Bebe Moratti Talks Redemption Summer Rock Festival
For everyone missing a good music festival, luxury brand Redemption is hosting its own on IGTV
Summer. Sun. Music. Festival! This time of the year is usually filled with carefree fun, love, and unity at outdoor music events. But with the c-word still raging in many parts of the world and canceling event culture, sustainable glam rock luxury brand Redemption is doing the next best thing and hosting its very own Summer Rock Festival on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 CET throughout the month of August on IGTV. The lineup includes sets by Jessica Andrea, Mixed Up Everything, Mint Green, Natasha Hunt Lee, Troi Irons, Sophie Lloyd, Tonina, Monica Valli, and more.
Over and above its founding principle of donating 50% of profits to charity, Redemption has been donating 100% of all net online sales during the coronavirus crisis to Meals on Wheels America and Best Buddies in the US and ActionAid in Italy. The Impression’s Dao Tran caught up with its founder, Bebe Moratti, to talk the social impact of rock & roll on reform movements, the unique thing about concerts and music’s unifying power, fashion’s potential to shift the culture, and Re|set the Future, a banker’s disruptive business model to sustainability and equitability.
Dao Tran:Hi. The last time we saw each other was in Paris, after the Night at the Opera show, which was fabulous!
Bebe Moratti: Thank you.
Dao Tran:So, tell me about the Redemption Summer Rock Festival!
Bebe Moratti: It’s a personal wish of mine because I’m a very big music fan and music nerd. Usually, the summer is the season to go to every rock concert and music festival possible, so I am really missing it. Secondly, Redemption has this really strong rock DNA. And the third part, which I think is very important and especially time relevant: One of the reasons why I love rock & roll and music, in general, is because through the decades, it really did help shape those movements that actually brought reform and change. And I believe in that side of rock & roll that stands for rebellion, because without rebellion, you can’t effect the change that is very much needed in society. When rebellion is channeled properly and done properly, it can be very very positive. And rock & roll played a major role in that. And I think that fashion can also play a very similar role because we reach a very vast number of people. We’re the second-largest employer in the world, so there’s much that we can do.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, rock & roll is not as solid as it was up until the 90s because it’s more pop than rock and it has less of a voice. That’s probably why you see less activism right now than in the past.
Dao Tran:Do you think that shifted to another genre or group of musicians?
Bebe Moratti: I think that shift is a little due to the fact that music became a business. When they realized that casting was less expensive and more commercial than scouting, they started putting musicians under contract, musicians stopped writing their own songs and just have someone else writing for them. And they can’t speak up as much as they did in the past. Whereas Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, that generation, they came up through the ranks, they had their message, they had their voice. They were of the people, for the people, and when they spoke, the people listened. Now, we have artists that are more presented to you and packaged and they are not really allowed to speak too much; otherwise, they alienate part of the audience.
Dao Tran:Did you select the artists that you did for their message?
Bebe Moratti: It’s young artists so they’re not tainted by the music industry yet. They still have their voice, their platform, and their art. They write their own music. We really tried to look for people who were themselves rather than part of a cookie-cutter, formulaic version of an artist. Maybe one day they can draw a million people at the National Mall and have a speech about change and they will galvanize a whole generation. I don’t know. Hopefully.
We wanted to make sure that it was very inclusive, but at the same time, we didn’t want to play tokenism and just check the boxes. The whole idea is to provide a platform as wide as possible and make sure that it’s open. It’s the first time that we’re doing this, it’s the first time that a fashion brand is doing a music festival on IGTV. At the end of the day, it’s about the music. But, hopefully, this is the beginning of something that grows.
Dao Tran:So you would take it beyond August, you would take it beyond this summer?
Bebe Moratti: Well, it’s been a challenge to organize, so probably next summer. That’s the idea, but if someone were to jump in, we can always prolong it for September and October. The format is very easy and the technology is provided to us, so to keep going beyond our final Thursday, it would be a dream if someone else wants to jump on board… But hopefully next summer this thing becomes even bigger because there’s one other thing that I really love about music: When you go to a concert, it’s pretty much the only place on earth where fifty to seventy thousand people all sing in unison to one song, regardless of their gender, race, political affiliation or sexual preference, they’re there for one thing, they have one shared, common love. There is no separation. There is no division. If we can sometimes, even for those 3 hours in a concert, put aside our differences and realize that in the end, we all love the same things…
Deep down, in essence, we’re all in pursuit of happiness. We’re all sharing the same planet, we’re supposed to be sharing the same resources. We all want the same things. We want health for ourselves, we want health for our children, we want the ability for ourselves and our children to be happy. If we realize that we’re all here on the same planet and we all love the same thing, then we can work together. That’s where the barriers come down. That’s where you destroy division.
