He is a busy man, working on a timer, always ready for the next challenge, the next project, always on the ball as to what is around him and what is to come. I learned this quite quickly whilst sitting in his living room waiting to interview him for what was to be, quite possibly, the most brutally honest interview he has ever given, all for this website and to share with the world. With a rather short fuse and a quick reaction to pre-tense absurdity, he still admits to some of his own faults, impatience being one of them. He is a fountain of knowledge and conversant with the current world news as well as what’s going down in the land of celebrity, film, fashion and music. His downfall, he admits, is that he expects everyone else to be equally accordant and becomes slightly irritated and somewhat puzzled when they prove not to be. In fact, there isn’t a lot he doesn’t admit.
He sure is a character.
I must tell you, his home, which he shares with his best friend and manager, Chris Faddy, smells amazing, is spotlessly clean and very spacious. Neither must be a fan of clutter and it shows within the furnishing and the beautiful simpleness of the set out. A very small selection of some bizarre and wonderful ornaments are displayed on the simple white shelving in the living room. A fortune tellers hand, a large black dice, a super-sized magnifying glass, part of a dinosaur’s skull and a vintage bird cage which is broken open, possibly representing freedom. There is a black globe of the world sat next to a huge crystal ball on the fire place, whilst the pure white walls display various catholic crucifixes. There are no family photo-snaps in frames, instead art works hang the walls, some of his own art work. Androgynous characters made of acetate with cemetery stones behind them, each standing in front of their own grave. There is a huge art piece of a then 21-year-old, unknown and naked Madonna Ciccone, drawn by Lino with just charcoal, chalk and black Indian ink, taken from her early years, pre-fame days when she modelled for art classes as a life-model to make herself an income, in 1979, the same year of Lino’s birth. He believes in signs, after all, and likes “meaning and reason for just about everything.”
In walks Lino, smiling at me, warm and welcomingly, dressed all in black, a long black rag top, one of his own I assume, a black flat cap and his usual skinny jeans. He clutches two large wine glasses in one hand and a bottle of Chenin Blanc in the other, and says to me, “so… we having a drink then or what?” as he squats down on a huge bean-bag next to where I am sat on the big black sofa, comfortably on the wooden flooring.
The power of clothing. The transformative quality of dressing up. Becoming characters. Telling stories through print, making statements, the freedom of expression, no words needed, rebellion against the churches I grew up in. There’s just a few. I guess you could say I am drawn to narrative within any media. I like meaning and reason for just about everything. Autobiographical work, for me, is much more thought provoking and powerful than fiction, whilst I consider myself a realist more than a romanticist and I believe my comprehensive life experience and childhood has added both depth and perspective to much, if not all, of my work.
Well, my Sicilian heritage has a lot to answer for. In recounting my journey to the study of fashion, I am reminded of the negative stereotyping in which I suffered from a very young age. Growing up in a large Sicilian family, mixed with tranquil English Christians, full of competitive and somewhat tough relatives, I was mocked and ridiculed for the sketches I created of dresses. I remember quite clearly how one of my cousins had accused me of wanting to habitually wear dresses and that an interest in fashion was a ‘girl’s thing.’ The early interest had always been there, along with various other art forms, but the fear of being loathed and not fitting in with my older, male macho cousins held me back tremendously. I mean, I wasn’t even allowed an earring in one ear! That’s how strict it was. When I wanted to conform with the other boys at school, I asked my father if I could have an earring. His answer was straight to the point, as it always was… that he would rip my ear off because ‘earrings are for girls.’ My father is not the sort of man you would argue with and I had often experienced a few severe beltings from him for daring to answer back… so not least for their comments, I jumped into the medias that were considered more masculine, like Photography and Media Production, which I later took all the way to college, along with English, whilst at the same time rebelling against the no earring threat by using Indian ink and a box cutter knife that I’d stolen from the Focus DIY store in Kettering. I would cut tattoos of church crosses and a blasphemous 666 symbol into my arms and legs because I considered this to be the ultimate masculine badge and one that neither my older cousins or father had, and of course, not effeminate like an earring. Remember, this was the early 90’s then, tattoo’s were not a ridiculous craze for any Tom, Dick or Harry like they are nowadays where almost every squeaky-clean type camouflages behind a mask of them to portray some kind of hard image of themselves. Back then it was only the rough, tough street type of men and women who bore them… I was also aware of the uproar and anger it would cause, which of course was my way of getting back at them for the anger and upset in which I initially felt. Needless to say, I was punished accordingly.
