A CONVERSATION WITH ...
By Chloé Hay & Hannah Gießler
Bringing an idea to life is something that can face challenges and naysayers; however, Professor Cantoni and Dr. Kalbaska are two people that saw past that with the creation of the Digital Communication in Fashion master. We sat down with them to speak about the past, future, and inspiration for the master. In between sips of coffee and light laughter we got to learn about how it all began.
tablet:zine: How did the idea of the master evolve in the first place? Can you remember the day that started it all?
Cantoni: It’s a very long story which starts in 1999 when I started a course at USI in collaboration with SUPSI with the department of visual education. We had groups of students working on web communication projects, and in the first round, there was a project on a B2B portal for companies in the fashion field in Italy, nearby Bologna. That was widely successful, and so we started thinking about deepening this project. However, I must say I was hesitant, especially because fashion is a complex field. Everyone involved agreed that the idea had high potential, it was just not the perfect timing yet. This first idea was then followed by several conversations with Carlo Terreni, the director of NetComm Suisse, and during such conversations, we slowly matured the idea that it could be the right moment to create something new in the fashion field.
tablet:zine: And when was that?
Cantoni: The first conversations with Carlo Terreni about this topic were about 7 years ago, although the conversations were leading to the idea of the master started three years ago.
At this time, I had my sabbatical period in Paris, and I have had several conversations with people in the field of culture, heritage communication and so on. This brought up the idea of creating something in the field of heritage with a focus on fashion.
Kalbaska: Every week we have a staff meeting and this one day professor Cantoni joined us and proposed the idea of starting something in the field of digital fashion. At first, everyone stayed silent, and no one knew what to say, but I thought this was an idea with high potential. After around one week I came back to him and said: “yes that’s interesting, starting something we haven’t done before in this field.” So, we started searching for digital fashion events, we did a complex benchmarking, and I read a lot during these two years because I wanted to catch up what was going on in the industry.
When we were looking at competitors, other programs in this field, we discovered that there was a hole, a lack of offer in digital fashion. That is how we understood there was a real opportunity here. Before I thought of offering a course in digital fashion communication, which could become a minor for other master programs but after all the studies we led, we decided to create an actual master program. So, we went back to the faculty to present the program. However, we knew we wanted to implement this master with a partner university
This first idea was then followed by several conversations with Carlo Terreni, the director of NetComm Suisse, and during such discussions, we slowly matured the notion that it could be the right moment to create something new in the fashion field.
- Professor Cantoni
An anti-fashion experience immediately comes up in my mind. It was a tough experience in general but also to see how a country appears without any fashion is astonishing.
- Dr. Kalbaska
tablet:zine: So, from the beginning, you knew you wanted it to be a double master?
Kalbaska: Yes. Here at USI, there are no professors teaching fashion, fashion history, or fashion business, so we decided to collaborate with the Sorbonne University in Paris.
tablet:zine: What is the future plan or the vision for this master?
Cantoni: We have a clear vision: in 5 years we want this master to be the number one master in the field worldwide and in addition we want USI to be the number one research center in the field work.
Kalbaska: Nevertheless, we would like to increase the diversity of the class. Right now, everyone is already coming from different professional backgrounds, we would like to keep it this way but at the same time increase the diversity concerning the geographic backgrounds. We want the program to attract people from all over the world and have it less European-centric. If we could have someone from Africa, Latin America, Asia, etc., it would be fantastic. Howsoever, there is a good dynamic in the group.
tablet:zine: Apart from the master we are also curious to learn a little more about you. Which are the brands you identify with and why is that?
Cantoni: For me, it is not easy to name a brand that I identify with. I would say USI since that is the brand, I have been working for the last twenty years. Concerning fashion, I like Armani, Loro Piana, and Boggi and also Puma. Puma reminds me of my childhood, and I still remember the first pair of Pumas that I had, I would say I have deep feelings for Puma. For cars, I’ve always been very content with Peugeot, so I like this brand.
Kalbaska: The brands I would identify with are Volvo, Max Mara and even though it is not a real brand I like how New Zealand promotes itself in terms of tourism but also how they collaborate with the New Zealand airlines. The way they use their marketing messages or for example how they do the videos for security onboard is fascinating to me.