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Culture

Milan in Focus: The Marcelo Burlon Guided Tour

14 June 2019

END. spends a day in Milan with Marcelo Burlon and County of Milan for an insiders guide of how best to spend a day in the Italian fashion capital

A global hub of art and design, Milan's reputation as a hot-spot of both contemporary and traditional culture is the stuff of travel legend. Located in northern Italy, Milan is home to some of the world's most influential art, architecture, and cuisine. A depth of history and culture that exists in perfect harmony with a booming financial-tech startup scene and hyper-influential fashion industry which places the city at a unique intersection between the old and the new - a duality which has been reaffirmed in the wake of the 2015 Expo festival.

2015 was also the year of inception for New Guard's Group: the quiet umbrella movement behind the most noteworthy brands and labels of a generation, including County of Milan, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, Palm Angels, and Heron Preston. Credited as the driving force behind streetwear's ongoing blur with the upper echelons of old-continent luxury, the New Guards' brands have become the last word in contemporary hype, making Milan the international epicentre for new-wave luxury and its associated culture and community.

Enter Marcelo Burlon: Founder and Creative Director of County of Milan; founding member of New Guards Group; international DJ and party promoter, Marcelo Burlon's journey since arriving in Italy with his mother and brother aged 14 (originally hailing from Patagonia, Argentina), has seen him rise from kingpin of club culture throughout the 90s and 00s to a must-see fixture at Milan Fashion Week. The embodiment of multi-hyphenate artistry - a new creative archetype which has become the benchmark of talent in the Italian fashion capital - Marcelo Burlon invited END. on a guided tour of his surrogate city; his home from home which has set the stage for his success and inspired the attitude and aesthetic of his label.

10.30am | Breakfast | Pasticceria Cucchi | 1 Corso Genova, 20123 Milano

Located on the corner of Corso Genova, Cucchi is a neighbourhood institution which offers Italian coffee, pastries, and fresh juices in the morning which flow seamlessly into beers and cocktails in the afternoons and evenings. Family owned - and looking almost exactly as it did when it first opened its doors in 1936 -  Cucchi is an enduring symbol of age-old tradition which manages to blend seamlessly with the urbanite metropolis which has grown up around it. Rickety trams hold up impatient queues of Mercs and BMWs - the tram wires standing out against the centuries-old buildings, like the capillaries of a city trying to move with the times without betraying the visionaries of the past. Commuters flock to newsstands that are wrapped in magazine covers from the 50s and 60s to purchase e-liquid for their vapes. I watch a teenager absentmindedly put out his cigarette on the plastic window of an old telephone booth, eyes glued to his smartphone so that he doesn't see the outrage on the face of the older woman walking by with her dog.

Wrapped in layers of Stone Island and Jun Takahashi's latest collection for Undercover, Marcelo arrives weaving in and out of the stagnant traffic on mopeds, joined by his fiancé and Art Director at County of Milan, Bratislav, and Marketing Manager, Filip. Marcelo wears Virgil's latest collaborative Presto with Nike, while Bratislav flexes in the vanilla and orange colourway of the not-yet-released Blazer.

Making our introductions, we order coffees and a simple breakfast of cheese, ham, and pastries while Marcelo runs us through the itinerary for the day. "We're going to take you to the Navigli canals," Marcelo tells us. "They were built by Leonardo Da Vinci so that they could ship the marble for the Duomo into the city. Milan used to be like Venice - there's a big focus on reopening the canals and clearing up those parts of the city, especially since the 2015 Expo."

While outdoor seating is limited in parts of Milan due to the narrow streets in many of the older neighbourhoods, Cucchi offers the chance to relax outside and enjoy some traditional Italian pastries while watching the city pass by. Particularly famed for their panettone and brioche, breakfast at Cucchi is an authentic old-meets-new experience, presenting the buzz of the city from a throwback, speakeasy-era vantage point.

11.30am | Record Shopping | Serendeepity | 100 Corso di Porta Ticinese, 20123 Milano

Hopping back on the mopeds - the easiest way to get from A to B - we make our way down to Marcelo's record store of choice for the past 15 years, Serendeepity on Corso di Porta Ticinese.