– Bebe Moratti, Creative Director Redemption
That’s where you don’t judge the person next to you for the color of their skin or their political affiliation or their gender or their sexual preferences. We’re all really one. People aren’t looking around and judging other people at a concert, we all look in one direction and that direction is forward, and we’re all singing the same song.
If we’re able to do that through music and if music and artists can actually serve as a call to action for change and galvanize all of us into doing something positive together… And if fashion can jump on board and do the same thing, because it communicates to a vast number of people and because it employs a vast number of people, if it changes its policies a little bit, it can really effect a lot of change. What we’re doing right now, it’s a drop of water in the ocean, we’re a very small brand, the artists that we included are young emerging artists, but you’ve got to start somewhere. This is our platform; this is the message that we want to give. We’re going to start here.
Dao Tran:That’s why I wanted to talk to you – because I want to understand your Re|set the Future initiative: How do you engage in sustainable practices, pay fair wages, and give 50% to charity? Everybody would love to understand that business model, right?
Bebe Moratti: Well, it’s really not complicated. It’s 50% of the profits, so if we turn a profit, the shareholders pocket half of that. If it were 50% of revenues, it would be much more complicated.
Dao Tran:Right, I get that. But instead of 50%, they could be getting 100%.
Bebe Moratti: Well, yeah, but it’s a matter of readjusting your expectations. It’s really feasible. It’s just readjusting your expectations and how much you want to pocket, as opposed to how much you want to reinvest in a future that is implicitly more equitable for everybody, which I think is the premise of sustainability.
I really don’t like the term sustainability. For many reasons. First of all, because we’re in business, so we leave a footprint. The idea is to lessen the impact of our business. The second one is that many companies believe sustainability to be a goal that you can reach. Sustainability is a frame of mind. It’s an ambition. It’s a process where every single day, every decision that you make, you try to make it for the betterment of society and the planet.
It’s a long path, and you’re not going to reach a goal. When you think you’ve reached the goal, keep climbing. The third aspect is that sustainable clothes don’t have to look like a sack of potatoes, which is, unfortunately, people’s image of it.
Dao Tran:It’s changing a little bit.
Bebe Moratti: It’s changing a little bit, but when you look at a glam company like us, that’s not the first thing you would think. We aim to show you that if one of the glammest companies out there can be one of the most sustainable, then it means that everybody can do it. You don’t have to sacrifice your aesthetic to be sustainable.
The fourth reason, which is the most important, is that many times it’s only thought of as it pertains to the environment. Sustainability is also social. What we’re going through right now is the result of many of the policies that we implemented in Europe and the United States the past 30 years, which have completely depleted the middle class and revoked the possibility of upward mobility that was the definition of the American dream. Even if you were born poor, you could make it rich. Now, odds are, if you’re born poor, you’re stuck.
And the whole idea that we were sold that globalization would bring prosperity throughout the world – it actually proved to serve only a small number of people that exploited people in developing countries. That is the thing that I am completely against. That’s what the system needs to change. And it’s very very doable. Just take one person as an example, the owner of Zara: He has a net worth upwards of 60 billion. He’s not exploiting people in developing countries because that’s the only viable business model. No. He’s doing it to enrich himself beyond what he could possibly even spend in 50 lifetimes. That’s a model that doesn’t work. But that’s the accepted business model.
Jeff Bezos made 13 billion since the beginning of COVID19. We all know what’s happening in his warehouses. How is a business model sustainable that keeps thousands in warehouses with no air conditioning, making less than the minimum wage, with no bathroom breaks while one man, in a matter of three months, augments his personal net worth by 13 billion? How is that going to be sustainable down the line from a sociological point of view? How is it not going to have major repercussions on the society that we live in? All these people, if they made half of what they made, it’s still a lot of money.
Redemption wants to be very strong in its message because we want to be disruptive. We want to set an example and be a trailblazer. Our end goal is that major companies – not only in the fashion and garment industries, but in most industries – decide to change their policies. And when they go to developing countries, it’s not to exploit and squeeze every single cent of margin out that is possible, but it’s also to bring prosperity. That would create a more equitable ecosystem throughout the whole world. Those countries will not only provide you with the labor, but they could also become your customers. That’s a more sustainable business, which is what the United States created with Europe after WWII. We became satellite economies and it enriched us both. Then we stopped doing it. But it’s doable. It’s just a matter of wanting to do it.
