Images by Silvia Bergomi
Silvia Bergomi: What do you do?
Umberto Sannino: I work as a fashion designer and graphic designer for a knitwear and ready-to-wear company [Ballantyne] in Milan.
Silvia: You also worked in The United Arab Emirates for a while. How was that?
Umberto: It was a great experience. I worked for the Sheikh, designing garments for the women of the family. It was, for sure, very strange to mix the Italian taste with theirs. Ours is naturally simpler, while theirs is really colorful, rich in embroidery and shiny fabrics. It was really interesting working in a couture tailoring way. I compared my skills with many different people from other countries, like the tailors and the Indian embroiderers, [who are] have an amazing capability and technique. I learned a lot.
Silvia: Describe a typical day there?
Umberto: I used to wake up at 9am. After breakfast, I waited for my driver to pick me up from my flat in the city and take me to the palace in the desert. Until 6pm I worked there, designing and working on a mannequin, matching fabrics and checking the work of the tailors. After work, I usually went shopping at the amazing malls. My dinner was normally in hotels, where I found “European” food and good wine, which I really missed!
Silvia: What inspires you?
Umberto: I’m a curious person. I find inspiration in everything, basically in simple and new things. I let myself go with the moment. I trust in emotions to feel really inspired. I believe in “case studies,” like Plato taught us, that we need to discover the emotions that we have inside, but usually disregard.
Silvia: Do you have a role model or guide?
Umberto: I really love Greek philosophers. Their point of view is so modern and deep at the same time. If I had to choose a life model, I would look to wildlife, close to air and water, which are my elements. [For guides], historical periods like the ’20s, ’50s and ’80s, and all the icons of this century. For literature, I love Scapigliatura, the bohemian rebellion period in the ’800s, so intellectual and cursed.
Silvia: What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Umberto: Prepare a massive cup of jasmine tea in my Japanese cast-iron teapot.
Silvia: What would be your three wishes for the genie?
Umberto: New house, a true love story and to take a plane once a month.
Silvia: How do you see yourself in five years?
Umberto: Scary question! I’m a little bit scared about the future and long term plans, but I’m ready for change. I prefer not to think too much how I will be in many years. Nevertheless, I love dreaming about it while I’m living the present.
Silvia: What’s your next project?
Umberto: While I’ll work on my own collection, I would like to enjoy new experiences. Right now I’m gathering ideas for my new creations, but I think I’ll continue collaborating with some designers.
Silvia: What is your favorite city?
Umberto: I haven’t lived in many cities, but I’d say that London and, in some ways, Milan are currently my favorites.
SIlvia: Where will you go on your next trip?
Umberto: I booked a flight to Paris, but I’ll surely take other trips before that. This is a period in which I really need to leave Milan. I’d like to go for a week to a desolate island to purify my mind and get new inspirations; probably I’ll do it this summer.
Silvia: What are five songs you’d recommend?
Umberto: So Far Around the Bend by The National ; Things will never be the same again by JJ; Island Blues by Koop; Push the Heart by The Devics; Glory Box by Portishead; and Ain’t Got No/I Got Life by Nina Simone.
Silvia: What is your favorite fashion house?
Umberto: YSL is amazing. It’s one of my favorite brands: contemporary and avant-garde, so feminine, but never vulgar. I also love Dries Van Noten, for his shapes, his colors and his really awesome prints.
Silvia: Describe your style… Where do you buy your clothes?
Umberto: My style is very easy. I love knitwear and men’s bags. Fortunately I’m tall, so I can play with oversized and long trenches and coats, which I really love. I usually mix everything: old garments from my family, luxury brands, vintage stuff, avante-garde brands from Asia…. Sometimes I wear self-made clothes. Right now, I’m finding happiness in shoes. I need to buy a new pair twice a month.
Silvia: What do you always have at home?
Umberto: Sugar cane, a mannequin, my collection of white objects, magazines, pictures, white wine, the Nespresso machine and my cashmere duvet.