"I used to record my mixes for fashion shows in the studio in the basement," Marcelo tells us, absentmindedly flicking through a stack of records, pulling one out every so often to show us artwork or point out tracks of particular interest of personal importance. Housing an eclectic mix of vinyl, Serendeepity stocks a time-honoured gamut of tastes and styles, alongside a range of artwork, vintage clothing, and high-brow editorial magazines including System, 032c, Interview, and Fantastic Man.

"When I play I want it to be a journey. Music should be deep. You want to take people on a journey and give them a chance to escape and experience new energy." Marcelo tells us, explaining how he plans his DJ sets. All the time pulling out records to show us, each with an anecdote to go alongside.

As we browse, the owner of the store comes over to speak to Marcelo. Although they're talking in Italian, it's clear that the two are old friends. "I used to owe this guy so much money for records and when I finally had the money to start paying back he said he didn't need the money, he needed new lights for the store - so I bought the lights," Marcelo tells us.

It's obvious that Marcelo's connection to music and the party scene is inextricably linked to Serendeepity: a place to share in community and creativity during the formative years of his DJing career. The familiarity of the setting puts Marcelo at ease, and he starts to reminisce about his journey from arriving in Italy as a teenager to where he is today.

"I didn't know anyone when I moved to Italy. My family left everything in Argentina - our friends, family, successful businesses - and came here when I was 14 to start a new life. My whole family started working in a shoe factory and cleaning hotel rooms to make money. I couldn't go to college because my family didn't have the money so I had to work my way towards the things I wanted myself. I got involved with the club scene and then eventually they asked me to come and work with them and start planning and promoting parties. That was earning me enough money that I could quit the hotels and the shoe factory and then from there I went into PR for brands and that led to me realising that people wanted more than just the music and the parties: they wanted a brand they could buy into. So I started County of Milan."

I ask him if he thinks his experience as an outsider - an Argentinian landing in a provincial Italy in 1990, the same year that Argentina beat Italy to a place in the World Cup final - has influenced the inclusive ethos he champions at his parties and now with his brand. "Absolutely," he says. "It was tough for us to grow up like this. We left a comfortable life in Argentina and had to start again. All those experiences have made me who I am today."

Telling us the story of his self-made destiny - a journey from the humblest of beginnings to international reverance in an industry that is notoriously difficult to conquer - it feels symbolic that the lights above us, the ones shining on him now, are ones he put there himself.

1pm | Exploring | Galleria Patricia Armocida | 24 Via Filippo Argelati, 20143 Milano

Next we make our way across the canal to one of Marcelo's favourite galleries in the city. Off-the-beaten-track, Galleria Patricia Armocida is located on a back street of the Navigli neighbourhood and has developed a reputation for presenting some of the best emerging international artists to a Milanese audience.

On our visit, the gallery is presenting 'Holy Heavens', an exhibition by Aldo Sergio. The gallery is comprised of a sunlit space at street level and a basement space, where the absence of natural light and heavy, subterranean silence encourages a deeper connection with the art on display.

Aldo Sergio's exhibition plays on the dichotomy of iconography in the digital age, deconstructing images to produce pixelated iterations of symbols which are imprinted within the global psyche. Another potent display of Milan's old-meets-new state of mind, visitors are encouraged to first absorb the art with their own eyes and then are given the opportunity to view the pieces through an app which decodes the pixels and displays the original image in its entirety.

A commentary on our society's desire to elevate objects and brands to idol status, 'Holy Heavens' counterbalances the mundane with the sacrosanct.

2pm | Tattoo | Satatttvision | 3 Via Alessandro Tadino, 20124 Milano

Heading back across town, Marcelo brings us to his go-to tattoo studio in Milan: Satatttvision.

Bringing a unique vision to the influential Milanese tattoo and body modification scene, Satatttvision defies any single assignation, defining themselves as an art collective whose work straddles tattoo artistry, body modification, fashion, and design. Since opening their doors in 2016, Satatttvision has become a frequented haunt and hang out spot for key figures on the city's counterculture scene.

"There's always cool people to meet here," Marcelo tells us. "Even if you're not being tattooed, there are people on the street outside chilling and talking."

