ITW OF FABIO RAFFAELI – Olow Italy
Interviewing Fabio Raffaeli, the boss of our italian distribution agency is like asking questions to an encyclopedia of street culture. Besides managing Flower Distribution, he has his own shop in Turin, Hannibal Store, he organizes events and just launched a magazine!
Hello Fabio, how are you since the trade show Capsule in Berlin?
Hello, first of all thank you for the nice words in your introduction. I am humbled. Since Berlin I have been working on FW13 sale season, marketing strategies for our own denim label “We Make Super Denim” as well as planning FW13 selection for Hannibal store as well as planning all new communication and details for a new concept store we will be opening in september.
We will start with a brief summary. Before creating Flower Distribution and Hannibal store, what did you do?
I attended high school in the States where i was first introduced to the industry of skateboarding. I am talking about 1991/1992, boyz in the hood era. I was soon after introduced to the punk/hardcore scene, concepts like straightedge, veganism and so on. I then finished my studies in the Uk and did some marketing job in Las Vegas. It was 1998 when i started my own clothing company called Eblood, which has been somehow the first hardcore music related clothing company ever in the world. The company got pretty huge in Italy and thx to a lot of connections made at fashion fairs throughout the years i started also distributing other street wear brands along the way. Only in 2005 i opened Hannibal Store and started to put the whole distribution issue to a higher level.
You are in the business since a long time and I bet you have a lot of stories to tell. Is there anyone / anything you won’t ever forget?
Well when i started selling my own things i had very little money so i lived in my car for 2 years trying to push my collection from city to city all over europe, literally lived in my car. I remember one time i met my parents on some random highway in the middle of the country and i remember they brought me some warm vegan dish a new blanket. It was winter, it was cold and i would bathe in gas station toilets. Not for 1 second i thought it was hard. it was the most liberating and liberated moment of my life.
Concerning the sector again, what are the big differences between now and 10 years ago?
Back then no shop would have an internet website. no smart phones and no satellites to guide you thru your routes so all i did was travel from place to place, maybe spot the local skaters and ask them if there was a shop nearby. Here i was in my early twenties showing my street wear collection made of a few baggy pants, tshirts and hoodies. What was crazy was that shops back then would write something like 10s 10M 10L 10xl per style per color. Impossibile to reply now as there’s a million more brands plus online stores which make everything available 24/7 in just one click.
The economical crisis has affected Europe and Italy particularly. Can you tell us more about the general situation, how people are living day to day and the problems of the sector?
Things are pretty scary here. The medias are terrorizing the general public. Yesterday i read about some new stats talking about 30thousand shops shutting down in the first 3 months in the country. Italy has no political stability and its been on a joke level for 2 decades now. People are super scared to lose the little they have and they for sure don’t want to risk to become the new Greece Or Cyprus. For sure we have experienced a dramatic shift but i somehow think it will be for the better. what i mean is that in situations like this people start to seriously focus on real priorities. No wonder now people think more about sustenaibility, local farming, environment issues so i am sure somehow humans will have the ability to adjust to this critical situation and get the most/best out of it. Talking more into details about our business i am also happy that people are taking their investment more seriously now. it just doesn’t take a few thousand euros to open a shop and start selling cool garments. it takes true abilities, strategic thinking, humility to learn new selling techniques, travel a bit to discover new trends and live in the heart of the youth subcultures which is what has always made our sector pulse with innovation and new blood.
Why did you decide to lauch Olow in Italy ? What did you like with the brand ?
I immediately thought Olow has a genuine touch. A great catching logo and good basic taste. I first saw it in Bright a few seasons back. The collection is tight, fresh and we feel the autenthicity behind it of all the artist collaboration. It is a brand we trust.
Can you tell me a bit more about Iconoclast, the magazine you have created and what made you want to start this new adventure ?
The Iconoclast is my new photographic project. Its like a journal of my numerous travels around the planet. I travel for work and do research for my company and for my stores, i travel to go and visit my beautiful 2 year old princess who lives in Finland, i travel also to learn more about true spirituality and my own consciousness. I love photography and i like to create controversial thoughts thru my images due i guess to my punk rock roots. So i decided to launch a new DIY magazine which ended up having a lot of great feedback. I photographed everything in the few months i spent abroad last year from NYC to Lithuania thru Poland and Berlin. From homeless people to friends made on the street and explicit nudes. Pretty much everything and everyone that moved me. No fake studio images but rather my life in black and white, nothing more nothing less. Everything ugly and everything beautiful i experience every day when i am on the road. Check out www.theiconoclast.it
Can you tell me more about your side projects / activities / hobbies… ? I have heard that you organise exhibitions and work with photography ?
As i said i am trying to study more about spiritual matters. When you read about the Maslow pyramid you read about self esteem to be at the very top of the pyramid. I don’t necessarily agree. I think true spirituality lies far beyond that as it kills your ego, which is the font of all our suffering and sorrows. I had the luck to follow Ray Cappo from Youth of Today to India where i learned more about the meaning of Yoga and mysticism and that has become a major part of my life. Its awesome to balance our worldly matters concerns with styles and aesthetics with our inner sense of peace and calmness. Somehow i find the two sides extremely motivational and beautiful in their own way. You don’t need to step away form the world to live in contact with your true self. You can work, style, photograph, sell and put your self totally into your job but always trying to keep a strong focus on what your real essence is. This gives me strength to do what i do in the best of my abilities. On a more commercial level 4 times a year we organize events in our own very showroom which is a 350 sqm located inside an old wool factory where we combine photography, dj sets, free vegan food and good karma. You are all obviously very very welcome to join in.
Any Italian artist you particularly like and would like to talk to us about ?
I have an emotional bond with Fabrizio Sea Creative who is one of the oldest artists in the country. He designed our store when we opened in 2005. He is great guy, very humble and talented.
To finish with this interview, is there any band or music you would like to share with us ?
Wow, how can I not end this with Govinda by George Harrison. Peace and profit to you all.