From the age of 7, I attended a private theatre school in Overstone, Northamptonshire, which I believe was my parents way of keeping me out of trouble. Or just keeping me out the way, period! I took part in a good number of productions at Overstone Park Theatre school and also won the theatre school talent contest for dance and also for mime acting. I trained as a dancer from a very young age. Jazz, ballet, ballroom, modern, tap, street, you name it. I trained hard as a dancer and mastered all the techniques taught. I was asked to take part in the Northampton Town Radio 1FM talent show by the head of the Overstone Park Theatre school. I performed in front of the likes of Gary Lineker and Anthea Turner, where Lineker afterwards approached me, took my hand (to shake it) and said to me, ‘you were the bollocks mate’ – after watching me perform a piece inspired by the horror film, Halloween, where I dressed as the iconic killer, Michael Myers, a piece I had choreographed with my dance tutor. I was star struck, he was a legendary footballer after all, and also a male macho figure of course, and he was applauding me. Such a cool and gracious man. I was happy at theatre school. I won many awards there, for dance, mainly, as that was my chosen field. I took part in a number of musicals and cabaret shows down in London. In later years I worked as a dancer at various hardhouse nightclubs in Leicester and on the outskirts of Leicestershire.
I done three A-Levels, Media Production, Photography and English. The theatre school training most definitely fitted well with these studies, yes. I think all art forms in one way or another find a way to gel, to combine with each other. You’re looking at a stage set with one eye, then you’re looking through a camera lens with another. The art forms most definitely meet, this is why I prefer the term fine-art best, the combination of them all. This is also why I have the need to direct when it comes to my own fashion shoots. My need to be part of the whole production, the art direction, the poses, the background, the lighting, the whole scenario. It is all part of who I am. I am a visual artist, not just a fashion designer.
Well.. I had the most horrific rebellion period after college. I was so tired of the rules and regulations given at home by my father and mainly his side of the family that seemed to dominate the herd. I waited until they (parents) were both at work, so they couldn’t stop me, and I packed my bags and left. I moved in with my new, older, best friend, who’d left my neighbourhood as a male and came back a female. She opened my eyes to many things, which maybe I shouldn’t state in an interview, but my life changed dramatically. She was my shield, my protector, and she was my soul mate. A very misunderstood character, but one I understood just perfectly. She starred in the British film, The Crying Game, as nightclub singer number 1, going by her new name as Shar. She believed in me, and I truly loved her, for all her flaws, she was just perfect in my eyes and she was the first person to really analyse me, to observe me and to truly believe in me. My fascination with my new friend outraged my parents, being devout church people and all about religion. Shar’s lifestyle worried them, but it didn’t matter to me, our bond was unbreakable. An instant connection. We had nicknames for each other that we would write in valentine cards, just in case one of us didn’t receive one that year (laughs), so shameless. so we made sure to have one ready for the other! My card would be written to my ‘black beauty,’ (after the beautiful, famous horse), and hers would be written for her ‘italian stallion’ (laughs and covers face), that was supposedly me! (laughs). God love her. (looks emotional).
I did, totally. (looks down).. and then, well… she died. I won’t go into how she died as I don’t want to disrespect her or her family who are friends of mine still today and whom I love very much. But then, she was gone, and I became lost. I lashed out, I started fighting with people, and I am talking proper fighting, had several arrests, well, twelve to be exact, cautions, and even community service for fighting in Leicester and in Northampton. I rebelled against anything and anyone who dared to even try and put me down again. I suffered a major breakdown, I was hospitalised and had to see a therapist too. The loss of my best friend destroyed me, mentally. Losing that one person I lived with, hung with, got high with, ate with, shared a bed with, confided in, when no one in my family even cared to listen without either condemning me, or hitting me. To lose that someone who was your hero, your protector, your confidant, it just left me feeling very, very lost inside. After all, she was the best of both in one.. and neither did she have the apparatus to ever hurt me with.
Oh god yes, many! But a kind-of funny story is one regarding Boy George. Shar had began mixing in his circle when she worked on The Crying Game, which Boy George had done the film soundtrack to. She attended the same parties as Boy George and also the film’s premiere in London. One night she said a group of them went back to her London flat, to carry on partying, I was currently finishing college at this time, back in Kettering, having had final exams. She told me that Boy George walked in to the kitchen and was looking at her photographs of me at 17 years of age on her fridge door, wearing black Nike clothing, which were Shar’s favourite pictures of me. She said he was looking at them with a rather disapproving facial expression, (eyes open widely) and he asked who I was, to which she replied, ’that’s my Lino,’ giving the impression I was her boyfriend, which we both often played to, equally, and she said, ‘he’s a model you know,’ and she said that Boy George smirked at my pictures and said, ‘a fucking model for what? MotherCare?’ – the kids clothes shop back then, and that he laughed at me. She said that an argument erupted over it where she accused him of being ‘jealous’ and that he had the cheek to call her ‘insane’ for reacting the way she did. That was a funny story, just a shame I hadn’t have been there to have heard it myself, but I have never doubted it.
Yes, it is quite something, I think that too.
