Design Dreamers

Nothing is impossible when it comes to the magical and imaginative
set designs of Kinmonth-Monfreda

If Milan can’t go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Milan. This resourceful and inspired thought process helped realize a train journey from Milan to Zermatt through the Swiss mountains curated by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda of Kinmonth-Monfreda, the design duo responsible for the large-scale installation that displayed Bally’s Autumn Winter 2019 collection during Milan Fashion Week.

The creative geniuses reconstructed a train track and six cosy carriages in Bally’s Porta Venezia showroom to provide the perfect environment for guests to explore the alpine-inspired collection. The duo, whose body of work includes everything from magazine spreads to retail store concepts and opera and ballet sets, mimicked the multi-sensory feeling of travel without actually going anywhere. According to Monfreda, it was an organic process that starts with your instincts guided by the merchandise – a relaxed weekend in the Swiss mountains in this case. Kinmonth added that “the process is an artistic journey” and describes it this way. “What we do is make the world of the imagination concrete. Not just a picture but a 3D, 4D even 5D (in this case referring to sound) experience to make it incredibly real. This is total immersion.” Case in point, a film displaying a view of a train traveling through a snowstorm in the mountains is looped on a screen positioned as a train window as hidden speakers created the sounds and vibrations of a moving train while smoke machines at the entrance of the installation gave a sense of blowing snow.

“We can work up to a year on a set that may be seen for 20 minutes
or 2 hours and hope it is remembered for the rest of -the viewers- life.
To do that you have to understand the space.”
Patrick Kinmonth

Realizing the project took six weeks with the Bally showroom turning into a construction site for six days leading up to the presentation. Installing real train tracks and granite from the Swiss mountains was no easy feat and according to Monfreda requires a “good producer who says yes and then you find the compromise to make it happen,” adding “Patrick taught me that our job is about finding solutions.” But for Kinmonth authenticity in creating an experience beyond the virtual justifies the lengths they go to. “You can take pictures of this and it will look like a motion picture film still photo but we want to also create an actual physical experience like you are sitting in an idealized train going to Zermatt.”

Two mountain peaks over 2 and ½ meters tall and over 2 meters in diameter greeted guests who arrived for the presentation during Milan Fashion Week; one standing upright displaying the hiking boot of the season and the other inverted from the ceiling almost touching the boot – perhaps in a notion of flipping the idea of Switzerland and the mountain lifestyle on its head, a nod to the collections contemporary spin on mountain lifestyle classics.

Having a love and understanding of architecture is also key to the duo’s work whose inspirations are as varied as 17th century England to today’s creative culture. “Antonio and I love architecture and have made both temporary and permanent buildings we hope live in the memory of the viewer” explains Kinmonth. “We can work up to a year on a set that may be seen for 20 minutes or 2 hours and hope it is remembered for the rest of their life. To do that you have to understand the space.” A few tricks of the trade also help. “We often use mirrors which makes it more fascinating. It doubles the space but also in this case looks like a tunnel a train goes through in the mountains.” revealed Monfreda. Working with what the existing space offers furthers inspiration. “The Dan Flavin-inspired light sculpture was already a part of the architecture here – it was in the studio – then we lowered it and put it behind the mountain range and added tubes in the colors of the collection.” Adding to the installation it also helped with a challenge of light. “We made a strength from a weakness” said Monfreda.”

“What doesn’t change is your instinct. I apply it to whatever is needed.”
Antonio Monfreda

The pair has been working together for the last 10 years and with the endless amount of ideas they would still like to realize, it will be at least ten more. No matter the project, the creative process according to Kinmonth is born out of the lengthy discussions he and Monfreda have while conversing on the phone between London and Rome respectively. “What sticks from those discussions usually makes it in.” Monfreda adds one thing is always consistent, “What doesn’t change is your instinct. I apply it to whatever is needed.” Monfreda says the one thing he couldn’t live without on a job is his phone – “It helps me see what the space will look like in photos and social media.” Kinmonth whose work has him multi-tasking several projects at a time has a living request, “Ideally it’s Antonio on every job. He is the consistent eyes on the project.”