UNHOLY GROTTO

After years of black-and-white illustrations, Alfred Pietroni found his medium in 3D sculpture. His digital fashion collections now span dozens of looks that hark back to Y2K video game aesthetics while envisioning the future of dystopian fashion. Today, Alfred goes into his process and discusses Exile, his fashion brand in the making.

Could you introduce yourself to those who may not know your work?

My name is Alfred Pietroni, I am a freelance digital artist exploring the realms of dark fantasy, high fashion and horror. My work tends to focus on character and creature designs using the vehicle of a fashion runway to showcase my collections and vision. In the past few years I have been obsessed with digital 3D sculpting so a lot of my work and portfolio leans into that area – however I do also draw and digitally paint to build my universe. I make art that blends genres, juxtaposes themes and explores the puzzle inside my head.

You started with black-and-white illustrations and later shifted to horror-inspired digital fashion design/art. How did you find your signature aesthetic?

When I look back at my black and white illustrations I still see the same energy I am portraying now with my 3D digital pieces. I have always been interested in dark fantasy and its relationship with fashion, womenswear in particular. With my black and white pieces you can see my appreciation for the female form donned in avant-garde clothing, with a heavy focus on silhouette and balance of detail and block shadow. But, in my mind, when I look back at these, I was trying to grasp something I couldn’t quite reach. When I really started getting into using digital 3D it clicked that I could create anything I wanted and my desired aesthetic seemed like it was within reaching distance. However, I still feel like I am chasing a fantasy vision vortex that I can’t quite fall into. 

Do you deem your aesthetic more utopic or dystopic?

The world I have made through my digital fashion collections definitely leans towards dystopia. The rust, dirt and grit of the world is at the forefront with my art, as it is with our world, but there are beacons of light: neon colour splashes and lighter moments which represent the purity, creativity and hope that humanity has. 

What sources of inspiration do you use while creating?

Anything that I can stitch together in my mind, anything ugly and beautiful. I love texture and the story it can tell, rust in particular is both colourful and dull, decaying, tearing away the metal beneath, it reveals the layers inside. Rust as inspiration is a nod to the muddy textures of Silent Hill and Resident Evil that I coat my looks in. I like to think of my work as the deformed baby of H.R Giger – dressed in designer clothes, trying to solve the The Lament Configuration. It’s important to be able to find inspiration everywhere. I could be playing Dark Souls and see a hideous creature like The Rotten and wonder what that would look like as a couture dress, or as a pair of heels.

Tell us about your UNHOLY GROTTO line and how you approach designing digital collections.

Unholy Grotto is my latest digital collection. As I go through the process, the looks warp and shift like a rose that is constantly dying and being reborn. I have an overall colour palette and vision for the collection when I start, but when I go to design the individual looks I am not really sure what I want to create, it just grows. With UG Look 8 I knew I wanted to represent the decay of the world with a graphic statement, and I always want to balance beauty and horror. The words ‘Poison world’ sprawled across a flowing luminous dress with a feathered collar, pump-action shotgun in one hand, a plush Exile bunny and chained torture demon in the other hand. A flash of short red cropped hair and large black sunglasses. To repeat myself – I wasn’t sure what I wanted but this is what came out of my vision. My approach is fairly freeing but I am incredibly particular as well. If something doesn’t feel right, it bugs me like an itch in my brain. To be honest I design with a constant state of disappointment that I can do better and I can create more interesting looks. I think I am still chasing something with Unholy Grotto.

It’s possible to purchase T-shirts with your authentic print on your website. Would you consider venturing and applying your aesthetic to an actual clothing line?

I am working on Exile, my clothing brand which goes hand in hand with my artwork. It is currently leaning towards the merch side of fashion, however I want to keep pushing this and see if I can venture into more of a clothing line. It’s a slow process as it is dependent on my following growing and this opening up more opportunities for me. I would also like to transition more towards the side of costume/creature design and work with films, however that may just be a dream.

Digital fashion claims to solve overconsumption and overproduction. What are your thoughts on the future of fashion consumerism?

Fashion consumerism isn’t something I am going to pretend to be an expert on. I purely don’t know enough about the logistical and economical factors that would be needed to solve this issue, but it’s clear that we are creating a world of trash, piling up endless bags of waste. Obviously digital fashion is helping as people can still create their visions and their concepts with zero products used, however the tangibility of a fashion show in the flesh will always trump the digital frontier. Maybe fast fashion is to blame, maybe the media conglomerates of the world are making us think we need to constantly consume. 

Last question: What would a utopian society look like for you?

You know that bit at the end of Return of the Jedi where everyone is celebrating with the Ewoks, fireworks are going off and that great victory celebration song is playing. However in this utopia the empire decided to become good and all the stormtroopers are with them dancing too and millions of people didn’t have to die. I guess if I was there, chilling with C-3PO and the gang, that would be pretty utopian.

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Bio

Alfred Pietroni lives in South East London where he studied Illustration and Visual Media at Camberwell College of Arts and London College of Communication. His practice focuses on digital 3D design and digital painting.

Character, fashion and creature design are all central to the work he produces. His art is an ode to the low-res graphics of Playstation and N64 that he grew up with in the 90’s and 00’s; a time when game developers were limited with textures and polygons so they had a more expressionistic and artistic mindset that championed creativity. He strives to emulate and draw from this time-capsule moment, with a real focus on capturing the feelings and atmosphere within his concepts.

The themes he explores are fantasy, horror, sci-fi, mystery and fashion. He melts all these themes together in his digital runway fashion shows which he started working on at the beginning of 2022, encapsulating 20-30 looks per collection. He aims to keep pushing these shows further as a vehicle for thematic discourse, self expression and a step to the future. 

His major creative influences are all staring at him right now. He is sitting at his desk surrounded by HR Giger books, piles of 2000AD, Vogue and White Dwarf magazines. Figures from Silent Hill, Alien, Resident Evil and Spawn look menacingly towards him as he works at his computer, building his world.

Credits

Artwork /Alfred Pietroni @alfred.pietroni

https://alfredpietroni.co.uk/

Interview / Kateřina Hynková

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