How would you describe yourself – who is Olimpia Zagnoli?
I am a person located in Milan, Italy. I work as an illustrator for different kind of clients, from editorial ones (magazine, newspapers...) to fashion. When I have the time I like to concentrate on personal projects that sometimes see the light outside of my studio (exhibitions or books).
What does being an illustrator mean to you?
It’s an interesting way to observe the world and pay your own rent.
Your dad is a photographer, your mom is a painter. How does it feel to live in a creative family? How much did they impact on who you are today?
The more I observe it from a distance, the more I consider my upbringing very precious but also very normal at the same time. I was lucky to know from a very young age that different kind of careers were possible, that every little thing could be a piece of art if looked from a certain angle, but my everyday life was very similar to the ones of my friends. Breakfast, homework, park.
Why do you do what you do? If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
I’d love to repair old Vespas or Product Design.
Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
Creativity is in all of us, it just needs to be recognized as such and cultivated. My mechanic is very creative, but I’m sure he doesn’t know it.
You have an online shop “Clodomiro” which you opened with your father. How did the idea come together? How does the feeling work with your dad?
We thought it would be fun to dedicate some free time to our passion for design. My dad picked the theme, which is eroticism and we began sketching thinking of possible ways to approach the theme through objects. After that we met with artisans and small factories to see which form would best convey our ideas. The shop is more of a place where we collect these observations and dialogues. You can check it out and have a laugh or buy one of our beautiful pillows.
We love your latest collaboration with Barilla, not only the illustration but also the story behind it. Could you give us more detail about the project?
I’ve been commissioned an illustration by Barilla two years ago and I took it as an opportunity to express my point of view on a very unfortunate statement that was given years before by Guido Barilla against LGBTQ families.
I’ve talked about it in this interview for It’s Nice That if you want to know more.
Could you please tell us more about your publication “Una Storia Americana” which you did the illustration with Emiliano Ponzi. How was collaborating with another illustrator on a project?
The book came out as a catalogue of the exhibition “Una Storia Americana” at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York curated by Melania Gazzotti. On one side of the book there is a selection of Emiliano’s illustrations that he did for American clients, on the other side there are mine. As a souvenir, we also drew each other’s portraits next to our bios.
We also fall in love with the capsule collection you did for Marella and the illustration series you did for Prada. So, what interests you most about fashion and how did it start?
I like fashion because it changes very fast and it takes inspiration from music, art and culture. On the other hand I don’t like fashion because it’s too fast and steals from music, art and culture. So it’s a mixed feeling the one I have towards fashion. The aspect i’ve found more interesting about my collaborations so far is being able to separate from my illustrations and see them taking life outside of my studio and interact with real people.
You lived in New York for a while then went back to Milan. If you compare the art scene in those cities, what is the difference between them?
I like the spirit of both cities. One is pure electricity, a silver delirium that takes you high in a few seconds and send you a midnight mouse the second after. The other one is a olive green room with one painting in the middle and a pasticcino on a plate.
Do you think the cities you are living/lived in affect the way you illustrate?
Yes, Milan has given me a lot in terms of inspiration, mentors, cultural background. New York has given me the strenght to believe in myself and show my work to the world.
Where are your favorite spots in Milan? Food, coffee, shops, etc.
I like to eat at Brutto Anatroccolo for lunch, read books at Verso, 121+ or Spazio B**K, enjoy the art and architecture of Casa Boschi di Stefano and Villa Necchi, buy nice clothes at Wait and See.
Could you give us three fun facts about yourself?
I suck my thumb, I was born on February 29th, I don’t like brussels sprouts.
Finally, is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
Yes! Which was my favorite Spice Girl. And the answer is Scary Spice ✌🏻