Dao Tran:As far as being a disruptor, do you think it has to do with coming in sideways? You don’t come from fashion; can you speak to your background?
Bebe Moratti: My background is banking. So there you have it. I was in the eye of the storm; I left banking in December 2008. I was in one of the most virtuous banks so I can’t complain about the things we were doing, but I saw what the system was doing and I saw that it wasn’t sustainable. In 2009, when I was coming back from an aid mission in a part of Italy that was stricken by an earthquake, I decided to found a company that had a different business model, that would donate to charities, collaborate with charities, and be more mindful of a more equitable world, rather than make as much as I can as quickly as I can.
I’m not a socialist, ok. And I’m not politically motivated in way. I’m a pragmatist. I see how this system works. Implicitly I’m a capitalist, because I think that capitalism from the end of WWII up until the 90s provided one of the greatest moments of pharmacological, technological, and sociological advancements in the history of mankind. Then we injected it with massive doses of steroids, and that’s when it stopped working for everybody. When you do it right, it can work. When you do it how we’re doing it right now, which is that companies don’t have the 5-year plan anymore, they have quarterly numbers, it means every few months, they have to make as much as they can as fast as they can. That’s a model that doesn’t work for everyone. That’s a problem that I have with the general consensus business model. That’s why Redemption wants to be a disruptor. Redemption wants to look 5 years, 10 years, 50 years down the line and make sure that we reverse this process that started in the mid 90s and we set an example for others to follow and we create a more equitable future. I think that my background helped me to understand the positives, but also the flaws of the system and how I could change those.
So, the company initially made choppers; that’s now called Redemption Choppers since Redemption became the fashion company. The choppers are handmade. We donate them to charity. One was auctioned for 600,000 €, which could be a world record. We started merchandizing around the choppers, we made a few t-shirts. But we do motorcycles that are not used as modes of transportation, they are usually in living rooms next to a Calder or a Basquiat, they are considered art. We live in Italy, which is known for its artisanry and savoir faire. Made in Italy is still a big seal of approval, so I wanted to do the same thing with the clothes, make it high end. We did a small capsule collection presented in Paris when we started and the company grew from there.
So I am an outsider. I bring to the industry my passions; I don’t follow the trends. We don’t do rock & roll because rock & roll chic is trendy right now; I don’t even know if it is. We do it because that’s our passion. I love cinema, I love photography, and I’m a huge music nerd. Those are my references. They can vary season by season depending on the interpretation that I give to them, but the codes are not going to change. I love what I do so much, and I love my world of reference so much, and I love the DNA of what we’re doing so much, that I’m happy there’s a market for it.
Dao Tran:It has a very strong brand DNA and can exist kind of timelessly. You’re not doing all the trends like everybody else is.
Bebe Moratti: I really love you for saying that because that’s what we’re trying to do. Timelessness is not only what I love personally from an aesthetic point of view, but I also think that implicitly it goes back to the idea of sustainability. If I follow the 2020 summer trends, odds are that those clothes will have a very short shelf life and will be obsolete 6 months from now. If I do something that has a timelessness, then they can be worn next year and ten years from now. That’s why we focus on style rather than fashion.
Dao Tran:So, some of the talents will be wearing Redemption for the festival. Do you think musicians are particularly attracted to the brand because of the rock & roll aesthetic and attitude?
Bebe Moratti: I think yes, and that’s probably a reason why we’ve been very lucky with celebrity endorsements.
Many celebrities have worn Redemption. I think it resonates with an attitude. I have difficulty with the word rock & roll style because rock & roll has many styles. Punk is not metal, metal is not grunge, grunge is not hippie, and folk is not jazz or blues, or opera, which you saw is also a great inspiration of mine. There is no rock & roll style, there is a rock & roll attitude. It’s how secure they are in their beliefs and what they can do with their art and the solace they can bring to people and the change that they can bring to society. That’s what I think is the sexiest quality of a human being ever. It’s the attitude that really changes the world.
Dao Tran:Do you play music, too?
Bebe Moratti: We’re going to be part of the lineup. I play in a band.
Dao Tran:Woo! Awesome!
Bebe Moratti: We’ve been playing together for 5 years now and we wrote all the songs of the video campaigns that we do; we play regularly. But we’re not in the lineup because we’re still trying to come up with a name. The reason why we’re going to close it is not that we think we’re the most important, it’s just to buy us some time.
I think we were really lucky with Redemption. Me and my other founding partner, we just had an epiphany, we didn’t think about it, we were just like, oh, ok, it’s going to be Redemption. We didn’t have a moment of doubt about it. Also my dog’s name, Midnight. I think it’s a beautiful name. I was so lucky with those two names.
