05 July

Meeting with Bebe Moratti, rock and philanthropist designer

 

A free spirit and activist, passionate about music and photography, the talented artistic director of Redemption has managed, in barely five years, to position his glamorous, feminine, rock-chic style at the forefront of the Parisian scene. Numéro met up with an enlightened and compassionate entrepreneur who, by bringing his generous vision of life to fashion, is working towards a better world.

Interview by Delphine Roche

Gabriele Moratti byJulian Hargreaves

Placing generosity at the heart of his business, the artistic director of fashion label Redemption, Gabriele “Bebe” Moratti, decided from the outset to give 50% of his profits to charity. Glamour and rock ’n roll, the Redemption style celebrates a state of mind – Moratti’s – in which beauty is naturally accompanied by the desire to help others. Moratti finds inspiration in a rich set of references that mix Hollywood glamour icons with the furious freedom of rock, all of which finds its natural outlet in the world of bikers. It was to celebrate this lifestyle that the handsome Italian launched Redemption in 2013, with help from his friends Daniele Sirtori and Vanni Laghi. 

 

Season after season, Redemption’s Paris runway shows feature the ideal wardrobe of a free and sophisticated woman, a woman who could perhaps be described as Moratti’s female alter ego – one who, after a classical-music concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall, would naturally move on to a downtown rock concert, probably jumping on her motorbike to get from the one to the other, her hair streaming in the wind… Anchored in a certain “biker chic” style at its beginnings, the brand’s vocabulary has evolved over the years, revisiting all the currents and nuances of rock. Glamourous, sexy and sophisticated, Redemption gaily mixes punk tartans with ruffles, capes, hats, lace and lamé. Beautifully made, the clothes feature natural materials, with a penchant for leather. As of spring/summer 2017, couture collections were added to the prêt-à-porter. And for winter 2018–19, miniskirts were paired up with long dresses and capes that wrapped the silhouette in mystery. 

Gabriele Moratti par Julian Hargreaves

NUMÉRO: Where did you get the idea of linking fashion and philanthropy?​
Bebe Moratti : To be honest, it was all a bit more complicated than that… The idea of founding my company was born in slightly particular circumstances, when I was coming back from the little town of L’Aquila, in central Italy, which had just been devastated by an earthquake. My friend Daniele Sirtori and I had gone there as volunteers to help the local population. I’d taken part in humanitarian missions before, for example in 2004 when I spent three months in Sri Lanka following the tsunami there. On our way back in the car from L’Aquila, Daniele, Vanni and I asked ourselves why there are no businesses that work directly with NGOs. Firms today do everything to maximize their profits without thinking about their impact on society. They sometimes give part of their profits to charity, principally because such donations are tax-deductible. So we started to imagine a company that would give half its profits to philanthropic causes and which would work in a more ethical way. We wanted to unite these two worlds which everything currently seems to separate. We started by producing collectors’ motorbikes, because we had a certain knowhow in that field. One of them was sold at auction for 600,000 euros, the money going to humanitarian causes. In our minds, the next step was to transform our company into a fashion and lifestyle brand.

 

Why did it seem like a natural evolution to you?​It was a bit of a crazy idea since we had no experience in the field, but fashion is a real vector for change, because the clothing industry is the world’s second-biggest employer – if the garment trade decided to adopt a more responsible attitude, its impact could be considerable. And also, of course, because fashion and its promotion have enormous influence, especially these days. So we decided to follow our instinct. I didn’t got to fashion school, but I was passionate about photography. I grew up in Milan in the 80s and 90s, at a time when photographers like Peter Lindbergh were shooting campaigns for luxury brands. Their photos were all over town. We decided to create a quality label because, our motorbikes being luxury items, it was logical that our clothes should be too. Above all we wanted to send a positive message and make pieces ethically and responsibly. We decided to show our clothes in Paris, which was even crazier, but the city and its public warmly welcomed us.

 

 

“Right from when I was very small my parents made sure I wasn’t only confined to our social class.” 

 

 

So today you give 50% of Redemption’s profits to NGOs?

Right from the start, before we even began making a profit, we decided to make donations without waiting. So we gave some of our products and certain motorbikes. Also, by auctioning some of our bikes, we were able to raise over e3 million. There’s just one thing I want to say: there’s a lot that’s wrong in this world, and I’m not one of those people who waits for politicians to sort out the problems. I’m a businessman, I’m someone who’s pragmatic. In Europe and the U.S., society is polarizing and the middle classes are disappearing. Western businesses have their products made in developing countries without offering them the means for them to develop in turn. I don’t think that’s right. Redemption chooses suppliers in France and Italy and our production is responsible in that we create jobs in our country and pay attention to the impact of our activities on the environment. And we give money to NGOs, some of which help developing countries. In recent history there are two moments that show the possibility of an economic system based on generosity. Roosevelt’s New Deal created America’s middle class as well as an economic boom that lasted from the 60s to the 90s. Then, at the end of World War II, America invested massively in Europe with the Marshall Plan. It was in their interest to develop our economy. I don’t understand why manufacturers have now decided to exploit other countries rather than investing in their development.

 

 

“When you’re confronted with such serious problems, you can react with indifference, with despondency or, on the contrary, you can decide to do something about it. And that’s what I do. When you don’t do things for yourself, but because you’re trying to make the world a better place, working is no more difficult than drinking a cup of coffee.”

 

Gabriele Moratti par Julian Hargreaves

Is this generosity part of your upbringing? I read somewhere that your parents founded a drug rehab centre in Italy.​

DRight from when I was very small my parents made sure I wasn’t only confined to our social class. They cofounded a rehab centre in 1978, the year I was born. It was there that I met the two people who would become my partners in the Redemption adventure. Daniele was the son of volunteers who came to work at the centre in 1980, and Vanni, who builds our motorbikes, came there as a patient. I went to school in Milan, and would come back to the centre at weekends and in the holidays, since that’s where my parents lived. They were very courageous to bring up a family in that context, especially with the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

 

Which NGOs do you support?​

We support various causes, our only criterion being that the NGOs in question must be effective. We’ll give to large organizations like amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and also to very small charities. In Bolivia, for example, children of women in prison are locked up with their mothers. They’re forced to grow up in jail with no chance of having a “normal” life. A woman launched a programme to take them to museums, to the park, and to show them that there was another world out there. In Kenya we’re supporting an orphanage that takes in children who are threatened with death because they are mentally ill: they’re killed because people believe they’ve been possessed by evil spirits. We also help animal-welfare and environmental causes.

 

Has this experience given you a different outlook on life?

When you’re confronted with such serious problems, you can react with indifference, with despondency or, on the contrary, you can decide to try to do something about it. And that’s what I do. When I went on my first humanitarian mission, people asked me why I was putting myself through such a punishing trial. I replied, “I’m 1.85 m, I weigh 90 kg, and I can pick up the equivalent of my own weight. I’m in perfect health. So I’ve every reason to go.” The rhythm of fashion, doing collection after collection with no respite, might be gruelling, but doing it so as to help others and inspire new business models gives me an incredible amount of energy. When you don’t do things for yourself, but because you’re trying to make the world a better place, working is no more difficult than drinking a cup of coffee.

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