by Anmol AhujaSep 10, 2021
"You know, lots of times you don’t meet your maestros, but you choose them. You pick them and connect them".
My first brush with Fabio Novembre's enigmatic self was for him authoring a part of the tripartite tribute to the Italian design legend, Enzo Mari, who passed away of COVID-19 complications last year. Terming Mari the Jiminy Cricket to his Pinocchio, nothing better encapsulated his eclectic, uninhibited sense of expression for me better than his tribute to the “Grandfather of Italian design”. Though strictly parting at a fork in terms of design philosophies, even disagreeing often, Novembre bore immense respect for Enzo Mari, admitting to “jealously” keeping a book of his work in his personal collection, autographed by the late stalwart. Novembre’s almost spiritual romanticism for all things design also spilled over onto this UNSCRIPTED chat, wherein the Italian designer and architect let us in on his solemn will to breathe till he choked, and love till he died.
Graduating as an architect from the city of Milano in 1992, where he found himself by a happy accident and decided to stay for good, Novembre was quick to land his first design commission in 1994. However, an extension of his personality or an interpretation from his dramatic reading of the spaces he designs may come from his training in filmmaking at the NYU in '93. Having studied two immensely demanding creative courses through his academic life, Novembre claims himself to have been a peculiar student, particularly while engaging with the academics of design. The multidisciplinary Italian architect self-deprecatingly chuckled at the fact that he wasn’t really gifted for drawing, but swelled at being a “volcano of ideas” otherwise.
It is perhaps for his film studies in New York, and the brief time that he spent there for NYC to become his love apart from Milan, that he stated the Italian auteur, Federico Fellini, alongside his other mentors in the design realm, Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, to be his mentors. It’s a curious mix by all means, but a treasure trove of multi-faceted knowledge nonetheless, and completely in line with what he believed about mentorship and its role in the life of a creative professional. It was this discussion about mentors that in fact led to one of the most insightful parts of his UNSCRIPTED conversation, and proved to be a topic of immense connect. Equating his mentors to celestial orbs, he termed them to be stars illuminating his path on dark nights whence he found himself to be alone. The simple maturity, along with a declaration in unbridled innocence in this statement by the 54-year old designer was disarming and life affirming at once.
Through the remainder of his interview, Novembre established himself to be a man of wild contradictions, striding through life like “pollen in the wind”. From his earliest designs to his most recent ones, including ORG and Adaptation for Cappellini, Italic, Muse, Nemo, Happy Pills, Venus, Robox, and his classics, Him & Her, and the ‘AND’ sculptural seating, the designer’s works are doused in colour, sweeping in form, often provocative, but always evocative. Almost as free spirited as the designer’s products is his sartorial sense that he himself terms is “eccentric”, with his signature leather jacket being his wardrobe staple, and the one piece of clothing that is still indispensable for him. Much akin to the former ‘talk-of-the-town’ nightclub, and now a Broadway theatre in NYC, I found a characteristic definition of similarity between Studio 54 and Novembre, a name that he would also happily give to his podcast if he ever did one. While the world might have found it provocative, he was just doing what he liked, and having his fun.
In a conversation of only ‘highs’ and higher ‘highs’, the standout, undoubtedly, turned out to be Novembre’s solo guitar performance. Much like the lot of us having our reinvention stories from the global lockdowns last year, Novembre too was reintroduced to his muse in the guitar after 35 odd years, finding true love in the instrument. So much so, that the designer declined listening to music, instead choosing to filter his own music through his guitar and his singing. Starting with the Italian classic Volare, and closing with Cohen’s Hallelujah, this is a person who I would believe if he said he had indeed found David’s secret chord.
All this and much more: tap on the cover video to view the full conversation.
All photographs © Fabio Novembre. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with 30 leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series spans 30 weeks with a release every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.