Totally, most definitely. Nobody else has ever had such a strong impact on me. Years later I decided to go back to college again as I had already gained the past grades and knew deep down my potential, but I hadn’t gone with my heart back then and followed the fashion pathway. I enrolled for a higher education, but in order to get to University for fashion design I first needed the UCAS points. My A-Levels were not enough and so I enrolled for a National Diploma in Art & Design at Kettering Tresham Institute, which was basically a key to a degree. Through hard work and determination, I was the only student in fashion to gain three A grades in a row and a final result of Distinction. I later enrolled for University to do my degree in fashion design which saw my menswear collection take the main stand at London Graduate Fashion Week, 2013. My collection was based on Gender & Identity. It seemed like I was finally on a roll, but sadly I experienced some not-so-nice treatment from certain groups in class, classmates that left me out of certain get-togethers, group work and such, maybe because I wasn’t your average fashion student type? Being slightly older, and being a black tee shirt and jeans guy, like I was back in the media and photography days. I wasn’t an overtly out-there dresser either, which many of them were, I felt, simply for shock value purposes, or in a desperate bid to cement their place in fashion. I felt some hated that I gelled better with tutors and gained some good leads. Part of my final collection went missing too, which had to be remade for me by the University, but it wasn’t the same, it never is when someone else remakes your work and especially when it was based on my late best friend, whom I was still, deep down, mourning. The police were almost involved over this because of the amount of money spent on the satins and silks and on my digital print. People can be very mean, especially if they feel somewhat threatened. If it wasn’t for one classmate, a brilliant footwear designer named Sophia Susassi, I would have been totally on my own at Uni. She was my rock during a Paris trip where I felt so isolated from the group and alone that I would just sit in my hotel room half the time on my own. Sophia would always come and knock on my door to check on me and say, ‘come on, let’s go and have dinner somewhere.’ (smiles) .. such a loyal soul. She was my rock back in class too and she remains a true friend today. She seen me through a breakdown I also suffered during this time because of the treatment off classmates, which sadly resulted in having to take a gap year after a lengthy visit to my room from the on-campus doctor. In the outside world, I would have dealt with certain classmates using my fists. But here, on a degree costing thousands, I knew I couldn’t do that. It was hard for me. I felt stuck. Knowing that certain members of that class had stolen my final work was the hardest part. Knowing it had most likely just been binned somewhere nearby too, that was not only upsetting, but very angering. In the end, I didn’t show up for my own graduation, and instead received it by email. My big day, the one day that was supposed to be the best day of the whole three year degree, the build up, the celebration, getting to wear the geeky-but-cool uni hat for the big photograph to have framed for your parents to keep on their mantle piece at home, you know the scenario… well, that didn’t happen for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to be around those people, who, as a gang, had made me feel so unliked and unworthy. My parents didn’t really make a big deal out of my degree either, which was a shame, for me, but it was alien to them, not part of their oldie-world of marriage, babies and the church. I remember wanting a big deal made, after all, I was the only one out of all of us cousins and siblings to have a degree, as well as a report card that bragged 12 straight A’s on it. I think what I really wanted, deep down, was someone to just pat me on the back and say, ‘hey, look at where you were, and look at where you have come to today,’ but it didn’t happen. In the end, I patted my own back.
Resentment, hmmm, I don’t know if that is the right word to be honest, but there is certainly a lot more to my story than most people realise or would probably even care to know (laughs). I became a hard-head because of the things I have been through and the ways in which people have treated me in the past. I became fearless too, due to the many beltings I received off a father who was a well-known hard man of the town. Whilst I would get no hassle off people around the local towns because of who my father was/is, the fact they knew he was pretty fearless and would dare take on pretty much anyone, I would, however, be the one to experience the beltings, firsthand. I hated him back then, but later it kind of made me grow up to be fearless, fearless of people around me, thinking to myself, hmmm you are petrified of my father and yet I have been literally battered by him, surely you couldn’t hit me any harder than he already has- and I’m still standing. I grew to be confrontational. People are far too overrated, and people just don’t worry me anymore, like they do others. I have lived with, lived around, and been around, the hardest of the hardest, so to speak. People saw me as this kid from a decent home with a decent family, folks that were still happily married and somewhat comfy, both hard workers and with older sisters that were so well behaved, it kind of ate at me as I was so unhappy deep down but no one seemed to notice it. I felt that I could never get close to my father, that I was a disappointment in his eyes, I could just see it, I could just feel it, could sense it, this bond that was never really there. In some ways I messed my own head up, I searched for a father figure in older men, one to look after me, one to be my mate. I would make friends with older men at the church services in which my father was never ever once at – yet he preached to us about attending and literally made us attend, myself being the only male, with all older female cousins, aunties and my devout Nonna, I was surrounded by women only, no male influences really to teach me, to show me the way, to show me who I was, and so I would befriend older men in the churches, cherishing how one once took a liking to me, then I had to come away from him as some seen this as an unhealthy friendship. Which it wasn’t at all. I looked at him with 11 year old eyes to a father. But it was made into something more taboo and wrong. My therapist, Denise, later told me that I had this need to be around a man who wasn’t going to shout at me, scare me, or hit me for almost anything