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Work / Film

Irony, sportswear and self-obsession: Paolina Russo and Aidan Zamiri’s creative partnership

Fashion designer Paolina Russo and filmmaker Aidan Zamiri are a creative partnership – and real-life couple – who fuse their differing design backgrounds to produce work both individually and collaboratively. The pair both studied at Central Saint Martins (CSM) on BA Fashion Design and BA Graphic Communication Design, respectively and, although studying apparently opposing subjects, it was here that their impressive and intriguing dual practice first originated.

“I used to make paper mâché mountains as a kid, which led me to want to study art,” Paolina, who grew up in Markham, Canada tells It’s Nice That. After initially studying on the art foundation at CSM, she made the switch to the fashion pathway which was “more hands-on making and drawing than fine art was”.

Aidan moved to London from Glasgow to study graphic design where he developed a practice encompassing several media. “I basically floated between a lot of creative endeavours for a while – graphic design, music, set design etc but I always came back to video,” he explains. “For me,” he continues, “moving image is the best way to properly explain an idea, mood or emotion – I think it’s a super accessible way to tell a story.”

Last month, Paolina showed her graduate collection; a series of garments showcasing her lenticular knitwear while also repurposing the leather of footballs and sports shoes. To accompany the collection which has garnered a lot of attention including a NOVA nomination, Aidan and Paolina collaborated to produce a film which was exhibited during the CSM degree show from 20–24 June. Full of close-up shots and ironic sporting slogans, the short is an ode to the self-obsession and boredom of adolescence, packed full of nostalgia for anyone who grew up playing sport. Below, we catch up with the duo who discuss how their collaboration functions, the inspirations for Paolina’s collection and how they channelled this into moving image.

It’s Nice That: How have you been working together during the run-up to Paolina’s graduate collection? How important has your collaboration been?

Paolina Russo: Really important – Aidan absorbs so much of my stress and inspires me a lot. He’s always there as a second opinion and helps me develop every idea. The fact that his background is in graphic design and film means that he’s really good at communicating ideas, so the advice he’s given me about how to get certain ideas across has been super helpful. I think we work pretty well together because we both have the same vision.

Aidan Zamiri: I really like the challenge. Having a relationship that’s both personal and creative makes the best work, I think.

INT: Talk us through the beginnings of the collection. What were your initial references?

PR: We were in my hometown of Markham, Ontario, and we played dress up in my parents’ garage. I took photos of everything and that’s where I got a lot of the initial ideas and silhouettes. Being around my hometown with Aidan, I got really inspired by all these feelings of nostalgia and memories of being bored in the suburbs. It’s funny because although we grew up at opposite sides of the Atlantic, we both had really similar experiences growing up so we shared stories and memories with each other and created from that.

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

INT: How did these stories and memories inform the materials and process of the final collection?

PR: Suburban culture, for me, was arts, crafts and competitive sport. As a kid, my mom and I would spend a lot of time taking stuff that I already had and turning it into something else so it felt really natural to repurpose things like my old sports equipment and Aidan’s old sneakers and stuff. I also really wanted to combine that sport and youth culture with something that was really craft-based and handmade. That created this really fun contrast between the battered soccer balls and the really delicate crochet that held the pieces together. The whole collection is supposed to feel like the dreams you have of leaving the suburbs when you’re a kid. It’s a love letter to my hometown but also to my hopeful teenage self who always wanted something bigger.

INT: How did these ideas come into play when you were making the video?

AZ: I’ve always been really inspired by the feeling of being lost and the uncertainty you experience in your youth. At the same time, as a teenager, you’re always super obsessed with yourself so this funny duality is something I love to try and capture when I’m making videos. I love celebrating aspects of characters that people often try to hide – like insecurity and vanity. I love the fact that these girls are taking loads of pics of themselves and, at the same time, look like they feel a little existential.

PR: Yeah, the whole team that worked on this video was really incredible – every person brought in their own interpretation of the collection. Mona Leanne designed the makeup, Taylor-Mary Anthony made the wigs and I worked with Leo Carlton on the iconic rollerblade mohawk helmet. Everyone that got involved just elevated it to another level. Moving forward, that’s really what we want to keep doing: continuing to work with amazing people and keep making stuff that feels personal to us but feels like it can be shared with anyone.

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo

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Aidan Zamiri and Paolina Russo