Sometimes the smaller and less known exhibitions and design events during Milan Design Week end up being the most gratifying or inspiring.
One of those at Salone 2016, was a very small exhibition entitled “Looking Forward” which celebrated the life of Giuseppe Picone
Located in the Milanese showroom of Studio Picone (Via Nino Bixio, 27), “Looking Foward” featured a wide range of inspiring ceramic objects, sculptures and fabrics in wonderful colours that prove there is still a lot to learn from Picone.
Studio Picone Rome has since 1958 been a brand of design and fashion characterized by the constant presence of the alter ego of Giuseppe Picone, its icon : the “little priest”, “little man”, “character,” or “soul.”
Giuseppe Picone became a well-known name in Italy in the 1950s, then an international phenomenon in the 1960s.
When artist, ceramist, textile designer and fashion designer Giuseppe Picone died in 2008, he left behind a precious gift to Italian craft history
The Picone universe is many things: home textiles, clothing, drawings and prints, objects and ceramic sculptures, all infused with high poetic content
Picone’s invaluable artistic legacy and many contributions were key in defining the “Made in Italy” generation. A forerunner in the generation that was defined by the Made in Italy movement, the somewhat unsung designer closed his company in Rome in 2005, three years before his death in 2008
For much of his 50-plus year career, Picone worked alongside his stylist wife Dominique Giroud.
The three leading ladies of his life—his wife, Dominique Giroud Picone; his stepdaughter, Sophie Morichi; and his granddaughter, Martina Bersani—recently re-opened the Studio Picone Roma archives and pieced together a book of his work.
From the Archive of Giuseppe Picone a new production takes life with the aim to save, re-edit and re-propose his art and his creativity.
Since 2008, the trio has turned to his past to design the future of the brand that they so value and respect—focusing on finding forms for reinterpreting the designs and prints produced by Picone over the span of his 50-year career, and do so in modern ways that will mimic the original aesthetic of Studio Picone Roma.
Today the brand is called Archivio Picone and have recently opened the doors to the new physical Studio Picone Roma space and presented their book “Archivio Studio Picone Roma.”
Picone’s graphic prints are the basis of all the women’s clothing, ceramics and yet-to-be-released textiles, though his family has tweaked dimensions and colors used in some prints for select products.
“We have made little changes to stay more modern and to stay in touch with young people. We are trying to find a way to pass this on to the next generation,” Sophie Morichi said.
Picone’s signature character, “ Pretino,” – the little priest will continue
Giuseppe Picone was neither artist nor stylist ( he smiled, without answering, at anyone who asked him if he was ), nor craftsman nor ceramicist.
He was all of these and none of them.
He always wanted to flee from every category and this gave him great freedom to range in many different areas without having to justify or explain his professional choices.
He loved to work on the meaningful and not on the meaning, on objects and not on their names, on drawings and not on what they expressed. So he was a creator, not of words but of the meanings they had.
His chosen subject was the colour and sign – and these were the carriers of his whole life – without justifications or any sort of theoretical scaffolding.
And while the decades passed, during which he improved his ability in drawing and printing always new characters, that today invite us to read his poetry
Picone – Archival Book
” At home I have some catalogs that Giuseppe had given me as examples of what to include in a book about his work.
After his death in 2008, when going through boxes, we found some drawings on paper that we had never seen before.
They’re incredibly beautiful. For the book, we rebuilt pieces of his life story from before my mother met him in 1970, through stories from friends and the thousands of notes he had written over the course of 50 years.
Little by little, what seemed destined to be a book for just a few close friends and family members turned into the first volume of the Studio Picone Roma Archive.
At first it seemed like an act of duty. Giuseppe was the husband of my mother, a second father. His creativity molded who I have become and he taught me how to overcome my own limitations. We collaborated on something years ago, but we never actually worked together, he worked alone.
It’s only now that I’m working with him after he’s gone.” ………….. Sophie Morichi
This beautifully designed volume is the definitive collection of the Picone studios famous pretino figures, screen printed and hand painted fabrics, fanciful teapots, tableware, and modern furniture.
All of Picone’s work is reminiscent of mid-century modern shapes, line work, and color, while cohesively forming the lifework of an artisan who dedicated his life to his unique craft for decades.
Picone was influenced by Nordic creativity, Marimekko in particular, and made a full contribution to the generation of what would later be defined as ‘Made in Italy’.
Giuseppe Picone is a figure in the Italian creative panorama worth discovering and difficult to define.
He started as a ceramist and then became a leading and sought-after fabric printer but also creator of elegant, exclusive clothes.
This book presents a rich and stimulating selection of many of his creations – from the first ceramics to the many graphic motifs printed on fabric and the hundreds of designs for leading Japanese companies.
