Interview with Laura Ruggiero

Laura Ruggiero was born in 1988 and is originally from Caserta(IT). She graduated from the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo” in “Fashion Design and Visual Arts” with an experimental thesis on the prototyping of a technologically wearable fashion collection, the “Wearable Technologies”, and designed starting from the research of the design product up to the achievement of its design phase. Laura is also self-taught in reportage photography with a documentary slant, paying particular attention to social and human themes.

Francesca Della Ventura(FDV): Dear Laura, the Wearable Technologies project you created is very interesting. How did it come about? Would you like to talk about it in detail for inWomen.Gallery?

Laura Ruggiero (LR): “Wearable Technologies” is my personal study project started during the writing of my experimental degree thesis. A clothing prototype developed through hi-tech research applied to the field of Fashion Design and sustainable and renewable energies. An interactive clothing design that focuses on the cognitive and sensory nature of the new hi-tech systems applied to clothing, thus shaping new ways of interaction between the person and the product and creating a technology that meets the social needs of users. The collection aims at a vision of clothing electronics strategically related to the ability to obtain yarns which, in addition to having the above-mentioned properties, maintain the mechanical and processing characteristics of a normal fibre. The textile yarn, in fact, becomes an electronic device capable of reacting to all environmental effects and becoming a mechanical, thermal or magnetic source through the insertion of solar elastic films, electrical microchips, nano-sensors, conductive polymers and nano-particles. They are inserted into the yarn either by weaving it so that it forms a whole with the weft of a garment, or by using transistors that are so small that they can be inserted into the fabric and regulate the flow of current between two electrodes. The transistors look like simple cotton threads connected together by knots or weaving processes normally used for fabric production. Some of the prototypes created are based on the study of the combination of renewable energy and technological textiles, such as, for example, the design of the cape whose cotton yarn is made up of a special silver base capable of inhibiting the growth and persistence of bacteria and viruses. In fact, by means of an antiviral, antimicrobial and water-repellent process, the garment worn can screen the passage of droplets and the spread of viruses. In addition, the cape is fitted with very thin, mouldable films of micro solar panels whose purpose is to absorb natural light and transmit it as energy to the transistors in the yarn. Think of a garment designed to emit light and studied through a concept of electronic clothing engineering and the different areas in which its use could benefit: not only design and fashion, but also clothing for extreme sports or technological clothing for scientific purposes. One example? The space suit worn by astronauts on their expeditions into orbit must have special characteristics which, in their complexity, are intended to protect the astronauts’ bodies from the prohibitive conditions found in space: temperatures ranging from 120° to -156°, cosmic dust, solar radiation and micrometeorites. The correlation between fashion, art and technology is increasingly taking on the connotations of a scientific revolution that is growing rapidly in the global market. An emblematic alliance that is a source of inspiration for both creatives and scientific experts. Constant study in the various fields will make their synergy a strategy from which to reap the benefits of great innovations applicable not only in the field of design, but also in the medical, health, scientific and technological fields.

Wearable Technologies and photovoltaic clothing. Pictured is one of the garments in the collection made using sustainable energy and hi-tech Textile. The jacket is made up of flexible micro solar panels that capture light and transform it into energy. ©Laura Ruggiero

FDV: What was the transition from wearable technologies to fashion photography and art photography, if you want to call it that?

