TheCube Archive x Her-Age
Her-Age team has interviewed Corinna Chiassai, co-founder of TheCube Archive, located in Tuscany and dedicated to exploration of the unique items, that have stories to tell, in other words:
"Looking at the past to create the future"
Can you tell us about yourselves, who you are, what you do and what motivated you to create this archive?
Corinna Chiassai: In order to get to the point of explaining how TheCube was born, we need to take a little jump back a few years and give a hint of both our style consulting studio and the photographic volumes we have published.
Everything stems from Studio Chiassai, founded by Alessandra and Stefano Chiassai in the 1980s. The style studio has always specialised in consulting for men's and women's, both Italian and international sportswear and luxury brands. Style studio has a team of 14 designers and we have been the design studio behind the Fendi Uomo collection for 12 years.
It is important to mention Studio Chiassai because the archive has always been an internal research tool. The job of a fashion designer is one that always needs new inspiration and therefore at the beginning of each season, before working on new collections, it is important to travel and look for creative input that can represent a starting point for working on something new. Thus, research has always been the first step in our creative process and, over the years of travel around the world, our collection of vintage garments has grown to the point that today it hosts a collection of about 15,000 pieces including garments and accessories. An unbridled collecting that never stops growing even today, and thanks to TheCube, it has taken a new life and value.
"Looking at the past to create the future" is one of our mantras, and this quote that enhances the value of research in the creative process, that we depicted in our photographic albums. In fact, in 2016 we decided to join the forces of two generations of fashion designers (father and daughter), combining Stefano's experience with the freshness of mine. To the existing team was then added the international figure of Marius Hordijk, who with his years of expertise in the field makes our project breathe an even more international air.
And so it is that using vintage garments from the in-house archive, we published CAOSORDINATO in 2016, and RITMOEMOTIVO in 2018. Photographic volumes based on the concept of creating vintage looks, composed of a mix of garments and accessories from different eras and in some cases reworked by us with interventions and applications.
The release of these books has sparked a lot of curiosity from professionals in the field, and that's how the concept of TheCube Archive was born, where research is at the center of everything, and fashion through vintage garments tells us about culture and moments of past history.
TheCube, as well as an archive, is a creative space within which we aim to enhance the concept of "research". Within our collection you can find both historical garments, from 1800 to the first or second world war, as well as pieces from more modern eras or contemporary collections, giving the garments of our selection the opportunity to live again in a new light, becoming a source of inspiration for new collections.
We call it a dynamic archive, because it is based on the concept of inspirational installations and constantly evolving according to the season, mood and trends, within which you can find an "ever-changing" selection of the 15,000 pieces.
Can you tell us about your archive, how it works and if it is accessible to everyone?
Corinna Chiassai: Today, TheCube is a space ready to welcome professionals in the fashion industry who want to do research in a different way by regaining the time to see and experience this phase of the creative process. We welcome Designers, Fabric Companies, Photographers and Magazines... in short, any creative figure interested in finding something special is always welcome!
TheCube Archive is accessible by appointment only and all garments and accessories are available for rental. We believe in the importance of a tailored experience, so we prepare each appointment by revisiting the selection offered in the showroom, making sure that each visit is a unique and personalized experience for each client. In addition to vintage rental for style research, photo shoots and inspiration, we provide our clients with all the tools they need to work creatively within our environment. In addition to being able to find all categories of vintage garments and accessories, we also offer one-of-a-kind garments with re-processing through the latest technology, fabric and knitwear books, vintage magazines, unique capsule pieces designed for the publication of our books. We have worked hard to make TheCube more than a fashion archive, but a "hub" focused on enhancing the importance of research in the process of each creative.
What role does the world of vintage and second-hand play in this era?
Corinna Chiassai: Vintage right now has multiple roles in our industry. For us as professionals, for example, one of the aspects that we think is very important is to be able to look and observe the past up close. The other is to be inspirational, that is to be able to rework with consciousness what was that garment, giving it a new meaning in the context of today.
For those who buy it in order to put it on, speaking of the younger generation, vintage gives the opportunity to rediscover a past trend that may be returning "in fashion". And that gives the opportunity not only to be more sustainable, but to give an attitude of originality to the wearer. I believe that young people want to be less and less categorized and therefore the "similarity" to which we have been accustomed by fast-fashion brands are a bit tiring, and that there is a desire to find instead a sense of uniqueness. I think vintage, with the history and the experience it brings with it, conveys that.
What do you think about the environmental impact that fast fashion brands create and how, in your opinion, consumers could be more sustainable and conscientious in what they buy?