Compulsive, kaleidoscopic and unexpected, more than any narration, his creative world recounts the many stories that his imagination created in over 50 years of activity
” There is an anecdote that is representative of his way of conceiving reality: I was little and we were moving from one house in Rome to another. I was angry and complaining because there weren’t any pieces of paper to draw on. I had found a box of markers, but no paper. So he took out a bed sheet, laid it on the ground and Giuseppe said ………, “What’s the problem, no paper ? Draw on this sheet. !! ” ………… Sophie Morichi
Featured Picone Studio Roma Press Articles
About Giuseppe Picone
( Naples 1926 – Rome 2008 )
Born in Naples in 1926, into a good middle class family, Giuseppe worked in the family owned glass-workshop mainly designing and making plates.
He studied in some of Naples’ most prestigious priest colleges and he developed a passion for arts and sciences even though he graduated in Law.
His love for nature was deep and he really loved to live at the open air: he loved the sun, the sea, his own land.
In the family’s factory he began to do the first exercises and to create the first ceramic objects
He exhibited his ceramic pieces with Gio Ponti at the Triennale di Milano museum in 1954, where his designs also appeared in the same year via arts critic Roberto Pane in Domus magazine, and Adriano Olivetti invited him to participate in the Freedom Movement.
Following that, he presented his first solo exhibition in Ivrea
He travelled a lot and stayed for long periods in northern Europe, where he learned and studied the Scandinavian culture of the simplicity and design.
He came in contact with Marimekko group and with one of its leading figures: Maja Isla.
Picone’s drawings and patterns are very simple, nearly naïve, but unique and unmistakable
He was able to put together in a few bold colored lines: culture, emotions and all his life history. Each pain, each experience is changed by the poetry and the irony of the artist.
His drawings and his subjects show a great freedom desire, it was always told with a smile and never loud.
Picone started by making gorgeous, colorful ceramics bearing his own unique symbolic style decorated with minimal repeating imagery such as suns, scissors, bicycles, wheat plants, and zebras, trees, the sun, stairs, corkscrews, twins (behind this motive the terrible story of his twin who died at his birth) and his signature: the unforgettable little priest
One of the most successful characters Picone created was a stylised cartoonish man with a funny little hat that, rechristened by many the ” Pretino” (little priest),
One afternoon, while walking in Posillipo, he saw students in robes leaving from a Jesuit college, and all of these dots and black lines stood out graphically against the white square they were in.
The young priest is a pretext, it was simply about the design for him
Then it became a personal challenge to see how many ways he could represent him, give him life, but also give him a solid space for portraying his overflowing creativity.
The little priests with a pope and a friar among them, the poetry of the blade grass standing out among the others, the coffee beans hiding the ineffable little priest, the sun on his logo, the trees, the bird on its cage.
During the summertime Giuseppe spent long periods in Ischia.
He preferred the wild southern part of the island and he used to settle down in Sant’Angelo. He often painted at the open air, in the village place.
In 1958 he met in Capri Vogue the German fashion photographer Regina Relang ( and avid collector of Picone’s ceramics ) who spent her holidays in Ischia
She suggested that Giuseppe should draw his subjects on textile fabrics to create a simple clothing line
This encounter was instrumental to his career —as he began to really feel the movement of color for the first time; creating with it freely, far from the rigidity of working with ceramics.
Picone was enthusiast of this project, he immediately got the idea while it was going, bought some meters of white fabric and with a quite rough method began to print and realized the first dresses that were sold in a local boutique.
They were shirt dresses, very simple, truly appropriate canvas for his artworks.
Sometimes he also refined his work directly on the customers as shown below.
During the 60’s Picone moved from Naples to Rome, where he opened a Studio / Workshop and spent a lot of time at the Piazza del Popolo’s cafè Rosati. a meeting place for many of the creative minds populating Rome in those years.
Here he started painting first on canvas and then with silkscreen printing patterns that he had drawn onto fabrics
He launched his own boutique Studio Picone Roma in Via dei Greci.
With this logo, Giuseppe performed an interesting operation, something self-referential: creating a brand that doesn’t need a brand name since it already subtly contains this design.
This quickly became his logo and trademark signature.
In the beginning Picone’s influences were primarily from Scandinavia with their clean shapes and primary colors in the ’50s.
The inspiration he got from Marimekko evoked spontaneity, but then Giuseppe would add creative Mediterranean and Neapolitan touches.
It was an atelier where he produced clothes with his exclusive prints, mostly summer clothes, but he began this way to build up his own smart clientele and his creations were portrayed in the most important fashion magazines.
He worked as a fashion designer and ceramic artist : collaborating with brands such as Krizia & Cole of California, and Krizia in Milan producing high quality artisanl fashion lines
His creations were exhibited in the New York shop windows of Saks, Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale as in other important stores in America, Canada and Brazil.
The materials he used were only of the highest quality and his assistant expressed exasperation with Giuseppe’s perfectionism.
