I meet Alessandra Murgia at her apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn on a rainy winter day. The duplex is new and the rooms are sparsely decorated, less a reflection of her recent move from Portland than her dedication to minimalism. Dressed all in black save for an intricate rope and metal necklace of her own design, she tells me minimalism is about removing all that is unnecessary until you are left with just an essence. It's this same principle that guides her as an art director, design consultant, and the creator of her house label, Autoctona.
Autoctona is Italian for "native to a region by origin or autonomous immigration". This concept perfectly reflects Alessandra's life experience and the natural influence her environment has had on her work. Her greatest influence is that of her 3,000 year old hometown in Sardinia. Her relationship with objects, wearables, and esoterica grew from her traditional culture and her grandmother’s stories of magic and spirits. This relationship evolved as Alessandra studied, lived, and worked in the more modern cultures of London, Milan, and Amsterdam. Her relationship with minimalism began while studying fashion in Milan, refined in Holland amongst Scandinavian industrial design, and fully flourished after her move to the US where there is research and appreciation for simplistic approaches to design. Traveling through Asia, America, Australia, and Africa helped a deeper connection between culture, identity, and wearables take root. By the time Autoctona launched in 2011, Alessandra's aesthetic and vision were ripe for creation.
What emerged was a reinterpretation of the traditional amulet. Amulets are small objects worn to ward off evil, harm, or illness, or to bring good fortune. Autoctona translates folk symbols like trees, hands, eyes, shark teeth, and crosses into figurative graphics. The result is a mix of traditional elements within an timeless, minimalist aesthetic.
Alessandra experiments with other contradictions in her use of materials and techniques. Organic materials like wood and fabric co-exist alongside cold, sterile surfaces like marble and metal; recycled metals are transformed through the traditional craft of lost wax casting; and wooden pieces are hand sawn, drilled, and sanded. Sustainable practices are part of the process as well. The pieces are made on demand in Portland and LA to reduce waste and the wooden packaging is made from reclaimed sources. Alessandra's goal is to create timeless, wearable art that people will cherish for a lifetime. To that end, the pieces are designed for longevity and created with the intention for mixing, matching, and interaction over time.
Autoctona collections are not bound by the fashion industry's seasons, but rather evolve organically. They are available online or through custom work and wholesale. Alessandra's work shines through custom design (often for weddings) and collaborative projects. Most recently, she collaborated with one of my favorite NYC designers, Suzanne Rae, to explore contemporary femininity with "powerful pieces for the modern working woman". The new pieces will be available online in March and at retail outlets afterward.
I was first drawn in by the design aesthetic of Autoctona — I loved the look of the pieces and the thoughtfulness behind the materials. I'm still enamored by the aesthetic, but my devotion is now driven by Alessandra's story and her commitment to her past and our collective future.
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