In Conversation with Olga Strada, Director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Moscow

Olga Strada is a film producer and director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Moscow – a nonprofit organization of the Italian Government, run by the Foreign Ministry. Each year, she organizes a tremendous number of Italian exhibitions, conferences, festivals and cultural events in Russia.
Olga is a daughter of one of the leading experts on Russian literature, Slavic elders Italian professor Vittorio Strada. Winner of the Prize Andrei Sakharov (1982) and DS Likhachev (2008), he was also a director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Moscow in 1992-1996.


Where do you get your inspiration from for your new projects?

Actually, it can be very different: sometimes I get inspired after reading an article on the current issue, or it can be a meeting with some outstanding people, or just an interesting book. Occasionally, just walking and seeing something that catches your attention (like a combination of words in an advertising poster, extraneous conversation, curious situation) – all of this can lead to the creation of a new project.

Could you tell us about your new plans, what to expect from you in the near future?

March and April will be very busy this year, as we have a lot of different activities planned. Soon, the central cinema “October” will open the 8th Festival “From Venice to Moscow”, which will be screening Italian films from the last Venice Film Festival. Many directors and actors will arrive in Moscow, including Francesco Carozzini, son of Franka Sozzani, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. From April 4th to 9th, the 20th  Anniversary NICE Film Festival of New Italian Cinema will take place. One of the well-known guests will be the actress and director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.
Also, in Multimedia Art Museum (MAMM), will be held the festival “Fashion and Style in Photography”, opened by the exhibition “Priceless evidence”. This famous exhibition was created by remarkable Roman photo artist Elisabetta Catalano, whose photos capture the life of Roman society and Bohemia of the 1970s and 1980s. One of the main spring events in Moscow, is the presentation called “The Nostalgia of the Infinite”, dedicated to a great Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. It will be held in the State Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val from April 19th to July 23rd and it has already been identified as one of the 10 most important exhibitions of the year in Russia.

Why do you think the Russian audience will be interested in watching a movie about Franka Sozzani? What effect this woman had on the fashion industry in Italy and all over the world?

Franka Sozzani had a unique personality. Fragile but strong, for 25 years she had been the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. Very educated, curious, from the outset she decided to “set the tone” of this edition, update it. Her intuition helped her attract new photographers, such as Peter Lindbergh, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel. She was looking for a new approach to talk about fashion and speak fashion itself. I even read somewhere that while she was still a student at the university, she wanted to write her diploma thesis on Russian literature.
I think that the Russian audience will be interested to know about this woman through an interview with not only well-known fashion industry representatives, like Donatella Versace, Azzedine Alaia, Bruce Weber, but also other people.

How does fashion affect the development of culture in Russia and Italy? What is the noticeable difference?

It’s hard to say about its effect in these countries. It is clear to me, that the approach to fashion is very different. First of all, in Italy fashion is a very important industry, which is not based solely on the talent of a designer, but also on the management approach. The purpose of every collection of a brand is to be sold. Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to handicrafts. These are usually small businesses, specializing in the development of accessories and decorative details, that often work for certain brands, but at same time, they create unique models. Now there is a trend to look for “unique”, rather than mass, even for luxury.
In Russia, I have impression that the public still wants to identify themselves with a certain brand and, literally, watches fashion.

What role does fashion play for you personally?

Of course, I’m interested in fashion as a phenomenon, but I try to stick to the words of Coco Chanel that “Fashion passes, style remains”. Over time, I have created my own style. I like to mix old and new things, I very rarely get rid of old stuff, as it can always come in handy. I place my bets on accessories. I even created for myself the definition of style: “Style is not flashy, it is rather remembered”.

Why is it important to maintain and develop cultural values ​​of today’s youth?

In my opinion, it is necessary to proceed from the fact that when it comes to cultural and eternal values, which are transmitted from generation to generation, knowledge process enriches us. Values ​​can be material or not, and the task of each carrier is to transmit them to new generations. Each new art is affected by the art of previous times. Knowledge about your local and world art expands the world view and results in harmony and beauty. I believe that our modern society needs it.

Whom would you like to work with and why?

I would like to continue my activity in the exhibition industry and to work with such major museums, as the MOMA in New York, or with people who would be able to teach me something new, such as Bernard Blistene, director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I would also like to get to know completely unfamiliar world for me –  the world of rock stars.

What is your regular working day like?

I wake up very early, at 7 am. Breakfast is my favourite meal and I dedicate it quite some time. In Moscow, the rhythm of life is very dynamic and hard. You leave in the morning at 10 am and come back at midnight! During this time, there is work in the office, workshops, evening events, and, of course, gym at least twice a week!

If you had more spare time, what would you like to do more often?

I would like to travel more. I love to visit new places, learn about new ways of life and culture, which certainly takes time.

What are your favourite places in Moscow and what would you recommend to visit?

My preference is a Georgian cuisine, and one of my favourites is the restaurant “Sahli” in the Greater Karetny alley. In the summer, I really like “Elardzhi” on Gagarinsky lane. When nostalgia for mozzarella awakens, I go to “Syrovarnya” restaurant, they have fresh and really delicious mozzarella there. I love to eat fish at the restaurant “Rico”, on Ruzheyny alley, where the atmosphere is almost like home, and you can have wine and the freshest fish.

What do you miss the most about Italy {while in Russia}?

The variety of vegetables that we have in Italy and also the sun during the winter months. Sometimes, I miss the small scale of the city, as even in cities like Rome or Milan, there is an opportunity to stroll along the cozy streets or the city centre. In Moscow, it is not easy, given the large scale of the city.