Giotto Calendoli doesn’t like the word ‘designer’, or rather, he doesn’t like labels. Neapolitan at heart, Milanese citizen and perpetually wandering soul, he’s established his brand’s headquarters in a little house made of metal and transparent panels inside a noble courtyard of a palace in the centre of Milan. Halfway between a greenhouse, a hut and refuge à la Into The Wild, Handle With Freedom’s office does not enclose itself within four walls, but seeks to escape the physical confines of its perimeter to remain always with a glance towards the outside, whether it be a green spot full of garden gnomes, or a remote village in Mexico. Between hats, coffee mugs and hand-sewn placemats, Giotto tells us about his ethical, serene, but above all free vision of life and of creating garments.
Giotto, your aesthetic is highly recognisable, as is the cultural identity of your hometown, Naples. Do you think this personal background has significantly influenced the character and philosophy of your brand?
Naples is a great source of inspiration for me that I try to take with me with great pride, especially when I travel. When I was 18 I left home, and it was like running away from a city that oppressed me, but today my relationship with Naples is mature, and it gives me lot of inspiration and energy. For example, I’m now making a collection that’s based entirely on helping ten women from the Pozzuoli women’s prison.
‘HANDLE WITH FREEDOM’ is the name/statement you’ve chosen for your brand. It sounds like a suggestion, but perhaps also a warning. What meaning do you give to this motto?
When I was younger, my grandmother would open her wardrobe and give me incredible things from my grandfather, from accessories to crazy clothes and shirts. Every time, she’d tell me: ‘Take care of it, and treat it well’. The concept I was referring to was basically this. Besides taking good care of it, one has to understand that yes, every garment has its own background in life but it also needs freedom, to come out of its past and evolve. In this sense, HWF also wants to incorporate a message that invites people to express themselves freely and outside of conventions.
What needs, or impulses, led you to found your brand? Do you have a specific memory you can refer to?
It all started 10 years ago, when I moved to Milan with my ex-girlfriend. The social revolution hadn’t happened yet, and people
were mostly expressing themselves through blogs. In Milan we met the guys from NSS Factory, who were interested in the blog we were editing. So, they started taking us to events and introducing us to the Milanese fashion system. It was when I started having collaborations with brands and wearing their clothes that I felt the need to find something that really represented my mood, personality and body. Finally, I went so far as to think that one day I could design my own collection.