I said, and that is why I went on to meet a variety of older men. I was 13 years old and had just been to my first Madonna concert, I met an older man who spoke to me about my collection and how he had this amazingly big collection of her himself, a shrine to her, in which I could go round to his house and he’d let me choose what I wanted from his collection for free, saying that he had almost two of everything, that he was currently boxing it all up as he was moving down to Southampton within the next two weeks and that he would sooner they went to someone like myself who was also a huge fan. All I would have to do was get the one big bus straight to the big Northampton bus station and he would pick me up from there. Now this woman was, and still is, my hero, she was my escapism from the church, in my mindset. I took a bus ride to Northampton, and as promised, he picked me up. His shrine to her was in his front room up stairs, a spare room with cupboards and a spare bed. A lot of his belongings were packed away and boxed, as he had said. I was allowed to choose some books that I didn’t already have. However, I was also sexually assaulted there. And then bizarrely I was comforted as I lay numb and in silence on this bed in a front room. It felt like I had been stabbed, the pain did. This man even drove me back to the bus station afterwards and didn’t say a word about it, he just said, ‘thank you’ to me, as if I had agreed or gone along with it, and he gave me £30.00, a ten pound note and a twenty pound note. I always remember the two notes for some bizarre reason. I got out of his car and stood at the big Northampton bus station where I stood there, kind of confused, and numb. In some ways, it has stayed with me after all these years, it has ruined relationships in later years, unable to ever fall asleep until a partner is asleep, having to visually see they are fast asleep first, over the fear of being sneaked up on. The need to also control my whole surroundings. In some ways I resented my father for many years because of this, because as much as I love him, which I do, I feel that had he have been there for me more, back then, like he was for my sisters, then I wouldn’t have reached out to older male figures looking for a father figure in the first place. I kept this to myself for such a long time, only in later years did my-then therapist, Denise know. Keeping it to myself for so long I just became a loner, sat in my room a lot, by myself, thinking and listening to music, rap music mainly, lyrics of anger and revenge that actually gave me hope. Not long after this, maybe just a few weeks after, I spiralled into such depression that I tried to kill myself over the guilt I felt of what had happened to me and the not telling anyone in fear of them saying I was either making it up or being accused of leading it on by going to the mans house in the first place. I took the First Aid box kept in our pantry cupboard at home and I went to my room and swallowed two packets worth of Headex tablets. I was so disgusted with myself and believed that both God and the church would be hating me. I had often even confused myself with whom I was even praying to at times, God or my father. Both were seen as the two male power figures of the household and of my whole environment. I kept thinking, I am disgusting, I am not even a pure person anymore. Yet I was only just 13. My mum found me in my room after she said she had called up three times and there was no answer. I was rushed to Kettering General Hospital, half unconscious, where I was pumped, I was given this dreadful type of charcoal drink to swallow, to make me vomit up the amount of tablets I had taken. I can always recall quite clearly too, that from everyone in the family who came to the hospital, my father didn’t come. He stayed at home. And what was said after this was even more upsetting to me. To protect the family name, the nice image that we portrayed, it was said that I had been out taking illegal drugs, at 13, and that I had took one too many, that I had been silly and messed with the wrong crowd, yet all I had ever done at that age was tried smoking a joint, and rather unsuccessfully. They didn’t want to admit that I was unhappy in my life and had tried to end it because of depression. Fair enough, they didn’t know about the sexual assault, but they knew I was unhappy and had tried to take my own life… But anyway, this is all in the past, so be it. Today I am not in that bad place, thank god, but yes, I have to admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t. I met an older man again two years after this when I was just 15 years old, he was also Italian like my father, stern and disciplined like him. I begrudged him of sex because I hated the thought of it, yet wanted his company and his love, as bizarre as that sounds. He had anger issues with his own self, which I didn’t understand back then. I allowed him to beat me, strangle me by my throat, spit at me, in my face, and once even threw hot coffee straight from a vending machine directly into my face when he was angry. I forgave him and went back there, many a times, confused as to what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Being hit was something I was used to at a very young age. Being belted with a leather belt, unable to sit down as I was stung so badly, running up the stairs to get away from my father as he dragged me back down the stairs, once cutting my elbows open on the brick painted walls as I tried to pull away. Once being hit so hard that I went through the plaster board of the living room wall. It just became something I was used to. I started to jump trains to Leicester and hide in the toilets for the duration of the journey from Kettering. I would hang around adult clubs. This was when I got into heavy drug taking, at such a young age, trying all sorts, anything to take away the feelings that I felt about myself. I didn’t feel loved off anyone, not anyone at all. I didn’t fit in with anyone at all. I started experimenting with new supposed friends, drug takers I had met on the Lee Circle, Leicester, at that time in the 90’s, I smoked crack with them, inhaled heroine off tin foil through empty biro pens as a friend held it underneath me with a lighter, mixed cocaine with speed and bombed it in rizzla papers, snorted so much cocaine that my nose would bleed, I would simply just blow my nose and carry on, snorted ketamin with them, a nasty horse tranquilliser drug apparently used to put horses asleep as they are operated on, a real nasty, vile drug. I also dabbled with crystal meth. This was the main drug I could not seem to get off. It was about anything that stopped me hating my life and who I was. I hated my life.
