They are tailors, designers, dyers, goldsmiths; hat and glove makers, leather craftsmen; they come from various regions of Italy, some are resident in Tuscany, some come from Russia, from Burkina Faso, from Nigeria, from Peru, from Poland; many have had experience in fashion companies and others – al- though they are in the minority – come from theater costume shops.
They are young but some are also over forty: they are the 36 pupils on the “Costumi del Rinascimento” [Renaissance Costumes] course, the first edition of the Bottega di Alta Specializzazione [High Specialization Workshop] which opened last January under the guidance of costume designer Alessandro Lai in the Santa Caterina complex, the headquarters of Manifatture Digitali Cinema Prato.
The course ended in March and some of these artisan-pupils will join the work group involved in making the third season of ‘Medici: Masters of Florence’, the international TV series created by Frank Spotnitz and produced by Lux Vide.
This is the result of an agreement stipulated between the Fondazione Sistema Toscana, the in- house body of the Regione Toscana [Regional Government of Tuscany] and the production company run by Matilde and Luca Bernabei.
“The preparations for ‘Medici 3’ will begin in May”, reveals Beppe Serra, line producer of Lux Vide, “and filming will start at the end of the summer”.
Serra suggests that the tailoring work could be carried out at the Bottega- Workshop in Prato, adding that the choice of the people who might work on the series will be made based on their individual willingness to work in the cinema, to “get involved” in a “gypsy-like” trade.
“It was quite exceptional, beyond expectations” comments Alessandro Lai who made the costumes for the first two series of Medici and will be making them for the third.
“The pupils, who brought along professional experiences from various elds, turned out to be very talented. The basic idea behind this project worked: it was an opportunity to bring together people with great specific technical expertise in tailoring as well as leather, embroidery and footwear, cutting and sewing. Some of them came from the world of fashion, sometimes from companies that have closed down or reorganized their personnel. The course demonstrated that it is possible to have a second and even a third professional life”.
Lai is convinced that the Bottega-Workshop represents “an innovative model of reconversion through entertainment crafts”.
And the fact that some of the people were aged over forty “was a bonus”that enriched the experience. I should point out that the main aim of the course was to build “a workshop capital”, to verify the potential for making costumes, not necessarily for Medici 3, “although some of them, we hope, could be used in the series”.
With no false modesty the costume designer feels like a pioneer: “I have created an opening and for this reason I have chosen to share the experience with others; other people who can develop this project that should outlive the people guiding it.
The Bottega has aroused a lot of interest in the world of cinema: this is confirmed by the visit made last March by Roberto Cicutto, president and CEO of Cinecittà-Luce to the areas in the Santa Caterina complex.
The course was a meeting point for professionals of international standing, from Oscar winner Gabriella Pescucci to Carlo Poggioli, who have taught lessons at the Bottega.
They, like Alessandro Lai (and Piero Tosi and Maurizio Millenotti) also grew up in the “bottega Tire- lli” which raised the best costume designers in international cinema.
They all have a long- standing working tradition with the textiles manufacturers of Prato.
The strategic horizon was designed by Stefania Ippoliti, head of the Toscana Film Commission: “Our objective” she explains, “was to equip Tuscany with an additional instrument of attraction for productions that would be innovative, to propose a kind of audiovisual global service where, in addition to the offering of locations, we could focus on a theme that is profoundly linked to Tuscany: the Renais- sance. Thanks to the agreement with Lux Vide we realized that we could create prototypes of anything that could be used for the very rich sphere of costumes required for a quality international drama like the“Medici”. But that is not all: we wanted to equip ourselves in consideration of the many dramas and television series that come to our region to talk about the Renaissance, an inexhaustible source of stories”.
For Tuscany this means “creating new work opportunities for people as well as development for companies”.
“In fact”, continues Ippoliti, “the Bottega adds a special professional skill for anyone who already has a craft: prototypes are realized there which, given the quantities required by television dramas, need to be duplicated by the companies”.
The results obtained have been positive: “hybridizing the expertise, cultures of origin and know how” which can be developed in many ways: some people will work in audiovisuals, but others will also invent their own new activities.
“In this period of hyper-specialization what we are proposing is a method that attempts to recover the complexity of people’s knowledge. We return to the open outlook of the Renaissance man: “living in this land surrounded by beauty and history is our advantage.
It means that if you are a tailor, for example, as you are sewing a bodice all the thousands of ideas that you have encountered during your life ow through you. This is a privilege which you should exploit not with nostalgia and your head turned back, but with the tools of today”.
In this way, while in Prato the path is marked by a tradition in the textiles sector, the Bottega-Workshop in Pisa (Manifatture Digitali Cinema’s other center), maximizes this city’s vocation at the cutting edge of scientific and technological research with its University and centers of excellence.