Dao Tran:Midnight is good.
Bebe Moratti: Yeah, but she’s very shy. She’s like me, she doesn’t want her name to be out in the public.
Dao Tran:You hosted yoga sessions during lockdown. Is that also something that is central to your practice?
Bebe Moratti: Unfortunately, I had to stop doing yoga 5 years ago after two surgeries. But I was an avid yoga practitioner before that. That comes from the fact that we launched Redemption Athletix, which is a 100% certified and sustainable athletic brand. I don’t call it athleisure because it’s truly a performance brand, it’s made to do sports. It follows the same fashion culture as Redemption. We use the same prints so there is an interchangeability with Redemption. Since we launched Redemption Athletix, we wanted to give back to our customers and our audience, provide them with some aid during the moments of the lockdown and yoga was the right place to start.
I think sports are very very important and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to launch Redemption Athletix. I think they play a major role in shaping our society, as music does. So with Redemption Athletix, we have very big dreams and projects to use sports, not only to provide people with solace, but also with a tool to better themselves and to better their lives. But like with the beginning of the music festival, it’s only the beginning of something we want to grow.
Dao Tran:So, would the music festival be physical next year, like at a place?
Bebe Moratti: It could be. That would be my greatest dream!
Dao Tran:Where would that be?
Bebe Moratti: Italy’s a beautiful country. I would love to bring people here. I’m very sad that they canceled the Florence Rock Festival, which I’ve been attending the last 5 years, it had an amazing lineup and it’s a beautiful city. There are so many locations here. Europe is so beautiful. The world is so beautiful. Anywhere you go in nature and listen to good music is great, as long as we are respectful of Mother Nature. So if we could do it physically, down the line, that would be amazing.
Dao Tran:So, you had big ideas during lockdown.
Bebe Moratti: I can’t really pause. I need to be constantly engaged. If I really believe in something, then I’ll try to do it. That’s the way I always approach things. I was coming from doing almost 5 collections a year, which is something I sincerely hope we’re going to stop doing because it’s really unnecessary.
Dao Tran:Would you take advantage of the opportunity to do the reset, too, and go back to more realistic schedule and programming?
Bebe Moratti: Absolutely. I don’t think that model was sustainable.
Dao Tran:Are you going to be in Paris in September?
Bebe Moratti: We’re going to present the next collection in Milan, actually. But then we’re aiming for January and July, and to present only one collection with men’s and women’s together. I think the model of doing so much product was already not working pre-covid. The department stores in the United States didn’t go bankrupt because of covid, they already had problems before. The whole idea of product product product and then putting it on sale after 4 weeks on the floor was ridiculous. It wasn’t serving anyone. It wasn’t serving the brands. It wasn’t serving the retailers. It wasn’t serving the planet.
Not to be nostalgic, but I think we should go back to the model that worked and created this industry, which is based on creativity and not product. Two collections a year. Strong products that don’t go on sale, because you also have to be respectful of the creative process, the people involved in making the clothes, the value, and the cost on the planet that these clothes have. I’m glad we’re not the only ones to reset this whole calendar and this whole agenda because it wasn’t working.
Dao Tran:Everybody talks about the environmental reset, but actually, in effect, to service our safety and hygiene concerns, we’re producing a lot more waste at the moment.
Bebe Moratti: I sincerely hope that that’s temporary. That we’re going to find a vaccine or cure for the virus. But I am more concerned with the long-term, structural, unsustainable practices of pretty much every major industry. There’s so much to be done. We have to reverse the culture of having to make a lot super quickly. You have to change your mindset and look into everything you can do to be a better company today than you were yesterday. We’re breathing microplastics, we’re swimming in them, we’re eating them. We all know what’s happening with climate change. And in society, the same thing.
It’s all about simply changing that time perspective. Ten years from now, what world do I want? Do I want a world where there’s 10 people that own half the wealth of the world’s population and we have to look for another planet to inhabit? Or do I want to live on a planet where financial resources are a little more shared, where I know that companies have done whatever they could to minimize their footprint on the environment? That’s the choice. There is no middle ground.
Dao Tran:I hope the industry will be inspired to reset the future along with Redemption.
Bebe Moratti: That’s our hope. That’s why we work hard. It’s really what motivates us. To provide a different vision and a different business model.
Dao Tran:Thank you so much for your engagement and your time! I look forward to the Music Festival and the show.
Bebe Moratti: You have a wonderful summer and we’ll see you in September. Be safe.