Designing Economic Cultures

Designing economic cultures

Designing Economic Cultures is a three year long research project that Brave New Alps have been carrying on since January 2011 investigating the relationship between socio-economic precarity and the production of socially and politically engaged design projects.

The main question they are trying to answer is: how can designers, who through their work want to question and challenge the prevalent economic system with its organisational forms and problematic consequences, gain a satisfying degree of social and economic security without having to submit themselves to the commercial pressures of the market?

I was one of the persons involved for the interviews and here’s the result.

This conversation was held in Zoe’s kitchen in Milan in February 2012.

Bianca Elzenbaumer: Considering all the creative activist groups you have initiated and been part of, we are wondering what path brought you to be so thoroughly engaged with precarity. Could you trace your path for us?

Zoe Romano: At the beginning I was studying philosophy, because at the age of nineteen, I did not know what I wanted to do in life. I only knew that I wanted to work little and earn the most money out of this little work. I used to work when I was in high school and had realised that working was pretty tough, sucking a lot of your energy. Therefore, my aim was to go to university in order to get a highly-paid job that would allow me to work just part-time. (laughs) That way I hoped to have time for developing my personal ideas and for all the other things I wanted to do in life. So I studied moral philosophy here in Milan, because my parents would not pay for my studies abroad, insisting that here I could get all I needed. And I accepted their position, knowing from all my older friends who were working and studying at the same time, that by needing to sustain myself away from home it would take me a very long time to finish university. So I concentrated on my studies, hoping to finish them in a reasonable time. Studying philosophy was good though, because it was teaching me how to think. It was like a psychological treatment for me. Discovering all those philosophers who were thinking about the meaning of mankind and asking these big questions, taught me that the important thing is to ask questions more than to find answers. For me, it was a good training to understand the situation we are living in and to find the right perspective to solve problems.

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Passion And Fashion: The Highly Qualified For Work


It has been almost three years since the publication of Produttori di Stile, the notebook reporting the results of a research financed by Provincia di Milano about working practices and flexibility in a number of fashion houses in Milan. At the time we witnessed the presentation  during which authors and promoters, among the other things, underlined how 8 out of 10 contracts, in all the major business companies of such field/section/area, were atypical (cocopro, interns, fake VAT number recordings etc); this not as a response to production peaks, but as basic structural resource, as a far from being atypical strategy/procedure of human resources management.

Continua su Digicult in italiano/ Continue on Digicult in english

Download PDF   Passionate Work: Labor Condition in italian fashion sector 

Scarica PDF Lavoro che passione: le condizioni di lavoro nella moda in Italia

Read the final paper on the Journal of Cultural Research:

This article analyses labour conditions among creative workers in the Milan fashion industry. Employing both qualitative and quantitative methods, the article shows how workers in the Milan fashion industry are generally underpaid and overworked. Despite such dire conditions, fashion work is generally considered gratifying and workers express high levels of satisfaction. The second part of the article attempts to unravel this paradox, departing from McRobbie’s conception of passionate work. It suggests that the promotion of creativity as a desired form of life in the contemporary metropolis has shaped new forms of identity related to symbolic remuneration for work.

Brand around the clock

A clock for identity designers
A clock for identity designers

(EN)  A research project chronicling all the brands, logos, identities and symbols – all 1,035 – that designer Tanner Woodford interacted with, each hour throughout one day.


(IT) Il progetto di ricerca del designer Tanner Woodford ci mostra tutti i brand, logo, simboli e identità –  in tutto 1035 – con cui ha interagito in ogni ora di un giorno.