LR: During my university course, I never had any approach to the study of photography, let alone fashion photography. In addition, the conclusion of the university programme was aimed at training a professional figure as a Fashion Designer, i.e. the mind behind the artistic creation of a garment or an accessory by studying trends, developing drafts, selecting colours and fabrics and supervising the final production of the collection. It is also an art form. To work as a designer, you need to have an artistic and creative personality. It is essential to have a talent for drawing and to be able to express ideas in the form of sketches, either manually or through the latest digital design tools. It does not necessarily mean being a great artist, but having some skills in combining colours, tones and shades and being able to work with fabric and combine it in an original way. Furthermore, a strong interest in art, art galleries and artists means expanding one’s cultural background into something that goes, and sees, beyond one’s own artistic skills and knowledge. I owe my initial curiosity towards photography to the cultural and artistic environment in the city of Urbino. During the years I spent in the cradle of the Renaissance, I had the pleasure of meeting artists from the Academy of Fine Arts and the ISIA (Istituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche). Dealing with their creative reality and observing their artistic technique allowed me to look beyond my cognitive perimeter, creating a shortcut to photography. In fact, it is to be considered icastic that, with different timing and modalities, I would have been similarly involved in the aforementioned discipline, being itself strongly connected with the fashion sector.

Political Poster ©Laura Ruggiero

A Mother and Faith ©Laura Ruggiero

FDV: Laura I have read that you have participated in important international art events: London, Milan Biennale, Miami Art Basel, Pro Biennale Venice…what did it mean for you to take part in such important international art events? How do you move in the art market? Have you ever felt at a disadvantage compared to a male colleague?

LR: A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of being able to exhibit my work at some events. They are stimulating experiences, even more so the people that the environment brings to meet you: their stories, their works, the knowledge of new contemporary languages have an inestimable value in terms of expanding personal knowledge and knowledge of the art market. I have never experienced at first hand any disadvantage compared to a male colleague. In fact, it is a priority to lift the carpet and all the dust under which we throw the gender issue on a daily basis, and to do so we need constant readings of reality, strategies of change and reinforcement procedures that break free from sub-stereotypes or benevolent sexism. Despite improvements in recent years, gender gaps in the labour market and beyond continue to be pronounced and the main cause lies in the primary role of language and communication in fuelling stereotypes and gender roles.

In my personal project ‘Genesis’ I document the aberrant condition of women in a post-patriarchal or neo-patriarchal era. This phase is even more invisible than the previous one as it does not deny the female presence, but puts a filter on it. Ours is a culture that has asked and continues to ask women to manage multiple roles: worker, mother, wife, daughter, and even insinuates the doubt that work, by taking away time, is one of the causes of the disintegration of the family.

FLAPPERS, 1920. Flappers refers to a generation of young western women who, during the 1920s, began to distinguish themselves through aesthetic and behavioural choices. This was a period of profound changes in which the protagonist was the right to vote won by women in the United States on 26 August 1920 and, more generally, the firm desire to be socially equal to men in order to achieve new objectives: individuality, full participation in political life, economic independence and sexual freedom. ©Laura Ruggiero

FDV: In your opinion, what should photography talk about today? What contribution can you, as a photographer, make to the reflection on the contemporary world in which we live?

LR: Photography as a tool for investigation in contemporary society; photography as a method of visual sociological research; photography as empirical evidence; photography as social memory; photography as evidence of an iconic social language. In social and humanist photography, people and their actions are at the centre of the narrative, but they travel on a double track: one privileges their presence, the other the absence of a condition.

In this context, photography becomes a medium for dialogue that restores dignity to those who have been harmed by raising awareness on a massive scale, but also by denouncing the paradoxes that are hidden in plain sight and to which we try to pay attention through a process of social dynamism. My position is aimed at the panorama of social anthropology with a photographic stamp of social denunciation, as an act of responsibility.

DECOSTRUCTIONS. The project shows the social, infrastructural or environmental transformations that have taken place over time by relating them to historical events in the present. The observer’s perception becomes a temporal collision which forces the gaze to make a further effort by involving two different pasts: one more distant and the other more recent. This is the result of a photographic superimposition involving different eras in the same place: the final objective aims at an anthropological, structural and architectural investigation aimed at bringing out the genesis, with particular regard to the role of social language and its logic. ©Laura Ruggiero
Francesca Della Ventura
Francesca Della Ventura

Francesca Della Ventura is a journalist, curator and contemporary art critic, as well as founder and director of inWomen.Gallery.