Corinna Chiassai: The relationship between fashion and sustainability is a very complex, contradictory one and for that very reason it is challenging, especially from a creative point of view.
The last twenty years have seen exponential product growth. Technology has revolutionized not only the production processes, speeding them up and bringing them to times never thought of before, but has also led the creative process to be forced into times that are not very "sustainable".
Sustainability has not only become an issue to be related to the environment but also to ourselves, as people.
All the most commonly known companies today have integrated a 'green policy' within them, to try to be more attentive to the environmental crisis we are experiencing. But it's not enough, it's never enough, and we need to accelerate the pace and especially the change.
But change can't just happen expecting brands to suddenly go 'green', this is a contradiction par excellence given that the sector was created to produce consumer goods.
Change also has to come from consumers, and we all are. We have to re-educate ourselves to be more demanding and inform ourselves more about the traceability of what we buy, the values behind the brands we buy and somehow go back to giving an ethical and cultural value to fashion rather than service.
In your opinion, what drives a person to buy vintage and second-hand and, above all, why should people nowadays be more oriented to buy clothes and accessories that are part of this market instead of buying new clothes?
Corinna Chiassai: As explained before, we believe it's because of the sense of uniqueness that the garments have, uniqueness given by the time and the history that a garment or an accessory carries with it that has been lived... It's as if "being lived in" gives a soul to the clothes that they didn't have before.
We are strong supporters of "consume with responsibility and awareness", and the basis of our philosophy is the motto of the "6R":
RESTORE. The circularity of creative thinking
REDUCE. Reducing the consumption of water and energy for production
REUSE. Providing a high quality of manufacture so the good can be used as much as possible.
REPAIR. The repair of garments that are damaged
REFINISH. Such as being able to use products and materials for more than one time
RECYCLE. Re-cycling, which is the recycling of waste materials in order to make new ones.
Can you tell us about recent collaborations and/or projects you've done?
Corinna Chiassai: We cannot but talk about the love TheCube has for music, art and any other form of expression. Today, especially, in this particular historical moment, Marius and I are very convinced that it is more important than ever the dialogue between young creatives, especially the trinomial fashion - music - art.
TheCube will invest a lot in collaborations with young emerging artists, and we believe that this can be an important evolution especially for the development and evolution of our digital platform. Music is the first step in this direction, and in fact we are starting collaborations with some musicians, and we are doing a study for them to take care of their image by creating a custom look for their performances around the world (both physical and digital). We collaborate to create an image that supports artists to express themselves through their aesthetics. Among them the internationally renowned DJ Kommando, and the contestants of X-Factor 2021: The Cassandra.
While, our Education program is another facet of TheCube that we care deeply about.
"To teach is to learn twice." - Joseph Joubert.
TheCube Archive offers several programs of educational activities that revolve around the discovery of the archive and its creative potential. We have 40 years of experience, research, knowledge and the physical space to share and model the tools to create a wide range of practical, educational and fun workshops. Not only do we love to teach, we love to learn: education is always a two-way street. It motivates and inspires us to speak but also listen to sharp young minds who bring their own ideas and experiences with them.
Fashion schools and universities can book and organize a Workshop Day with us at TheCube. Students get the chance to learn about what it means to be a fashion designer, and how to do research while learning how to look and work with vintage. We make TheCube and its resources available to schools, so that students can interact with the archive by creating their own looks and moodboards, based on our garments, vintage magazines and fabric books. We are already collaborating with Istituto Marangoni, IED Barcelona, Florida State University, and we are confident in saying that this is just the beginning!
What are the future plans you have for your archive? What do you expect to achieve from it?
Corinna Chiassai: Our goal is to make the entire archive accessible through our web platform thecubearchive.com. We plan to launch this part of the site within the next two months, and if we can do it sooner, even better! This means that anyone in the world will be able to search our DigiCube, without having to organize a physical visit but by directly requesting rental and shipping anywhere in the world. If, on the other hand, photos rather than the physical item are of interest, we give our visitors the option of being able to purchase them at a reduced price and through a membership. You can also make a digital appointment, during which we can showcase garments selected for the customer based on their specific search needs.
Our digital platform, will also be a place for us to express ourselves in a more creative way, and we are planning themed releases, "special release drops", through which we will ensure that new products and new inspiration can always be found. We will also feature a section dedicated to TheCube market, where you can buy our books (which now with the addition of BlueTailoring are three), and special edition products based on the concept of "one of": small capsules of unique pieces designed by us. In addition, among our projects in the "pipeline", we have other books and the ambition to jump into the Metaverse with NFT vintage... but for now it's just a dream in the drawer.