It’s in this way, however, that he was able to distinguish himself as one of the creators of Haute Couture in the early ’60s.
The high-fashion garments in silk from the ’70s—were so refined in their graphics that they seem like they could have been designed today.
Pieces of silk screened wool from Como that was made using a corrosion technique (that is no longer used) make the vibrations of color razor-sharp.
Throughout the years Picone also created graphic motifs printed on fabric and hundreds of designs for leading Japanese companies.
He became so well-known in those years that in the early ’70s he was contacted by Biki Japan ( a Japanese retail group ) that began importing his clothing ( 15,000 garments per year ) in Japan, and with this venture he aided the genesis of “Made in Italy.”
During this time, Biki Japan acquired the license to the brand.
But it was different in Italy, where Studio Picone Roma remained an artisan reality for a refined niche of consumers.
He collaborated with his wife Dominique Giroud, who became the stylist of the “Studio Picone” and together they designed bags, shoes, spectacles, watches and lots of other accessories, which were very successful.
In the ’80s Picone still had his fabric printing workshop, store and showroom all within a 1,500 ft. radius in the center of Rome—producing limited amounts of garments made with customized colors.
Relieved of production agreements with the Japanese group, in the ’90s he picked up ceramics again, putting on exhibits at the Gabbiano and the Spazio Sette in Rome, and drew an endless array of sketches, where the little priest becomes a character with a life of its own.
Picone’s designs were also exhibited in Italy and abroad, but he remained an undervalued and marginal note in the history of Italian fashion because he preserved his freedom and independence in an industry that gradually became more interested in finance rather than creativity.
Picone died in 2008 in Rome
Picone Studio Roma – now in Milan
In 2015 Studio Picone Roma was relaunched by his wife Dominique Giroud, his stepdaughter Sophie Morichi and his granddaughter Martina Bersani who had also just published the book of his iconic graphic motifs to reintroduce new generations to Picone’s joyful style and colours.
The Archive is a means for finding new opportunities to make his work known today.
Their next project is to seek a suitable location in Rome for presenting an exhibit of the Archives.
For the Salone 2016 the Picone Studio Roma presented – a limited edition of
drawings from 1950s
The team has re-issued his fabrics in bold and bright colours, coming up with a collection of garments as well.
For their new clothing line, the Picone women worked with designer Andrea Folgosa, who chose some all-over patterns which then inspired the cut of the various garments.
The collection “0” of Archivio Picone—15 season-less garments in silk and cotton of excellent quality and made in Italy — entitled “La Cimosa Parlata,” of ” The Selvedge Spoken .”
” We took some textiles to create a collection of women’s clothing (2015 /16) and men’s shirts and ties as a starting collection that convey the Picone code ” ……. Andrea Folgasa
The same prints will also be proposed for the decor fabrics or wallpaper, and new digital printing techniques enable significantly reduced production costs and thereby allowing Studio Picone Roma to remain independent.
Biki Japan – current Picone clothing lines
Guiseppe Picone Tempera Art Prints
From the Archive of Giuseppe Picone, a new production takes life with the aim to save, re-edit and re-propose his art and his creativity.
The Picone archives revealed hundreds of art works – but unfortunately we may never know their exact story.
These A4 Tempera drawings on paper ( the only ones that don’t contain the little priest ) from the 1950’s invite us to read the poetry of his extra-ordinary art.
If he couldn’t find a brush fine enough for the line he wanted to make, he would cut strands of his hair and attach them to a wooden handle and used that to paint.
Picone was a creator, not of words but of the meanings they had.
Sign and colours were the key elements of his production, as shown in these drawings. He loved to work on the meaningful and not on the meaning, on objects and not on their names, on drawings and not on what they expressed.
The Studio Picone Roma chose 11 drawings by Picone between 1956 to 1958 and had them reproduced in 50 copies, on cotton paper, A4 format.
The prints are now being proposed for the home furnishing fabrics and wallpaper, and new digital printing techniques now allow for significantly reduced production costs
Picone Studio Roma have found production laboratories in Sesto Fiorentino who are helping re-design some of the Picone archival ceramic pieces as well as develop Picone’s signature graphics onto new ceramic collections for the home.
” Our goal is to produce all of the pieces of our collections in Italy. It’s important to recuperate the value of “Made in Italy”—this is a country with thousands of resources, made up of local small businesses that possess the knowledge that is essential for creativity. It’s the interactions with these craft realities that make Italian creativity unique.” …….. Dominique Giroud
” Whenever somebody asked him if he was an artist, a ceramist or a fashion designer ? – Picone would just smile without providing a final answer – hinting in this way at the fact that he was a creative mind who simply loved working on a variety of objects and across different fields, using colours and materials as the basic elements of his own personal language that formed a visual narrative and recounted his colourful fables” ………. Dominique Giroud