Marcelo introduces us to the owner, Yuri Sata, whose clients include Burlon and A$AP Bari, and the two sit on the stoop outside the store deep in conversation while we explore the interior. A totem of the culture which inspires the Satatttvision aesthetic and creative practise, the studio is decked out in pieces from Bearbrick by Medicom, Supreme, Obey, and Nike.

3pm | Lunch | Bar Luce | 2 Largo Isarco, 20139 Milano

Heading across town, we hit up Bar Luce for a late lunch. Designed by internationally-acclaimed filmmaker, Wes Anderson, the space mimics the atmosphere of a traditional Italian Café iterated in Anderson's iconic colour palette and obsessively-deliberate style.

Driven to transpose the essence of his films into real life, Anderson spent hours making the place appealing from every angle and ensuring the venue functioned as a real café he would like to spend time in.

Much more than a gimmick or novelty, the fare and service in Bar Luce was second to none. Specialising in gourmet sandwiches, the eponymous Panini Luce was grail-level sandwich artistry with salty prosciutto ham and oil-drenched fresh artichokes brought to life with creamy mozzarella and olive tapenade.

4pm | Exploring | Fondazione Prada | 2 Largo Isarco, 20139 Milano

After lunch, we head outside to take in Marcelo's favourite place in Milan: Fondazione Prada.

Co-chaired by Miuccia Prada herself, Fondazione Prada is an ever-evolving commentary on contemporary art and culture which opened its new permanent residence in Milan in 2015.

Designed as part of an ongoing collaboration between Prada and OMA architects, the firm restored and repurposed a seven-building distillery in Largo Isarco which had stood for more than 100 years. The Fondazione has continued to add new buildings, such that a trip to the self-contained art facility is as much about experiencing the architecture and spatial planning as it is about taking in the incumbent exhibits. The courtyard includes a 'haunted house' which has been entirely wrapped in 24-carat gold leaf to preserve its structure, a mirror clad cinema, and the newly opened white concrete tower which offers yet another element to the spatial diversity - furthering Prada's mission to break the mould and offer a multitude of settings in which to display contemporary art.

A palatial space, with vast expanses of concrete, steel, polycarbonate, and glass, Fondazione Prada is unlike anywhere I've ever experienced and offers enough diversity that an entire day could easily be spent within its buildings and courtyards, if not more. Housing art from famous names including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Laura Lima, and more, permanent works are housed alongside ephemeral exhibitions curated by Prada.

"I collaborate on parties here in the courtyard," Marcelo says. "I love this place."

There's not much else left to say - it's stunning.

8.30pm | Drinks | Bar Basso | 39 Via Plinio, 20020 Milano

After a quick pit-stop back at the hotel to get changed, we meet at Bar Basso for drinks. Frequently featured on lists of the best bars in Europe, Bar Basso is best known for its (albeit hotly contested) credit as the inventor of the Negroni. Where you land on their claim to that accolade aside, the Negronis are some of the best expressions of traditional cocktail-making to be found anywhere.

Another beacon of Italian tradition, we enjoy an evening engaging in the art of 'Aperitivo'. Italy's answer to the American happy hour, Aperitivo offers a chance to engage in pre-dinner (or often instead of dinner) drinks accompanied with a range of finger-food and bar snacks. At Bar Basso this included sun-dried tomato focaccia, nuts, garlic-stuffed olives, and smoked salmon mousse. Intelligently designed, these salty morsels combined with the unmatched quality of the cocktails inspires a thirst that encourages us onto a journey through the classics of Italian mixology.

A firm favourite and absolute stand out, the Negroni Sbagliato (translates as 'Negroni Mistake') was invented at Bar Basso in the 1970s, when a hapless bartender accidentally substituted the staple gin measure with prosecco for a lighter finish.

As the night goes on, we say our goodbyes to Marcelo and the County of Milan team - up early the next day to fly to New York for Hypefest and to shoot their latest NBA collaboration. Heads swimming with art, records, salty bar snacks, and too many Negronis, we make our way home. The endless streets of Milan, brimming with possibilities, stretching around us in every direction.

This article was produced as part of an ongoing 'In Focus' series: END.'s essential guided tour of the most prominent style and culture hotspots from around the world as seen by those who live and work there.

writerEuan Smart
|photographerAnt Tran
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