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01.08.2020. Emporio Sirenuse
The path leading from the Greek settlers that founded Naples to the work of British creative Luke Edward Hall winds its way through Rome and Pompeii, through the rediscovery of ancient art, philosophy and literature in the early Renaissance, through the European Romantic fascination with sublime ruins and awe-inspiring volcanoes, through Picasso’s Minotaur and Cocteau’s Orpheus.
Bubbling under in all of Hall’s work, this debt to the signs, gestures and style of the Classical world surfaced most recently on eight pairs of Veja sneakers which he customised for Carla Sersale’s Emporio Sirenuse fashion brand.
It was during an Italian sojourn in 2015, when still in his mid-twenties, that Hall first visited Le Sirenuse, and fell in love with both the hotel and its spectacular town, coast and mountains backdrop. He has been a regular visitor ever since. In 2018, a conversation with Carla led to his first collaboration with Emporio Sirenuse: two Positano-inspired illustrations in the artist’s inimitable playful, romantic style, which were reproduced on the men’s shirts, swimming trunks and t-shirts of that year’s Spring Summer collection, as well as mugs, plates and postcards. That summer, he opened a pop-up shop in the foyer of Le Sirenuse with his friends at semaine.com.
Now, the collaboration has been revived in an exclusive, bespoke format. Veja is a French footwear company that puts sustainability, transparency, fair trade practices and social responsibility front and centre. In its 2020 Conscious Fashion Report, global fashion search platform Lyst named Veja as the “most wanted” sustainable sneaker brand on the site. Available at Emporio Sirenuse’s Positano store and online store, as one of the highly curated selection of “brands we love” that Carla stocks in addition to her own Le Sirenuse Positano line, Veja sneakers are already cult items. How much more so when hand-decorated by Luke Edward Hall?
One day in late July, Hall comandeereed a table on one of Le Sirenuse’s bar terraces, laid out his pens, and began to fill sheets of paper with ideas and sketches. When he had settled on two designs – an Ionic column motif for the men’s shoes and a conch shell for the women’s, the sneakers emerged from their boxes, and the artist set to work putting his own indivdual stamp on them.
Just four pairs of women’s sneakers and four men’s pairs were customised. They will go on sale on 4 August – see the Emporio Sirenuse website for sizes and prices. All proceeds from the initiative will be donated to Friends of Naples, a charity set up to protect the Campanian city’s unique artistic heritage and support restoration projects. Luke was upbeat about the collaboration: "'I loved working on this project", he told the Sirenuse Journal, "and the opportunity it gave me to continue my relationship with Carla, the Emporio and Le Sirenuse, a hotel that holds a very special place in my heart. The drawings on the sneakers were inspired by my surroundings - the hotel's architecture, its fern-filled rooms, the beach below and the glittering sea beyond".
The day after creating these footwear arpeggios, Luke Edward Hall made a return trip to Naples, a city which he considers to be "full of magic". For the artist, is was "an incredible opportunity to see inside several of the restoration projects that Friends of Naples are working on... I'm so happy to know that there are people out there working hard to protect it". Alas, one of the city’s great institutions, Caffè Gambrinus, had run out of the pistacchio-filled cornetti (sweet croissants) that he adores, but a different kind of sustenance made up for the disappointment. Hall stood for several minutes in silent contemplation of Carvaggio’s masterpiece The Seven Works of Mercy, which hangs inside the church of the charitable brotherhood Pio Monte della Misericordia.
It’s works such as these, as well as many of the city’s lesser-known artistic and architectural treasures, that Friends of Naples was founded to safeguard. So as well as making the wearer stand out from the crowd, Luke’s one-of-a-kind Vejas will help Naples assert itself as one of Italy’s most outstanding cultural draws.
Photos © Roberto Salomone