Today we meet the Ethiopian Milan-based creative, designer and model Red. He’s only 21-years-old but he has already done some great things.
How would you define yourself and what is your goal?
First of all, ‘Red’ is my alter ego, something that I created to represent me in a world where I couldn’t find myself. The name isn’t random. When I was a child, I didn’t accept any of my two origins. Neither white nor black. But red! Red is the color of my homeland, Africa. Anyway, I define myself a creative. My goal is to be called ‘artist’.
Do you think you have found your way? Or do you still have some uncertainty about your path?
Yes, I think I found my path. I started with a graffiti background, I’m talking about vandalism, I was a writer, it wasn’t street-art. This passion, then, led me to transpose graffiti into my work in the fashion world. But, further on, during the expo, they made thousands of controls on graffiti and I was arrested. It was nothing serious, I didn’t stop expressing my art, but I moved on the plywood, as they were mobile and not traceable. Also, I liked the fact that it was something temporary. Further on, I started on clothes.
We’ve seen that you have collaborated with several important brands, how did everything begin?
First of all, I met Seba, who opened this fashion brand, Bad Deal. He called me to model. Me and Zoow – Seba’s tag – became friends and thanks to him and Marina Rubini, who handles the office work, many doors have opened. He invited me to the Pitti in Florence and to a show in Paris. The capsules I made for Bad Deal were super viral and I ended up on television too. Thanks to these experiences, I started to hang out a little more in the fashion world. When I came back to Milan so many people started to dm me. Including brands like Burberry or Vivienne Westwood, for shootings. But, I still wanted to continue with graffiti, I had no interest in becoming a model. Ah, I have to tell you this story! I had done this graffiti ‘Depressed kids are better at art’ and the next day it was shared by Chiara Ferragni. I gained a lot of visibility and I participated in other shootings as a model. But I honestly didn’t care, I wanted and still want to express my art, to convey something to people. I want to launch my message and spread it. I want every person to express their mood and their personality with the garments they’re wearing.
What was the collaboration and job that gave you the most satisfaction and why?
Surely the collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger that went on Vogue. It was something incredible because I modeled for them for two years, and they then selected me as a designer. It’s really important to me because the transition from model to designer represents exactly what I want to do. When I went there, it was crazy! It was really a dream to see their base. I really understood what I want to do in my life. As for a single work, certainly the capsule with Bad Deal that launched me.
Have you ever been insecure about one of your projects?
Yes, several times. I’m very instinctive, I’m not a precise person. Also, every brand obviously has its requests, its own aesthetics, and its background. So, when something is not suitable for a brand, I have to remake it several times.
Do you think the fashion industry has changed in recent years? And if so, in a positive or negative way?
Surely yes, and I think it has changed positively. There was an absolute need for this change. First of all, because it no longer represented the new generations. It was starting to look a little old. Now it’s different. There has been a kind of revolution. Even on a cultural and racial level, I would say that there was a change. Before it was hard to see a black model on the runway, now it is the exact opposite. Then, well, another great example is Virgil Abloh with Louis Vuitton.
Where do you get inspiration from?
From everything. From the music I listen to. I also write lyrics of songs on clothes. I like it. From the street, from books. Those from high school, especially Dante. From the poems. I like Charles Dickens and his Oliver Twist. People also. I get inspired by everything around me.
How would you describe the link between fashion and art?
I really can’t tell. I can’t even tell you when I started making fashion and when I started making art. In my opinion, they are the same thing. Obviously, they require different tools, machines, and materials. But in short, is the same primary input.
How do you manage to balance all the projects you participate in without neglecting something?
I actually don’t know, in one way or another I do it, but yes, it’s a big mess! My head is always in the clouds, I focus my mind on my art. Luckily, I have people who help me, by myself I can’t even evaluate my canvas!
What are your influences?
First of all, African art is my primary influence. Then, Dante and Dickens as I mentioned before. In general, many poets and philosophers. Pop art, romanticism, and Picasso. Also, Basquiat, he used graffiti the same way, but he has moved to art, while I moved to fashion. Although it’s often easy to compare myself to him, I like Picasso more, I find him more sought after and has brought African art to Europe.
What are your favorite brands? And there are, perhaps, some that once you used to love, but which you changed your mind?
Maison Margiela is my absolute favorite. Then, Matthey Williams of Alyx. I was lucky enough to meet him at a workshop, is who I respect the most. I initially liked Virgil, then after some of his works with Off White, he lost me.
What music do you listen to? And do you have any artist to recommend?
I was very lucky because my parents made me listen to classical music, jazz, and blues. Thanks to my mother, I got into rock music, especially Pink Floyd. I go crazy for the percussion because it reminds me of Africa and in addition, it speeds up my productivity. Growing up, of course, I got very close to hip hop music and trap. However, I can name you Miles Davis, Peggy Gou, Einaudi. Erykah Badu, Billie Holiday, Nicolas Jaar, Joy Division, Arctic Monkeys. And well, my brother Knowpmw.
What are you currently working on? What do you have in mind for the future?
I’m making collaborations on a higher level. And I’m working on my personal brand, Colored. I hope to show you everything as soon as possible.