Not many brands have the intricate and distinct background like Untitled Artworks™ has. Spearheaded by Erasmo Ciufo and launched in early 2020, the independent label intertwines fashion and art together to create designs that tell a story and carry a narrative. Inspired by the prehistoric symbols, human interaction and art found throughout history, Ciufo’s designs embody what it means to be human. Mixing the dark and the light, the label’s latest collection of garments embodies the essence of juxtaposition. The name of the brand carries an ethos that stems from collective individualism; a collection of work that encourages everyone to embrace and lean into the ‘blank space’ of life to connect to one’s inner self.
Schön! speaks with Erasmo A. Ciufo about the creation of his label, the rich history that is interwoven throughout each garment, what he hopes people will feel while wearing Untitled Artworks™ and more.
Untitled Artworks™ was founded right at the start of the pandemic in March of 2020. Was it born out of boredom and a need to create, or was it something that was a long time in the making?
Untitled Artworks™ is my story, my journey that started a long time ago, at my father’s art studio, who’s a painter. After so many years of collaborating with different brands, UA is my take on the industry as a response to the lack of profound narrative and sensitivity.
The designs blend a mix of your interests and fascination in pre-historic symbolism, human interaction, and ancient art. Where did this interest come from and how do you implement these interests into your work?
Symbolism is my passion. I believe in symbols as the keepers of the mystery of human existence. They carry a meaning that is usually greater than the cultures who adopt them. Matter of fact they are often the proof of a shared narrative about human values. As a designer, I look for meaning without boundaries and frames, as there’s a deeper root in them that transcends cultures and unites us all. Also, I’m sure there is a greater connection lurking beneath our “contemporary” memory to be discovered.
Art is woven throughout each design, embracing imperfections and natural fabrics to be truly unique. Why was this so important to the label?
Getting it wrong is part of learning, the craftsman learns by transforming experience into culture and errors are proof of experience itself, and human presence. My one-off garments carry a numbered frayed label as a sign of an artisanal process. As human beings, we need constant learning as an obligation to respect what others before us have experienced, in the hope of finding a better balance in the world. Life is learning and teaching in every moment.
Are there specific artists or craftsmen that have influenced your work?
My family without a doubt: my father a painter and sculptor, my mother an educator, my grandparents – one shoemaker, the other cabinetmakers – and my sister, a designer. I’ve always been fascinated by the heritage of the common Italian design that does not bear the name of the designer nor of the manufacturer, because it is passed on as part of a lived culture, beyond memory itself, and then became the heritage of the territory.
How have the cities of Milan and New York influenced your designs?
They have always been the extremes of my life. Among their differences lies their charm. I am always stimulated by the intersection of cultures: the tradition of contemporary fashion, on the one hand, and the social explosion in the encounter of all cultures, on the other.
Tell us a bit about your design process – what’s the first thing you do when you start working on a new project?
I think of my friends, my idols and my clients and conceive the best way to introduce them to my perspective and my attention on the current social state, with the ambition to frame together a common narrative, under which we can help larger values shine. The new SS23 collection search for similarities and differences between different cultures, aesthetics and ancient rituals, represented by two extremes: the dark spirit and the luminous spirit. All the garments carry with them a strong reference to manual skills, the deterioration of life lived and the rarefaction of craftsmanship.
How do you see the Untitled Artworks™ label growing and evolving in the future?
My aspiration is to support the arts, collaborate with artists, discover points of contact, listen to stories to be handed down and connect the dots of history. Fashion will be just one of the expressions of this language.
As a designer, what are some of the most difficult and rewarding aspects of the fashion industry?
In a world of appearance and aesthetics, meaning and narrative are often lost behind and replaced with egos and self-referral behaviours. It’s a world built on exclusivity. I believe design is a purpose shaped in a form.
Your biggest goal is to encourage people to purchase sustainable clothing — not just grow the label’s profit margins. What are some of the ways your brand is helping to create sustainable fashion and ease the emission impact of the supply chain?
The first thing is to create meaning and purpose. The reason why things are made is more important than the way they look. There are many brands out there that have lost on the way the reason to be, or they were born without one, often just conceived as an ego filler. In my opinion, fashion today is to be intended as a social and community driver for bigger causes, not just as a profit source. In 2020 I created the One-Off program, as a laboratory of artisanal experiments to test my imagination using only recycled resources.
Lastly, what do you hope those that wear Untitled Artworks™ designs feel or think when wearing the clothing?
I would like them to feel part of a unique, vast and inclusive community, capable of encompassing the most important values for life, mutual respect, and unity in diversity. I would like them to be stimulated by the investigation of our earliest history, art and the origins of life.