According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term ‘baroque’ is derived from the French transliteration of the Portuguese phrase "pérola barroca", which means "irregular pearl." These are the pearls found in nature. They have not been cultured, ie artificially grown to satisfy the demands of the pearl market via the means of implanting an axis of rotation to create a perfectly symmetrical shape. They are born free to shape themselves as they please. For those interested in the rapid increase of zeros at the end of their pay cheques and other such criminal activities, these irregularities are seen as defects. Non-identical = No good for mass production.  Useless. For the more sensitive ones out there however, such imperfections are welcomed and observed with great fascination, as each small detail helps to build a unique form in nature like no other. One such “imperfect” pearl is hat designer Ilaria Soncini.

Ilaria first appeared before my eyes in the mists of Berghain. A living work of art, all draped in black, the head graced by great big ring of fire, but instead of flames, something that looked like black horse hair, floated by. I’ve seen my fair share of oddities on the dancefloor before, but this was different. The illusion was so strong, the image worn so well, that it was hard not to look and admire the theatre of the absurd which had just spontaneously erupted before me. My initial concern about her comfort and ability to dance quickly became replaced by endless gratitude for the spectacle. Through the performance of her body, she channelled raw fantasy, supplying the eyes with an incredible dose of aesthetic pleasure. There was even the possibility of time-travel. For an instant I felt transported into a forgotten era, a twisted kind of palace, where Lady Baroque and Monsieur Surrealiste are sipping fancy cocktails at the marble bar.

With her net over my eyes, I was curious to know who  this creation is and what kind of theatre of the absurd her daily life could be. The celebration of the marvelous hangs heavy in the air as you enter her work/live space in Neukölln. The walls are dressed, like dolls, in intricately layered fabrics, harmonic sounds of classical music infuse the rose-tinted room - a welcome change to ears usually marinated in techno. Elegantly placed lamps provide the perfect hue for intimate encounters. The seduction is instant.

Creating beauty for llaria, it seems, is more than just work, it is a way of life which she embraces from top to toe, with the the highest discipline. If only such dedication was contagious, the world would be a better place.  Yet for her, beauty is not about perfection. That would look rather boring in her eccentric universe of things. Instead,  there are buttons and nets, and nests, and pieces of hair, curtains and  feathers, and creatures, sewn, stuck or pleated and platted together, on top, or through each other. The possibilities are endless. Each of her creations, made with what looks like a film strip of hours that you could probably roll into a feature length production, stand tall and proud, acquisitions from a battle fought long and hard in the search of visionary fulfillment.

Apart from the her visually magnetic outer shell, Ilaria infects with her enthusiasm.  Oozing with joie de vivre, she speaks about her passion for creation, which sometimes, she admits, can get a little out of control. Like when she spends more than 10 hours at the studio where she currently works, as the assistant to haute couture milliner Fiona Bennet, forgetting to eat and talk all day, and then comes home with the need to create more. The addiction is admirable.  Already at 26, Ilaria knows what she wants. Bouncing between hopes and fears, she speaks with the heart of a true pirate, who she claims to have been in her past life, constantly thirsty for conquering new lands. Her next target is Paris to work for the temple of Hat makers, the Maison Michelle Chanel. For most this can only be a dream, yet something tells me for Ilaria this can be a not so distant reality.

To go deeper into IlariaLand, have a look here or here.

Text + Photography: Anastasia Loginova

Hello    Contact    Impressum    Links     


NAN GOLDIN - Berlin Work 1984 - 2009

CORY ARCANGEL - Here Comes Everybody

STEPHEN SHORE - Uncommon Places


Graham Caldwell