The hyperreal world is where Michela Natella spends her time, sifting between a colourful land that makes you question what is real and what is purely imagined. Having spent the last 10 years in set design, this area of practice is her most crafted and defined, stemming from a hugely creative background and hands-on approach.
“I’ve always been this creative and I love to work with my hands, whether it’s painting, sculpting or even sewing,” Michela tells It’s Nice That. After studying scenography at the Belle Arts Academy of Brera, she then landed her first job at Moschino working as a shop window assistant with Joann Tan. “I learnt how to research materials and I developed my crafting skills to create the props I’ve imagined. I’ve been working in this field for more than 10 years now, and I became an independent set designer about six years ago when I started to work on photo sets, creating scenarios for fashion shoots.”
With an impressive portfolio spanning from editorial work with Vogue US, Vice US, Purple Fashion Magazine, *Wallpaper, The New York Times Magazine, Ziet Magazine and Toilet Paper Magazine, Michela has powerfully made her mark in the realm of set creation. She has also collaborated with several brands in the fashion and design industry, creating sets for advertising campaigns, shop windows and fashion shows: Valentino, Gucci, Missoni, Adidas, Versace, Tod’s and Artemide and LaFayette to name a few.
We’re all familiar with Toilet Paper Magazine’s bold, vibrant and surrealist stance on visuals, whether it’s a foot for a hand image, a suited man relaxing on a sofa covered in spaghetti or the iconic chicken wing microphone interview session. Michela has worked with the magazine for the past five years where she has helped to define their unforgettable signature style. “I’ve been contributing since the very beginning and it’s been great working with the team to shape the image of the magazine,” she says. “My favourite shoot was a cover story for Le Monde — I thought it was fun to work with animals and irony.”
Inspired by what she sees around her, Michela has an inquisitive eye that enables her to envision the unobserved aspects of ordinary life. “I’m very curious and I always research and observe the world around me,” she explains. “I am constantly inspired by what surrounds me: nature, architecture and everyday life’s beauty.” Then when it comes to transferring her thoughts into a physical outcome, this is hugely reliant on the collaborative process that comes from working in a team. “On a new project I like to engage in conversations with the brand, the creative directors and the photographers to capture their mood and vision,” she says. “Once I have an idea in mind, I design the sets and I have my team research the objects and props. It’s a collaborative process and I love to go on set and improvise.”
“Art history also has an influence on my imagination, in particular I cherish Post-War European Art and Surrealism,” she continues. “Everyday on set is a new challenge. Sometimes it’s tough to find everything we need while shooting, as ideas tend to evolve very quickly on set, but working with a solid team helps to deal with all possible situations.”