What inspired you to launch your new magazine Cabana?
What inspired me was on one hand a passion for the visual world, and on the other it was a great feeling of the type of world that was about to become mainstream visual inspiration. I clearly did not invent anything new. What I have done in Cabana was always coming after the shocking element of what is considered cool. I looked backwards and thought that maybe people wanted to feel cosy and look at beautiful things again.
What is Cabana?
It is a biannual magazine. It is a magazine, but it is printed like a book. The covers are made in real fabric. This is to make the magazine a collectible item. It is about interiors, very beautiful interiors that are inspiring and decorative.
What do you talk about and who is contributing?
We talk about how these houses, museums or spaces we feature give a sense of belonging. It is very hard to describe, but we want to put together many Proustian madeleines, to go back to a sense of the memory of where we come from.
Have you just published the fourth issue?
Yes. In a moment where everybody is talking about contemporary architects, new cities, new museums, I think it is good to look back at less well known places and museums. For instance in our new issue we feature the Museo Guatelli, which is in Italy on the border of Tuscany and Emilia; and we featured a museum house in Madrid in the second issue.
Do you focus on people?
No, more on places. We feature special houses that have a very strong and independent character, most of them created without an interior decorator. It is not simply an interiors magazine. We look at houses with strange collections of fabrics.
You were a close friend and admirer of Renzo Mongiardino?
I totally admire Renzo’s work and I am totally inspired by his way of creating theatrical stages. There was a magic coming out of his houses. It was more about a final sense of aesthetics.
Why do you print a magazine in a world where it is so out of fashion?
Because, as much as I love to publish the magazine, for me the magazine is a starting point, a shop window, and what I am trying to build is a lifestyle brand called Cabana.
What do you mean by lifestyle brand?
I mean that the identity of what I show in Cabana is a very clear visual identity. My idea is to transform this into products, and this is linked to a partnership we made with the largest design platform for interiors, which is called 1stdibs.com. We basically curate an online shop called Cabana that sells all kind of objects for a house in the style of the magazine. Some of these objects I found myself while travelling or in flea markets, and some others we are producing as part of what is a small Cabana collection.
Who is working with you?
A team of myself and Christoph Radl, who is the art director.
Are you based in London?
We are based in London and printed in Italy, and for the moment the products we produce are produced in Italy because Cabana is very much about the excellence of Italian craftsmanship. I see Cabana developing though e-commerce and also through collaboration on creative projects. It could be books, exhibitions, with fashion houses as well. In other words we promote and sell our style.
Martina, because of your family, and in particular your father Leonardo, you have had a passion for books since a young age.
There is a lot about growing up with my father in Cabana, because in one respect it blends beautiful publishing with beautiful paper, printing and binding, and the world of collecting, but not necessarily the latest trends of contemporary art.
But you were very much inside the contemporary art world, both as a publisher and as a collector?
Yes, I still am, but it cannot be just about the huge business that contemporary art is becoming. Today very often people talk about art and buy art without knowledge and just for fashion, as a pure investment. But if you have a look I am not alone, I am not the only one. Take Frieze for example. What Frieze Masters has become in the past years is much more interesting. Frieze Masters is about contemporary art, but it is also linking into many other unexpected forms of art.
Are you nostalgic?
I am not nostalgic, but romantic. If for instance we look at the fashion world, the latest phenomenon that everyone is talking about is Gucci’s new designer. He has completely changed Gucci’s look, backwards. I feel that is similar to us, as a comparison. Maybe I am nostalgic, and maybe Victoria Siddall, Director of Frieze Masters is and maybe Alessandro Michele the new Gucci designer is too. We may all be nostalgic; or maybe we are capturing a moment where people want to look at old masters with a contemporary eye.
So no prevalence of contemporary over the past, but a sort of walking together?
Taking tradition into the future. No art without the history of art.
Do you believe that this kind of thinking comes from the fact that you were a brilliant philosophy student?
Maybe, and maybe it is also an Italian legacy, cherishing the past, looking at it with a contemporary eye. It could be due to the fact that I studied humanities, but it is also thanks to my being Italian; and Italians should probably be more proud of their visual culture than they are.
Why do you live in London?
Because my husband works in London and my children go to school here. But since I moved to London I have learned to appreciate Italy as much as I do now.
Do you like being in London?
I love being in London, because it is a place where you feel that things can happen. It is an international city and you can not only meet so many different people and cultures, you can also mix them and put them together. Developing the Cabana lifestyle has become my full time job and probably it is a modern way of publishing because what we are developing is not only the magazine itself but also the concept and the content inside it. If the content is strong you can develop e-commerce, the lifestyle and products.
Have you had a good response?
Yes, very good, both on our digital project and with the magazine. The magazine is distributed in the main cities around America and Europe, and we have distribution in Japan and Australia. Distribution goes through a traditional channel of newsstands and ‘concept stores’ like Colette in Paris, Conran in London and a place called Book Soup in LA. And then we have online retailers, newsstand.co.uk and on Istdibs.com. Because the first two issues were sold out for our online store we have created a limited edition box set that contains the first 4 issues that came out. We produced 25 and priced it at $800 and sold the first 20 in a week. I am very happy about the project.
What do you say after you have published the first 4 issues of Cabana?
It has a very strong life of its own. Cabana is a visual identity and a lifestyle. Remember that I graduated in philosophical aesthetics and so somehow I have gone back to my first love.
Enjoy this interview? Share it with your friends.
December 5th 2015