It’s fine, really. I’m a soldier (laughs) … And it’s all in the past now. As I say, it’s not where I’m at today, hence the reason I can finally talk about it.
Well, having been to Sicily many times from birth onwards, I would say it’s had a real impact on my creative ideas, with the catholic church providing both context and content. Whilst the normal kids my age all hung out, had their cool house parties and experienced all sorts of normal adolescent fun, I was made to attend church four evenings a week with my mother and older sisters. It seemed like a punishment to me. Whilst struck by the formal clothing styles of all ages of women there, I was encouraged to behave in a certain way and not to question what I experienced or saw. During communion, they would pass a tray of bread round and small shot glasses of Ribena, dark red in its colour, to resemble the red wine in which Jesus supposedly turned from water. I witnessed such dramatic praying, falling over, shouting, crying out to the Lord, who some claimed had touched them right there and then. I would be scared but also fascinated, looking around and above me for this holy spirit. Some overtly religious church goers would collapse in fits of appraisal whilst others applauded. But still, we asked nothing. My older sister and my cousin played the piano and organ for the church services, this is how committed our family was to the church. The appearance of Sicilian women often startled me, dressed all in black, heads absolutely covered as they prayed. They would wear long dresses which would attract the cry of ‘putana’ (whore) if one so much as even revealed a knee. Everything was so repressed. As a child, I remember being captivated by those scenes. I wanted to peak underneath the black layers and the earthy fabrics, just to see if the occupants were actually human! At that age, I could not understand if I was infatuated, scared, or both. I once watched my Nonna kneeling in sharp gravel she had scattered out on my aunties back-bedroom balcony in Sicily. She would hitch her long black dress up to reveal her bare knees, only for God, and she would kneel straight down on to it, and pray. This was her way of re-creating the pain in which she believed Christ had suffered as he was crucified. My Nonna fascinated me. She was strong and beautiful, timelessly beautiful and she still is today. She became my muse. I did not look up to, or admire, many men at all.
In my young mindset, I imagined my models kneeling on crushed glass, or grit, as they posed in my dresses and drank seductively out of communion cups, or even poured it all over themselves, sexually. I could never reveal such thoughts about wanting to have a supposed ‘girls career’ just as I couldn’t question what I experienced or saw at the churches or at home. Sex, and any mention of the subject, was totally forbidden. Any time it came on the television screen at home my mother would ferociously reach for the remote control and turn the channel over. Me and my sisters would all look at her, gone out. Later years, during my Art & Design Foundation, I recreated the scene of my Nonna praying in Sicily on the balcony with a catholic dress I had made. I hung the dress on fishing line wire above my installation space in class so that it hung like a ghostly piece, with the line wire being almost invisible. I scratched the 10 Commandments all over it, changing certain lines to, ‘thou shall do what she wants,’ for example, totally rebelling against the 10 Commandments. I used family photographs and I digitally transferred diary extracts and bible passages onto the satin. The dress hung above stones and gravel, in my work space. I burnt bible pages on the actual night of the final show that lay on the stones, as my dress hung above them. It became the highlight of the night, with the head of Kettering Tresham Institute even taking a walk upstairs to the third floor to come and view it. People asked me so many questions about it and tutors were fascinated by it. It was more a fine art piece. My textiles tutor loved it. Luckily for me, only my mother came to the final show, so I didn’t have to worry about my father turning up and being horrified.. or killing me!
I like playing with innuendo’s, double meanings and such. And I have always said that bondage doesn’t necessarily mean tying someone to a chair. It can appear in many forms and guises, you just need to know where to look (winks at me). Fetish garments which combine androgynous themes, such as the male face corset designed and made by Paddy Hartley, are of great interest and inspiration to me. I see him more of a fine artist than a designer myself. In the course of research some years back now, during my Foundation National Diploma in Art & Design, I made contact with Hartley, whose work for burns victims after the war appealed to me greatly. He agreed to let me interview him for part of my Art Foundation Art History assignment which I based on his face corsets, to give me the actual intent of his work. Uniquely, he provided me with unpublished photographs and much valued information. I was overwhelmed, he is such a cool guy, and so grounded too. Whilst I would never say I borrowed, and definitely not one to steal, I do have to say that when I made my The Un-Inhibited menswear Georgian waistcoat jacket, the corset style on the back of the waistcoat was inspired by Hartley’s face corset. I’ll always credit where it’s due. But getting back to Hartley’s work, the face corset, to me, appears to reduce the facial features whilst emphasizing them immeasurably. The worst attributes are hidden from view, yet the organs of the senses- the ears, nose and mouth- are fully functional and reminiscent, to me, of an animalistic accessory which has more than a hint of sexual experimentation, be it bondage or whatever else. The reduction is in the viewer’s ability to see the face and in the absence of key parts of the face corset. Although designed to temporarily reconfigure the wearers face to parody popular cosmetic surgery techniques, they restrain the wearer into a specific genre and reduce their social interactions. Constraint and restraint are felt in the fit, two key words I am passionate about within my own work, and an accessory which hints at both military safety wear and sexual play. I admire, and have much respect for Paddy Hartley.
