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Stefano Nicolao, Costumes Artist
You might not know it, but you’ve seen and loved Nicolao’s handmade productions already multiple times in your life: the biggest Theatres, Movie productions, Hollywood itself, have been counting on Nicolao’s costumes ever since he first opened his atelier in 1980. Nicolao is the man who’s work is the closest thing to a time machine, the key to the creation of a credible and authentic jump into the past.
Stefano’s costumes are unique pieces, crafted by expert hands and decades-long experience. From the initial study of the settings and the historical background to the choice of precious and rare fabrics, the preparation, the cutting and the sewing, every step for the crafting of these unique costumes is a careful and precise process. This way, Stefano is able to tailor a costume that cannot be distinguished from an ancient dress, or a gala dress, that will leave everyone speechless.
As astonishing as it might sound, at Stefano’s Atelier what is hidden under the upper layer of the costume, matters just as much as everything else. Stefano strongly believes that in order for his hand made creations to feel authentic and believable, the people wearing them have to sense all the layers of his craft, because only then it will give the the tangible feeling of being thrown back into a long forgotten past.
Venice is the place where to get lost, where to loose yourself and be swept by emotions: Venice still is a city full of romance, and in such a romantic way it should be lived
I’m Stefano Nicolao and I own an atelier of costumes. The tailoring service we offer differs from traditional ones because we are specialized for shows: we create costumes for opera, motion picture industry, theatres, tv, etc.
I must admit I’ve been hindered by my family, who was recommending me to get a steady job
About this crazy decision… I started as an actor in the ’70s, working even as a pro, with Strehler [Giorgio Strehler, Italian theatre director], having some big experiences both in the movie industry and in television, but since I had a classic background, having studied in a classic lyceum, at an Academy of Fine Arts, and Architecture, without getting a degree though, because I continued working and gaining experience in the theatres and with troupes and tailors. Then, as soon as the Carnival was re-discovered in Venice, I decided to come back and create this atelier which became a landmark that Venice needed to have.
You are born in Venice with different chromosomes, with a particular DNA. So, I think that in my costumes and in my creations, I depict the reflection of Venice, the colours, the use of silk that resembles the swish and movement of the water, it is music, colours, fabrics, that grow along with the city… and I think I couldn’t do it like this. I mean, I couldn’t create the same way I do, if I wouldn’t be living in Venice.
It’s the only city in the world in which there is no traffic, where there is no mopeds, no bikes, no cars. We still move around by foot, like in the Middle Ages, but this is not understood by those who invade and by those who offer the [Venice] product.
As a consequence, unfortunately, the offering has become poor.
Both individuals who can pick and rent costumes for a party, out of a big fleet to choose from, in order to live the experience of wearing a costume. And also productions who decide to set up a show, for which we elaborate a new set of costumes; we create them entirely new, even just for renting. In addition, we have a vast repertory of evening dresses both for men and for women.
Clothes tell us a story of real life, while costumes make use of the knowledge of clothes, to recreate the history of a character and bring it to life in a modern time. Therefore the costume is our way to be brought into a different situation, as a different character.
Here, in the repertoire, we have over 10.000 costumes If we consider the fact that I started working back in the ’80s, what we have here is only 1/4 of the production… Therefore, I think we created around 50.000 costumes and dresses.
I obviously have a staff that I built and supervise. I mainly set up and do the cutting, also of those costumes I didn’t personally create because often there is a custom designer who creates the design, draws, sketches the models. So we have to empathize and understand each other, and then I have to create what someone else has thought I need to translate into reality his ideas, his proposal
You should lose yourself. You shouldn’t go having everything planned already. In Venice, it is important to lose yourself, to let yourself go and be swept by emotions. Venice, in spite of everything, is still romantic, so you should live it this way. You will discover artisans in some spots in the city, you will discover that there still is life in Venice, and it’s not only a big museum as it might seem at a first glance. Instead, there are still people who tenaciously want to stay and live in town.
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