect for fashion?
Today, fashion houses are in the hands of operational marketing, which tells creative teams what to do. A system that undermines creativity. Vintage is studied, but mostly becomes a gimmick to designers, the main players in the knowledge of the history of art and costume, to oppose the excel sheets presented by their colleagues dealing with numbers. In an ever more globalized world, vintage can tell stories by conveying emotions that escape fast consumption.
My hashtag #OldisNew defines aesthetics in line with a return to vintage, and with circular economy. There is one more factor that is growing more and more: COVID-19 will lead to live local, and consequently, local fashion will be preferred too, as it already happened with food long ago. This does not mean that we will no longer buy low-cost items, or from the most popular brands, but we will mix them with handmade pieces that value local crafts, while helping to reduce the pollution caused by overproduction.
Travelling is key to your creativity. What destination would you like to visit next?
I have always travelled a lot to do research and look for inspirations. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 emergency has first prevented, then discouraged everyone from leaving. Now, I am happy with virtually travelling to faraway places with my mind on Instagram, where I discovered Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. This will be my next destination, a city that has a kind of folk attitude, a taste for premium handmade pieces like tricot, and an emerging lifestyle that will not go unnoticed. It reminds me of Marrakech thirty years ago.
You entrust Instagram with your thoughts, your somewhat anthropological reflections. What do you expect from your future, and what are your next projects?
I can already tell you of a thrilling project with SuperStudio that I will reveal more about on my Instagram profile soon. Recently, I have launched a series of fashion tips in my stories, and I have received a lot of positive feedback on it. Keeping in touch with people and asking for their feedback is essential for a creative like me, I usually ask myself so many questions. Society is a key driver to create and contextualize.
I would also like to go back to teaching, maybe in the form of webinars or tutorials.
I am determined to keep leveraging the endless possibilities of social media … with no boundaries at all!