Yes. Grayson Perry. Perry’s use of autobiographical experiences via narrative form, asking questions and telling stories through his work, is very inspirational to me. Whilst I have my own stories to tell, I find his work so appealing. His head scarves in particular bring me to annotate his work over and over, like where he keeps the head totally obscured by the garment, perhaps suggesting that memories should be locked away in the mind? Again, I can relate. His work conjures up all sorts of memories from my own childhood of watching the pious women in the Sicilian churches dressed all in black, to my Nonna kneeling on sharp gravel in order to pray. His detailed work on the printed fabric of faces and haunting places represent such memories, all connected by the common thread of the wearer. I have much admiration for Perry.
Well, other than what I’ve already mentioned, when I was 12, I sat with my Nonno (Sicilian Granddad) as he lay in bed, dying slowly. I have this clear, explicit vision that never leaves my mind and somewhat haunts me in my own life, of seeing this incredibly big, fit man, just wasting away. The figure of authority, the only man who could, and would, stand above my own father, becoming this fragile, dying soul. He had fallen into a coma and the Sicilian hospital had sent him home as there was nothing more they could do for him. He made these awful noises as he struggled to breathe night and day for maybe two or three days after being brought back to my aunty Anna’s home in Sicily. The noises of his struggled breath would echo right through the hallway of my auntie’s town house. I would lay in the room next door and just listen, through the night. On this occasion, my father and I went to Sicily accompanied with my Nonna, and my father’s sisters, Rosa and Maria, and two cousins, who lived here in England. My mother and sisters stayed in England. It was on my father’s birthday that his own father stopped the loud struggled breaths and sadly passed away.
Well, it was traumatic for my father too. It was hard, yes, and what followed seemed horrific to me in some ways. It was like a scene from an Amityville horror film. The house was dimmed to the point of blackness. In the hallways, my aunty had candles lit that led to the bedroom at the end of the corridor where my Nonno lay, dead. Crucifixes hung around the house and hallway walls. The family there were hysterical. I watched my father through the crack of the door clean his own fathers mess, on his birthday. I remember for the first time in my life feeling stronger than him, which was a rarity because he would not cry, he would not ever shed a tear. Crying was a sign of weakness and that is something Sicilian men just don’t do. He would go off on his own to a room in private in the house, or out on the balcony alone, where I am sure he would maybe shed a tear. I think he dealt with his pain in his own way. His father had brought him up strictly and with no negotiating, just harsh instruction. I guess my father just wanted to bring us kids up the way he had been shown. The only way he knew. I remember my Nonno’s body then being brought into the living room of my auntie’s home, in an open coffin. I recall the house being packed with people from the local church, some sat with coffee and biscuits on chairs that surrounded his body in its open coffin. I felt sick and disturbed at the sight of seeing older people being able to sip drinks and eat biscuits around my Nonno’s dead body in a small, cramped space in the living room. The following day, I was finally allowed to help. My father, cousins and myself, carried my Nonno’s coffin from the townhouse, all the way to the cemetery. It was like a parade, it was surreal to me. Some threw rice at the coffin, like they did at weddings. I could not understand how a wedding and a funeral could in any way be similar? But it was tradition.
Something else that haunted me was when my Nonna told me how I was her only Giordano grandson, that I was named after my Nonno, Lino Giordano, and that only I could carry the family name on, being my father’s only son, and my father being her only son. I knew I was already going to be a disappointment and this left me wracked with guilt, at 12 years old. I later became obsessed with the idea that whilst I would fail to carry the family name on in one respect, that I would go one better and carry it on through creating a fashion label with the name instead. I thought, well what could be bigger?
Normality? (scratches head) well, when we returned to England after some weeks, I went back to school as the new kid, as usual, the late one, as all the other pupils had often already started the new year without me, as of our many visits to Sicily, and with a name like Lino, classmates would often giggle at me during registration when the tutor calls the names out. They would think I was named after a kind of floor covering, as in English it is spelt after the lino-flooring, though not pronounced the same at all. I hated my name, I felt it was a punishment, and at this time in life you have to remember, people weren’t naming their kids after modern celebrity names or random rivers and crazy unusual things. I felt like a strange kid with a strange name. I was so self-conscious you wouldn’t believe. I had two older sisters who had each other as best friends, shared a bedroom, did everything together. I had parents who didn’t once listen to me but instead just laid down the rules. I felt I was alone through so much and would just sit in my room and just delve into books and just, read. During these times, I would stay at my auntie’s house in Luton and then in Bedford for long periods of time and also through the whole of the school summer holidays. I used to have to attend the churches there every other day, and evening. I was always sat at the back with the other kids and early teens so that we could whisper through the whole of the ceremonies until we were told off. I stupidly confided in my older cousin that I was confused about my sexuality. In between sipping the Ribena from the communion cup and taking communion bread, my cousin betrayed my trust in a spectacular way. At the next church service we attended, two nights later, my ‘secret’ was announced to the whole congregation as the ‘devils work’ and I was asked to come forward to the front of the service and stand in front of the whole church whilst they prayed to ‘heal me’ from this disease imposed on me by the devil. I had never felt so scared and so humiliated in my whole life. Ever. When you are that age and you look over and see your own relatives are amongst others praying for this cure, you kind of believe in your own head that, ok, you really must have a problem. The irony, however, was that various members of this same church who stood there before me had been outed for having affairs and ruining marriages. Yet it appeared that my sexual orientation was considered more a sin than being a home wrecker. Such hypocrisy. Were they even qualified to judge me?
