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5preview's Bold T-Shirts

"Fashion is a stupid obsession. Everyone would feel a lot better without it."

Emeli is from Sweden but moved to Italy 10 years ago to study industrial design in Florence. Then she moved onto fashion design in Milan, graphic design studies in Stockholm, and finally moved back to Rome to work as a print designer for a big Italian brand. Diego grew up in Argentina, but, being Italian, moved back to his home country to study architecture, then opted for fashion studies at Central St Martins and did some architecture-related work in Berlin. A year ago they met and decided to start their own brand, 5preview. Little did they know that their tailored white T-shirts with black homemade bold and eye-catching upside down symbols, logos and monuments would have been so successful. (The pair do not reveal their surnames.)

Dazed Digital: What inspired you to start 5preview?
Emeli: I was working on my column for an Italian teenage magazine and I did a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ piece on how to print T-shirts with stencils. We did a T-shirt turning the classical Chanel logo upside down, took a picture of us wearing it and put it on MySpace with no intentions whatsoever. In the next days we got so many requests from all over the world of people who wanted to buy that shirt that we decided to organise ourselves. Friends helped us with different things – screen printing, distribution, parties, media contacts and so on – and we started producing in the Abruzzo region, in the east of Italy.

DD: What’s the story behind the “CC” T-shirts?
E: We live in Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, number 221, so it’s nothing original at all, but it works. Camillo Benso was one of the first Italian democratic politicians, that’s where the two Cs come from. We’re inspired by fonts in general, black and white, simplicity, old political posters, Russian constructivism, shapes, logos, and really loud rock’n’roll music.

DD: Has the infamous inverted “CC” logo caused you any copyright problems with Chanel?
E: No, Madame Chanel once said that “Imitation is the highest form of flattery”, so I guess she won’t mind our T-shirts!

DD: So far, the reaction to your T-shirts has been very positive, what do you think caused it?
E: This is a hard question and we thought about it a lot. There are already similar things on the market - Katharine Hamnett and Henry Holland’s shirts for example - so we reckon it’s because the T-shirts are handmade, they’re high quality and come in a limited edition.

DD: How do you feel when you see photographs of people from all over the world or bands such as The Teenagers wearing your designs?
E: It’s a strange feeling, but it’s fun. A while back I got a message from a friend in France that said he saw one of our T-shirts on French TV5 the night before. I thought that wasn’t possible because we had sold just 5 shirts, but then I found the show on YouTube and realised it was François from French duo Jonas & François who had wore one of our designs. In the TV show he was sitting next to the guys from Justice, for whom Jonas & François directed the famous T-shirt video ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ I ended up watching that YouTube clip over and over again.

DD: What’s the main aim of your blog?
E: The blog is the virtual space where you can follow our project. We’re quite active and keep it updated a lot. We also publish everything magazines or blogs write about us and pictures that people send portraying them wearing our shirts. It feels a bit like a community…or a 5preview-sect!

DD: Which is your best selling design and is there a country from where you get lots of orders?
E: In the beginning, it was the “Cavour” one, but also the “Paris” and “Michele” – with Mickey Mouse hiding behind a balaclava – are rather popular. We get a lot of orders from the UK and Greece.

DD: In Italy, 5preview is a sort of underground legend, is that because of the “Via Cavour” design or because of the Coliseum T-shirts?
E: Neither reason. Many people do not even know that we’re based in Italy. No one actually realises that there aren’t many new “designers” from here and that the fashion scene in general is really conservative. Yet there are interesting things going on in Rome and there is also a new scene of young designers, so we’re planning to do an event all together for the next AltaRoma, the Rome fashion week. We think that if you really want to change things you must do something.

DD: What does fashion mean for you?
E: It’s a stupid obsession. Everybody would feel a lot better and comfortable with themselves without it. You can’t just think about fashion all the time or you become crazy. Everywhere you go it’s just trends, clothes, magazines, advertisements and money. I don’t even call myself a fashion designer, but an illustrator and we prefer thinking we’re working on a concept as the “designing” part is really small.

DD: What are you working on at present?
E: We finished the “Second Collection” (S/S 2009). We’re adding to our collection bags, tank tops, college sweaters and a huge hoodie. We already presented it at Stockholm Fashion Week and this week it will be presented at London’s Fanny And The Caves Showroom.