Cristiano Launches Fake in New York CityMUSICIAN, PHOTOGRAPHER, ART PUBLISHER AND CULTURAL ENTREPRENEUR, WITH RESTAURANTS IN LITTLE ITALY AND A VERY SPECIAL LAUNDRY IN MILAN IN HIS PROFESSIONAL PAST: BOCCONI ALUM CRISTIANO FELEPPA TALKS ABOUT HIMSELF UNDER THE BACKDROP OF THE BIG APPLE FROZEN BY COVID, WHERE HIS LATEST PROJECT WAS BORN
"In New York, businesses are slowly reopening, but the crisis is palpable: rents remain very high and compared to Italy the social safety net is weaker; those who cannot make ends meet, end up on the street. I live in the East Village and have never seen as so many people living on the street like in this period." Thus, under the background of an empty and troubled city, Cristiano Feleppa, a Bocconi alumnus who's lived in New York for eight years, is giving life to his latest project, which starts precisely from the concept of absence.
"I have always wanted to work on an editorial project that had an original approach, and also paid attention to the creativity of the physical object produced," explains Cristiano. Thus, Fake was born, a publishing house focusing on a fusion of music, photography, poetry and design (it's distributed in the US by Printed Matter, the most important independent book distributor in North America). Fake now represents the main activity for the alumnus. In reality, the absence described by the first volume/record published by Feleppa is what the city was experiencing a few months before Covid: “Entire neighborhoods were emptying due to gentrification and the effects of the suppression of the rights of minorities, because the city was becoming more and more expensive and pushing the weaker sections of the population further away from Manhattan. But the absence I speak of is above all metaphysical: in a society characterized by overexposure, tech fever and self-obsession, it is an emergency exit that needs to be taken, in order to overcome the limits of meaning and evolve towards new forms. An inspiration that comes to me from the immense Carmelo Bene with his 'presence-absence'". An absence, a lack thereof, which Cristiano saw growing in NYC well before the pandemic, but which after the viral outbreak has taken on an even deeper meaning. "In the spring, we were supposed to do a world tour to present the project, which would have also touched Milan and Japan. We just managed to do the the first event in Amsterdam," says Feleppa.
Fake is just the latest of Cristiano's many artistic projects. Since his university days, he has cultivated a parallel artistic career as a musician, DJ and creator of cultural events. After a Bocconi degree in Business Administration in 2008 and a Master in Communication and Marketing focusing on innovation in advertising, he is one of those people for whom office life is too constraining. His inspiration is multifaceted: among other initiatives, he opened Laundry, an art gallery inside a (working) laundromat in Milan: “A space that was open almost twenty-four hours a day and promoted local artists; it also hostd a music market and a vintage space," he recalls. At the same time, he began a career in advertising, but he soon felt it wasn't his thing: “Although I was working on the accounts of important clients, I found it to be a boring job. I have always sought a creative and innovative approach (in the ad industry, I was a follower of the English approach to creativity, which was already making millions of views on YouTube, when in Italy the existence of social networks had been registered for companies)".
Then, the decision to leave for NYC at the end of 2012. "There, however, I quickly ran out of money and I didn't have a visa." For his sustenance he first works as a dishwasher and as assistant cook in the kitchens of restaurants in Little Italy ("A neighborhood which is one of the most welcoming in New York"). And here, among other things, his training in business administration comes handy: "I realized that these restaurants had the turnover of small firms – they netted $3-4 million a year – but had a ridiculous business organization. So I set out to modernize and innovate their management and eventually earned the trust of an entrepreneur who owned six of them. I did it for four yours, and these restaurants saw their revenues grow by 50%." This move, in addition to providing him with a dear friend, has given him a patron: "So, thanks to his financial help, the publicity I had had in Italy with Laundry and thanks also to the records I had published, I managed to obtain a two-year working visa for artistic merits".
At that time, while still working in the restaurant business, Cristiano began to collaborate with local web radios, with his own program on The Lot Radio, and increasingly pursues then artistic career path. Things get complicated when the visa expires and he cannot get it renewed because of Trump's tightening of immigration rules. However, Cristiano does not give in to despair and instead reacts by founding the Immigrant Radio project in the basement of one of the restaurants that had given him a living (he now owns shares in some of them that allow him to get by), where, relying on a association of immigration lawyers, gives voice to the many ethnic groups and cultures that share his precarious condition.
In the end, the situation becomes unstuck with the arrival of a Green Card, because in the meantime Cristiano has married his partner Erin Parsons, today Global Make-Up artist for Maybelline New York and web star of the cosmetics industry: “And also getting the green card was far from easy," explains the alumnus," precisely because of the recent tightening in regulations."
Cristiano Feleppa's artistic and creative path is now in full swing. However, if today he is what he is, he feels that it is partly due to the University: "Bocconi taught me the meaning of commitment. I learned it in the financial mathematics course taught by Lorenzo Peccati. If I hadn't committed myself to learning a subject that was so far from my aptitudes, I wouldn't have learned an important lesson: cultivating constancy. It taught me a lot about me."
by Andrea Celauro
Translated by Alex Foti