DAY 1 of 2 / Chapter 5 of 7 – Italy
Milan 5,6 km
16:00 – Scissors and human relations – 25, Via Gabriele D’Annunzio
Art, mind, hands, dexterity, skill. We’re in the domain of Francesco Cirignotta, artisan. He’s a barber and professional image consultant. “I have many years of experience in doing this work, and in the social transformations that are possible via the only natural attire we have: our hair and facial hair”.
Studious and curious about psychology, sociology, human communications and the creation of personal image, this man will change the world of artisanship. Actually, he already has.
The place in which he conducts his art he calls his retreat. “In my world, a retreat is a place where you canenjoy the pleasure of dedicating space and time to a haircut, a shave, or grooming your beard.”
Silence, space, time, comfort, soft music and drinks: this is a place where you can truly refocus and rebalance your inner self.
Elegant, simple, sophisticated and minimalist at the same time, the retreat has a space where guests can relax with a book, taken from one of the many hidden shelves and drawers, or pour themselves a glass of whiskey.
The cherry on the cake is the wonderful assistant who serves guests with utter charm and respect.
There is also a luxurious shower, where all supplies are provided, and a bath where guests can enjoy pogotomia – that is, the art of shaving alone using high quality tools and products.
When Francesco speaks, he’s spellbinding. “The retreat is a place for human and social relations. My objective is to turn a need into a pleasure.
I only see one client at a time and I ensure that for as long as they are in my retreat, they’re having a nice day.
I pay attention to giving attention. If we want to save artisanship in Italy, the artisans themselves need to understand that giving a service means giving a person attention”.
“I cut hair, groom breads and shave using both modern and ‘antique’ scissors, which cost anywhere between 40 and 1,500 euros. Every pair of scissors has its own serial number, weight, blades, and history”.
Once upon a time, tools were made to last. Now – in the name of profits – almost everything is made with a pre-programmed obsolescence. It’s a real scandal.
“The secret to success in any job, although particularly in artisan professions, is training. Every weekend of the year I run training courses at companies and universities. It hasn’t been easy to get where I am, but I managed it.”
This is one of the things that strikes us most about Francesco. This is how the world of artisans has started to change.
“Running training courses is a way for me to break patterns in anindustry that is all about marketing, where no attention is given to the sociological side of things.
It’s the human being that makes the difference, not the brand – or even the product.
Gestures, dexterity, and professionalism are more important than the product itself, which is why they need to be at the heart of the job you are doing. It’s also why knowledge, culture and training are fundamental. It’s the only way that artisans can rediscover the joy of creating.”
“In 1601 there was a register listing all of the arts and trades. And there was a wonderful sentence, which is of fundamental importance and which I love deeply: Fine arts should be well executed.
In order for real artisanship to survive and flourish, it’s crucial for us to return to the origins of communication, the human side of things – like it used to be – utilising technology where it is needed, not for the sake of it. It’s humans that must triumph, not technology.”
“The job of a barber has been the same since antiquity. Attend to the hygiene of hair, hands, and feet.
They are three of the body’s extremities and they have massive importance. You use your head to think and make decisions, your feet to stand and move, and your hands to touch and change the things around you.
In the past, the barber was also an alternative to a doctor. In fact, the barber was both a surgeon and dentist, and in 1635 it was necessary for would-be barbers to obtain a perfect knowledge of human anatomy before they could qualify. Today, human anatomy is still a key subject in professional barber schools. Having scientific knowledge of what hair is and how human physiology works is critical if you want to be able to grow professionally and strive for textbook skills in the job.”
“My job has a strong sociological importance. It touches on everything and has social benefits – it should be recognised as such”.
“Hair frames the face of humanity” – Francesco Cirignotta.