RENATO BALESTRA FOR MNE MAGAZIN: I loved Montenegro from the first glance

Italian designer Renato Balestra will open the International fashion week in Kotor in front of the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon on Friday with the spectacle called ,,Opera & moda”. There will be 17 collections inspired by opera arias, with additional original costumes he had designed for opera scene. Sixty models, stunts and ballet dancers will wear about 200 designs that evening.

Balestra arrived to Montenegro the previous weekend and is situated at the hotel ,,Regent Porto Montenegro”.

In the interview for our web portal he speaks about Montenegro, life, optimism, strength and music.
Mister Balestra, how do you feel at the Regent Porto Montenegro hotel? How do you like it? How satisfied are you with the service?
– First of all, I am so happy to be back in Montenegro. It is a place I loved from the first glance. It is a beautiful place with beautiful landscape and beautiful people. They are very warm. Every time I come I am really happy. Last night I arrived very late because I was coming from Malta to Rome and I had a few hours to rest. Then I tried to take the plane that was very late. So I arrived almost at one o’clock in the night. I discovered this hotel which is very beautiful. It is a new hotel with a lot of light. I like light. My suite is facing the sea and I see the bay. It is a very nice hotel and people are very kind, very cooperative, and very nice. It is a good feeling being at this hotel.

What makes Kotor fashion week so special that you decided to give it your support from the very first day till now?

– It is very difficult thing to describe. Maybe it is mutual love. I love Kotor and people of Kotor love me. I have this feeling. I hope it is true. So, why not come to the place you love and help people, show them my work, and maybe show a certain type of fashion to young people. It is a combination of very good feeling of coming back to a country you love and meeting friends, feeling to show in this beautiful square in Kotor. I hope it is going to be a success.

For a jubilee, 20 years of Kotor fashion week, you had chosen ,,Opera & moda”. Since you were seven years old till you were 25 you studied music, you play the piano, love to sing. Do you still play the piano and what is your favourite aria?

– I love music so much, because music is a good companion in your life. I you want it or do not want it, if you are a player or not a player, music always pursues you in your life, from the first moment that your mother sung you lullabies to the end where you are more experimenting in music. To the moment where you find the love or discover a place. There is always some special music ringing in your ears. I had the chance to study piano and to be more and more in love with music, deeper in it and knowing it. I was willing to have the piano career, but my mother and father wanted badly for me to be an engineer. It is not like today that a guy or a girl says – No, I want to do this. At that time you were more submitted to your parents. So I studied engineering. Studying four or five hours to be at the concert, I did not have that time.  But when received the offer to design for operas was just going back to music, to my love. I know quite a few operas by memory, I can sing them from the first note to the last one. I loved this offer very much. My first one was ,,Cinderella”. I designed very few ,,Cinderellas” in my life, one for Belgrade, one for the Broadway, then another one for the theatre in Europe, so,,Cinderella” is there all my life. I also designed for the opera ,,Cavaliere della Rosa”. It is always a pleasure to do it.

The beginning of your career was incredible. It was a bet. You said it yourself – La moda ha scelta me (Fashion chose me).

– I said so, because when I started to do fashion, I did not ever think of it. I was studying piano, doing other things in life. It was just around the corner. I did not know anything about fashion, I never was thinking how somebody is dressed. It just happened that they offered me to be in fashion. I said – Let’s try, let’s see how it is. I remember the first moment that I was starting to design for a very famous high fashion house in Milano. I did not know anything. I was designing, but also bringing rolls of fabric around that fashion house. The owner would say to me – Why are you carrying this all the time? It is not your business to do it, you have to design. I said – Yes, but I love it. What’s the secret? I was going to the storage room, I said – Which type of fabric is this one, how is the name of the fabric. It was in order to gain the first knowledge of profession. Then I remember that after a few weeks maybe she started to doubt, because I did not know so much. She said – You came to me, but have you ever shown your sketches to somebody else? I said – No, never. After a few days she called me back. She said – You know, I remember you designing a long gown. Bring it back to me. I said – No, I am sorry, I do not have it with me anymore. Then she said – There was another one on the paper. Bring it to me. I said – I do not have it anymore. She said – What happened? You told me you did not see anybody in fashion, you never shown your sketches. I went, I saw my sketches and bought everything. From that time my quotation became very high.

Having all that in mind, that fashion chose you, what do you believe in – destiny, God?

– Life gives you many chances. If the train is passing, you have to jump on the train. If you wait a moment the train is already gone. You have to grab the occasion when it is arriving. If you have a certain ,,fire” inside, that is something you have to express, especially through culture and art, you have to go and do it. Many people are a little lazy maybe. I had a younger friend who came to me for an advice. I want to do this and that, he said. I had given him a few directions whom to talk to, where to go. After a year he said – I did not have it. They offered me this and that. I said to him – You lost a chance, it is your fault.

What inspires you in life and do you consider yourself a happy man?
– An emotion inspires me, something that gives an emotion and then becomes a creation. If I am a happy man, I cannot say it, because life is made of happiness and sadness. When you are in a low moment, you have to fight to go over it. I am a little bit like Oriental people. We are like an oak. But, the storm or a fire can destroy you. You have to be strong to go back to the positive moment. You have to remember especially the bad moments. It makes you optimistic and stronger. Optimism is a very important company in your life.

You say: ,,You are young as long as you have the strength to explore yourself and your possibilities.” In these years, what have you learned through exploring yourself and how do you see the world around you?

– I never think about the age, I still feel young. I do not want to think about how young I am.

You design for women. Where lays the beauty of a woman and where lays the beauty of fashion?

– Beauty is a harmony. You have beauty when everything in yourself is harmonious. It is like the symphony. If symphony has a fake note, it is a bad symphony and nobody likes it. If the symphony is harmonious and has no fake notes, then it is beautiful music. The same is in life. You have to find this harmony yourself by curing, with culture, wanting to know more in life and be more harmonious.

Bojana Radonjić
Photo: B. Šekularac