While your average Milanese clubber might still wake up from a big night in too-tight crocodile loafers and a padded jacket, photographer, promoter and all-round party guy Piotr Niepsuj couldn't be further from the Italian stereotype. This isn't the Milan you thought you knew, gone are the flaming trays of over-priced vodka and in their place is smooth R&B and all night parties at dive clubs that feel more like your parents' basement. Listening to everything from Mario to Bobby Valentino to Future Brown, Piotr and his mates dance all night in sportswear and (probably) sleep all day (probably in the same sportswear) and avoid FOMO-inducing social media like the plague. Sleek, euro-fashion is firmly out and a pair of bashed up Air Max and a ripped T- shirt is the new uniform. To celebrate Nike Air Max day we tapped up Polish-born Piotr to learn more about how he's spearheading a new casual scene emerging from the darkest corners of the city.
"On Valentines day me and my flat-mate Lorenzo started doing this R&B party called Girls Love Beyonce" explains Piotr, "it's in this crappy bar, it's small, sweaty and there are so many people that you can't do anything except dance and climb on the sofas. It's way too dark to take pictures, alcohol is cheap and people smoke inside. That's basically my recipe for a good night." Nightlife in Milan has struggled over the past few years thanks to a combination of played-out, over-booked DJ's and new rules about sound levels and security – "these kill the party", shrugs Piotr. But away from the bureaucracy and red tape there are a growing number of people determined to eke out a space where they can dance all night and fall asleep on the floor without worrying about expensive drinks or outdated door policies. It feels less glossy West End, more Elephant and Castle or, dare I say it, New York when it was actually fun. "You'll catch me wearing a cap, camera, plain tee, 501s and sneakers at any occasion" says Piotr, adding "I don't own any shoes that aren't sneakers. I had an AM1 x APC pair that I wore everyday for a year – to work, to the club, anywhere and they would never get dirty. I don't know how it worked but they were a dream."
For the king of new Italian casual, capturing the unfolding scene in a similar way is obviously important. "All the photos I've taken have happened for real, it's documentation or reportage. Clubs are big part of my life so I have tons of snaps of people having fun, though most of them rarely go public – you know, what happens in Vegas doesn't go on Facebook." As far as what's in the picture, Piotr's infinitely more inspired by Milan's secret nightlife than anything he might engineer in a studio, "I gave up shooting fashion stories because it became too much of a hustle – stylists, make-up artists, models, photo-retouch, all the politics. I just want to shoot and keep it exciting – I want it to be less polished, more rough and real. I don't scout, I just go out and meet people and photograph my friends. I wouldn't put anything online without them agreeing and in return they pose or try and look a certain way when I'm taking a picture. It's an unwritten deal."
Lo-key fashion plays an important role for Milan's new R&B casual clubbers but it's the music which sets the tone once you're squashed up on the dance floor. For Piotr, it doesn't get better than Lorenzo Senni and his label Presto?! Records. Simone Trabuchi and Simone Bertuzzi also get a mention for their project Invernomuto and Bertuzzi's parties in Turin (called Bunker Sonidero if you're planning a visit). Also worth checking out are Turbojazz and CT-HI records who make "soulful warm sounding joints" and Pigro On Sofa who Piotr calls as straight up "fire", thanks to this expanding scene of independent, progressive Italian artists Milan's clubs are set to become "more diverse and more vivid" than ever.
What I gather from talking to Piotr is that at the crux of it him and his friends are basically clubbing purists, "I don't want to see people taking selfies in the middle of the dancefloor and then constantly checking the likes and flashing their iPhone screens in my face, I don't want to move because people want to go out for a smoke every 5 minutes and I definitely don't want to see my messed-up face tagged the day after on any social network." For Milan's new casuals, clubbing eschews pretention in favour of spilling drinks on the floor and forgetting everything just in time for the next morning. "When I go into the club I don't want to think about anything else," add Piotr. Sounds pretty ideal.
Read more in this series:
Photographer - Alex de Mora
Creative Director and Stylist - Kylie Griffiths
Assistants - Ellie, Sian, and Thomas
Production Assistant - Tabitha Martin
Hair - Johnnie/Morocaan Oil
Hair Stylist Assistant - Kumiko
Make Up- Lucy Wearing/MAC Cosmetics
Make Up Assistants - Lydia Harding and Celia Evans.
Models - Farida M, Federica, Samantha