Back to normality? (laughs) … not quite.
Yeah, it was pretty tough, mentally, I have to admit. (looks emotional). And thank you… You know, when you look over and see your own family are stood up from their seats, praying to ‘heal’ you, in front of a church full of strangers, it kind of stays with you, you know.
Film and music are what inspire me. The horror film genre is a guilty pleasure, maybe because such films were forbidden in our household and slammed as ‘blasphemous.’ Any film that was shown to feature demons, entities and paranormal activity was totally forbidden, even destroyed, and by destroyed I mean witnessing my mother make my father burn them in the garden- on a barbecue! So dramatic! (laughs with his head in hands). This only fuelled a major fascination for me, as a child, seeing the reaction of distaste for horror films in a catholic home. As an adult, I have an extremely large collection of horror films, some very extreme amateur type stuff, foreign cinema releases, all sorts, you name it. Mood and atmosphere are the two key words within my own fashion shoots, this stems from my love of eerie horror and grainy, edgy, distorted film.
Eduardo Sanchez. The film director of some of my most favorite horror films, from The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly, Seventh Moon and Exists, he is a big inspiration to me. I love his vision, I love the intensity, the edginess that he captures, the unknowingness of the next scene, the fact I cannot predict his work, it’s never a case of the same old, same old. I dream of him making eerie backdrops for a fashion show that I put together, combining the two! Fashion meets horror, he is a genius and can do no wrong in my eyes. I admit to crying at Seventh Moon, and yet I would never cry at a film, boys don’t cry, remember, (laughs) but I cried at Seventh Moon, the bond of love that the two main characters had for each other, the ending, the looking back at her husband’s face after all her struggles and how she fought for him, seeing his transformation into a moon demon whilst at the same time seeing that he wanted her to escape, he let her escape. My idea of romance must sound really warped, but that film got me.
Musically, I love rap music mainly. Lyrics are a big thing for me. Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Jay Z. I love these guys. Indie/rock heroes are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who I have followed for many years too. Their albums Californication and By The Way are two of my all-time favorite albums, along with Eminem’s Marshall Mathers 1 and 2, Jay Z’s The Black Album and Dr Dre’s 2001 The Chronic. I couldn’t live without these albums! Lil Kim’s Hardcore and Snoop Dogg’s DoggyStyle were the first two rap CD’s I ever owned. I also follow Kasabian, own all their albums and have been to see them a fair few times. Fantastically talented musicians. And Britain’s own! Leicester boys! Of course.
But my real idol, my hero, is Madonna. She was, and is, fearless. She’s pushed every boundary going, way before all these poor imitations have come along and have either stolen from her, or tried to recreate her. From the very beginning I have followed her, from the age of 5. Highlights of inspiration, hmmm, there are just too many to name, but I was particularly inspired by her 2004 Re-Invention World Tour and her 2006 Confessions World Tour, the backdrop visuals on both tours alone were immense. She was the first female to bring the video screen to the big stage with her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, and that’s blond with no ‘e’ because “there’s no ‘e’ in Madonna and there’s no ‘e’ in Bond,” just to state. (laughs) She was the first for so many things, and not always applauded for it, sadly. I was infatuated by the opening backdrop on the Confessions Tour, the animalistic traits and visuals shot by Steven Klein, her sexy, muscled physique appearing in horse stances and all sorts of shapes and guises, androgynous and raw, tough and fearless, whilst remaining so sexually feminine throughout. She ticks all the boxes for me. It’s most definitely fair to say that Madonna has influenced not only my work, but also my life, and possibly my way of thinking, to some extent. I find her very appealing and an incredibly sharp woman. Her autobiographical lyrics touching on loss, pain, suffering, anger, gender, sex and religion, combined with her sheer power status and hard work ethics and discipline has kept her my one true hero right up to today. I also swore that she wrote ‘Oh Father’ and ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ for me! (laughs). She grew up an Italian catholic in a large family so immediately struck a chord with me. As a child, feeling the loneliness I felt and the anger I felt, I would reach out to her and relate to her. From reading every book on her I could possibly find, I educated myself, my grammar and my English skills, through her. As bizarre as that sounds, this is 100 per cent true. Reading teaches you a lot! She was my escapism from the church, she was my very own personal discovery book. I love Madonna for everything she represents to me, and I will always love her. I once even ended a first date half way through a meal when they dared to even try and criticise her! … and that’s no lie! I don’t lie. (laughs hysterically) I am a disciple.
