Anna Werner x Studio Bonelli: Dripping Memories
& Commodification

Your Life Through Your Clothes

article by Francesca Nicolodi


Studio Bonelli and Anna Werner are giving a new meaning to fashion that encompasses our feelings and memories behind fabrics, colours, and stitches. In this collaborative project, Chiara Bonelli and Anna Werner explored the inner contentment that objects of desire such as luxury brands can enhance when remodelled as personal wear. It is about what clothes become after the purchase and not before. It is about living, seeing, and remembering while wearing. It is about falling out of excessive consumerism to rekindle our collective memories.

At Studio Bonelli, they replaced boring clothing tags with recollection tags:

  • 40% mom’s hugs
  • 25% jokes with my flatmates
  • 20% cigarettes on the balcony
  • 15% deep convos with the cat

Studio Bonelli’s collections represent mismatches of what Chiara Bonelli likes, hates, remembers, and misses. It is about valuing those pieces of clothing that played a part in the story; that t-shirt you stole from your ex, that necklace you lost at the club, that bag you used until it fell apart. Those wears summarize a time of our lives, tell a fun story or encapsulate a tragic night. Studio Bonelli pays tribute to those clothes that accompanied us through time by creating based on what turns clothes into our clothes. Our self discolor on our belongings like tea discolors our teeth. Our day-to-day leaks on our things: the tobacco smell, the wine stains, and the moth holes. The moulding of our shoes to the shape of our feet, the looseness of our t-shirts to the movements of our bodies, and the rips of our jeans to the friction of our inner thighs. Like sponges, they absorb our moods, gestures, and habits and like a snake shedding its skin, we change wardrobe with new beginnings.

For the ‘upcycled luxury’ project, Anna Werner and Chiara Bonelli collaborated to reappropriate iconic dresses from the fashion industry. Among them, a reconstruction of the plissé sailor-esque ensemble worn by Gigi Hadid on Jean-Paul Gaultier’s last runway, the Chanel vintage dress Lily-Rose Depp wore at the 2019 Met Gala, and the Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 95’ ‘vive la cocotte’ worn by Linda Evangelista. Distorted the original piece to frame it into their aspiration, Anna and Chiara left the luxuriousness behind and recreated these attires remembering the uneven folds, faded colours, and used fabrics common among all endearing fits at Studio Bonelli. Guy Debord would have applauded the undertaking. Chiara Bonelli’s blue dresses shined through paper and paint that Anna Werner printed and cut to the model’s measurements. On the floor, these huge 2D paper dresses were devoid of meaning but gained shape and volume when taped on the model, Orla Gardy. By playing with our perception, Anna and Chiara deceive the spectator. The imaginary transverses into the real and repurposes exclusive clothes into fun personal projects. These dresses, pertaining to the elite, are recomposed and flattened to simply be representational of wealth. By suspending the ensembles onto the body, the paper becomes alive by resonating with our collective memory. Anna Werner selected these pieces because of their social meaning, for aspiring creative directors like her they represent a successful career. She dreams of one day working with these historic outfits and the people around them. Thus, by making a 2D version of these untouchable garments, the symbolism of luxuriousness remains while the necessary financial and social capital is extracted.

This project explored the meaning of clothes: personally, and collectively.

The Covid-19 Blues

In her grandma’s colored-coded rooms, Chiara Bonelli spent months in her designated blue bedroom. Submerged by the ocean’s shades, she dived deep into herself to recycle past emotions, memories, and dreams. While she was patiently waiting to escape that blue room, she poured herself on paper. Her sketchbook encloses those months spent in isolation. Words in between flowers, poems on top of prints, glued cloth next to drooled lines. But this year, all the blues escaped the white pages to rub off on every project Chiara Bonelli undertook. During the ‘upcycled luxury’ project, when I asked about the paint drips on the dresses, she told me: “it is memory dripping.” That blue had tainted every smell, place, and person she remembers. It had already submerged us in the studio when she asked Anna Werner if the shoot could be on a blue background. The repetitiveness of blues is calming to her just like waves crashing on cliffs.

Not What We Want,
But Who We Want To Be

These dresses are different in shapes, cuts and colors from the originals but are recognisable in the public eye thanks to our collective media exposure. It demonstrates that there is no real need to own the object of collective desire (the original dresses) for the majority to see it in the depiction. So why are fakes so looked down upon? Because owning the original item proves a point in society. We don’t purchase those luxuries meaninglessly; we seek socioeconomic approval. This is why Studio Bonelli is avant-garde: caring about our belongings would make us stop throwing them away so quickly, buying them impulsively, and following trends like sheep. 

The consumerist black hole sucks us in with mesmerising adverts of spectacular bodies and gorgeous celebrities. It is a capitalistic epidemic of women and men wanting to appear trendy to frantically avoid social rejection. So why are we so obsessed with luxury when what is alluring is having a style of our own? Like those people who personalise trends by adding a “je ne sais quoi” to them or those others who always wear the same thing in different shades. Like Jane Birkin and her Birkins or Audrey Hepburn and her inseparable ballet flats. It is so contradictory to want to be unique while perpetually changing our style. The pursuit of individualism is an intoxicating spiral to never-ending consumerist wonderland. It is about that which you are, not that which you look. Consistency makes us who we are and so is what other people recognise us to be.

Clothes are the first door to someone’s persona.

 We unknowingly externalise so much of what we don’t want others to know. Still, it is perceivable in the tightness of those Lululemon leggings, the cleanliness of those Oxfords shoes, and the elasticity of that COS quilted tote bag. The best is when expensive shoes are torn, scratched, and ready to trash. It is like showing the middle finger to our consumerist society. Because things are meant to be used, they are meant to go through life to the point of exhaustion. Like recognising an old friend in the street, stumbling upon your graduate cap, baby conformer, or engagement ring always prompts strong feelings. The repetitive cycle of getting rid of and buying clothes is a symptom of disconnection with ourselves and others, we don’t use our imagination enough to invent like Anna Werner, and we don’t pour ourselves enough into our emotions to preserve like Chiara Bonelli.

cd/styling : @anna.wernerr

designer : @chiarabnl @studiobonelli

makeup & hair : @beefbones1 

model: @orla.grady 

photography : @rosselladmn 

photo / studio assistant : @camiiiitavo