I have worked several times now at London Fashion Week and at Paris Fashion Week. Totally immense! Backstage I have met many celebrities and famous designers but more importantly I have gained first-hand experience and knowledge of this world I am now part of. There are a lot of artificial people out there, that has to be said. But I always keep it real, I will never be anyone else other than myself. I couldn’t care less to follow the herd like a lost sheep with no true identity of its own. That will never be me. Working for Zandra Rhodes was brilliant. The lady is a genius, a legend. Quirky, crazy, talented and so, so grounded. I was amazed at how grounded and down to earth she was. I picked up her bin next to her table space backstage, to empty it for her, and she grabbed my arm and stopped me. She said to me, “darling, I’m a designer, not a fucking princess, now please, put that down.” I fell in love with her immediately. She also let me look at, and heat press, a dress made for and worn by, Princess Diana. Now that was nerve wracking, to say the least! I remember touching the dress in awe, feeling it, like it was the golden flees from Jason and the Argonauts! It was just as iconic after all. If not, more so. She was a beautiful soul to be around. So witty and so grounded, not all precious over her own work, just so very cool.
How long have you got!? (laughs) Yes. There are two. I do not agree with or condone, in any way, shape or form, using animal skins/furs. I am very much against this. I work for rescue centres with Chris, my best friend and manager, and we raise our own monies for veterinary bills, something that is very close to my heart. I have all my work on my personal Facebook page. Whilst I know that dog fur isn’t used like tiger and bear skins and such, animals are all animals. We also raise money for Animals in Need. Where humans have failed me in life, animals haven’t. Why can’t people just be happy with prints of animal skin? Why are human beings so disgustingly damn greedy? It’s absolutely appalling to kill an animal for its skin, for its fur. Absurd. And what gives anyone the right to do this?! Today I cannot always work as much with dogs as I would like to, and as I have done, because of my fashion work and also a full-time job which I balance with this, but a per cent of all our sales go towards the rescue centres that we work for. We recently raised just over £4,000 for veterinary bills, and that alone, for me, is therapy. It is my own way of forgiving myself over my own past and my own demons, but first and foremost it is my true love for animals. It heals me, and it continues to heal me. To look after a being that is weaker than yourself and that depends on you, that has been abandoned or abused… well, nothing is more fulfilling. Nothing at all can compete. You know, some pretend to love animals, to love dogs, to care for them, and they breed them- to simply make money off of them, opposed to making money for them. Those people are disgusting and want stopping. They’re usually the sort who don’t work for a living, or maybe feeding a drug habit, or are just too down right lazy to get off their own arses and earn a decent living. More attention needs to be paid to this kind of thing because it exists, all around us, it’s happening everywhere. These poor dogs that are constantly being bred, some not even old enough to be having puppies of their own and yet are being continuously bred. They will kill those poor dogs. Well, they are killing them! Something needs to be done about this. Same for those who breed cats in the same way. It is appalling. It saddens me so much in my heart and it angers me so much. It’s not enough to just simply share an easily shared poster that is posted on Facebook just to portray yourself as some kind of saint who cares. People really need to take action on this if they really do care. Actions speak louder than words and pointless Facebook posters!
Thank you. (looks emotional for a second, then quickly perks up again) Anyway… My pet hate would have to be these textile designers that do not do their own work! (snarls his face) Picking up fabrics and just using them. I look and think, hmmm, that’s somebody else’s work… you didn’t do the art work, the painting- that’s digitally printed on to that fabric, you have just simply cut it up and claimed it as your own! That sort of thing angers me almost as much as these reality stars who come along and jump on the fashion bandwagon, just because they can, having earn’t no stripes of their own, no knowledge about fashion whatsoever, no grades in it, no studying of it, can’t even cut a pattern let alone sew, but still, they sign their names to a brand, to a product, and try to boggle the senses of the younger, naive market into thinking they’ve actually done the work themselves. Then there are those who pretend to be what they’re not, changing their names in a desperate bid to try and sound somewhat more cosmopolitan, more interesting, more glamorous, for the fashion world, and less, well… common. Personally, I would only ever want to be applauded for, or even disliked for, who I actually am, not who I am pretending to be. I would only ever want to be recognised for my own name- and not for a name I had either stolen or borrowed. My name is my own, my work is my own, and my story is my own. I am most proud of that acclaim, and I am brutally honest, at any cost, about these things.
I have four! (laughs)
“You can’t sit around worrying about people disliking you because they’re always going to be there. I have never succumbed to peer pressure because I consider myself the predator, not the prey, and getting people’s approval is not a goal I have in life.” Madonna
“In an extreme sense, some garments are not particularly comfortable to wear.. but when has high fashion ever been concerned with practicalities!” Paddy Hartley
“Power is being told you are not loved – and not being destroyed by it.” Madonna
“The only things you should regret in life are the things you never did.” Al Pacino
You are more than welcome, thank you for listening to me…
Oh… and another pet hate… cheap wine! (laughs)