It is with great excitement that we are publishing this conversation with Joanna Ferrone. She was born and raised in New York, and now resides in Miami, where we had the opportunity to visit her and speak about the pop culture icon she co-created. Joanna is one half of the creative mind behind the development and creation of the character Fido Dido, whom we collaborated with for our capsule collection.
We have always felt a close connection to Fido Dido. Artistically speaking, there was a strong attraction to Fido’s graphic contours and their ability to adapt to many things. For us, Fido Dido always held a certain degree of street credit due to his carefree, easygoing attitude and for his representation of universality. After 30 years since the birth of Fido Dido, Joanna Ferrone continues to provide him with new and exciting experiences. We are beyond grateful and delighted to present this new collaboration.
You grew up In New York, can you explain what it was like to be a teenager there?
I was born in NYC but my family soon moved to Long Island, a much quieter place; dirt roads, woods, a little beach. At age four I could wander off by myself and walk several miles away from home; such an innocent time back then. Anyway, I harkened back to the big city as soon as I was of age and spent most of my adult life enjoying the vicissitudes of pavement.
Can you tell us about your background and what you and Sue were doing before creating Fido Dido?
I aspired to be a writer but graduated from college at a time when women applying for jobs in publishing were given typing tests. Being a lousy typist, I needed to taper my aspirations; got into the stock photo business by a fluke; got out on Fido’s coattails. Sue went to school for art, was and still is an amazing illustrator. We met when we were in our twenties. She art directed at large ad firms in the city. I loved her style; kind of urban cowgirl meets Yohji and Rei.
You might have told the story thousand of times, but can you tell us how Fido was born and where it comes from?
Manhattan may still be “the place to be” but in the 80’s, wow, it was going off. Keith Haring was Jonesying up the subway stations, Basquiat, Warhol, House of Fields, Club Area, Paradise Garage, the Mud Club; talk about cool. Sue and I shared a philosophy and an aesthetic and I was intensely compelled to get “it” out there. Admittedly, Sue thought this (I) was kind of crazy; nonetheless about a year into my browbeating she doodled a caricature on a bevnap of a friend who worked at a bar we were having drinks at after work. I snatched it up and within 24 hours named it Fido.
What was explicitly special about that period, and how did it feel to be a part of it?
There was yet to be AIDS. Trannies, artists, lesbians, club kids, hipsters not only owned the night, they shared it. You wanted to talk to a friend, you needed a quarter or a landline and a voice...or you went out; at night, of course.
I am curious to know more about your work collaboration with Sue, what were both of your specific roles in the creation and development of Fido?
Hmmm, Sue’s creative talents are pretty much limitless and I am blessed with knowing how to escape the proverbial box and do some of my best thinking outside of it. So Sue drawing, clever mots and design; me character personification, the name, the Credo, marketing, business (cause no one else could or would do it) and also design.
You told us how you (slyly) introduced the character to the costume designer Pat Field. What was the reaction and feedback you had after that?
Pat Field’s boutique on 8th st. off of Fifth avenue was where fashion people sent their spies to find out what the following years trends were going to look like. Pat personified the 80’s renaissance I referred to earlier; total blend of art, fashion and culture. She was and is the Gertrude Stein of our times.
Fido is turning 30 years old this year, how do you feel about that?
Well it kind of dates me and Sue, but we are pragmatists; no sense fighting the inevitable. It is really nice to look at Fido today and note that he hasn’t changed a bit. He still looks visually fresh to me, people young and old seem yet to respond in a positive way and Fido gives positive back. I’m proud of him.
People pronounce Fido Dido in many different ways. Is there one correct pronunciation, or do you enjoy the different variations?
It would be so not like Fido to correct anyone’s pronunciation of his name. The variations are dynamic; love them.
You mentioned the importance of the Fido credo: Fido is for Fido. Fido is against no one. Fido is youth. Fido has no age. Fido sees everything. Fido is innocent. Fido judges nothing. Fido is powerful. Fido comes from the past. Fido is the future. If you could add something new to the Fido credo today, what would it be?
You know the truth is, I wouldn’t mess with it. I realize it’s simplistic but I think that’s why it works. In the context of current times it sure would be nice to have a world in which more people were ‘against no one’. I say, ‘down with againstness’ but I think that’s already in there.
You travelled the world because of Fido - it seems that Japan was a big influence for you. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience over there?
Japanese fashion design has always made me drool. So much of what I see today, Rei Kawakubo was doing several decades ago. She elevated fashion to an art, she is the first one in my experience to construct architectural clothing. I would think her approach was influenced by her culture, large, homogeneous population, cohabiting on a teensy little island, of necessity deferring to one another, behaving with a collective sensibility. Even Sushi is neat and arranged symmetrically, with beautifully expressive angles and contour and color. The homeless people on their perfectly rectangular cardboard mats in the vast underground pedestrian walkways in Shinjuku were as neatly arrayed as the tract houses in Levitown. Their belongings were all neatly folded, they knelt and prayed, they brushed their teeth. They were so dignified; It was so moving. I could go on and on, the crazy kids in Harajuku with their Hello Kitty handbags and chartreuse hai; the X intersection in Shibuya where twelve abreast and twenty deep streams of Japanese humans crisscrossed seamlessly when the light turned green (and only when it turned green!). I love Tokyo, I love the Japanese and I have forgotten what the question was.
Could you elaborate on Fido’s relationship to fashion?
As to Fido, fashion has always been part of the story. Afterall, his first appearance in life was on Tee shirts; that said the more interesting fashion to which Sue and I have aspired for the past thirty years has eluded us until today. We have had glimpses of it but really have had to compromise in deference to more traditional licensing opportunities and the need to pay the rent. So we are extremely grateful that you guys came along; you have no idea what a gift you’ve given us; you are our Black + White Knights.
It seems that the idea behind Fido is that the character is open to endless possibilities. Is there something you would still like to develop with Fido?
Yes, we have a concept for a really nice TV series; would love to do a feature film. I’ve written some stories it would be fun to see in print. And, without question, we would love to see our collaboration open up opportunities for future iterations of Fido Fashion.
You mentioned your interest in poetry. What is it that drove you to write?
This is the toughest question you’ve asked. There’s stuff inside of you and it needs to get out. My stuff tends to end up in words on paper; always has. Plus my Third grade teacher told me I had a talent and I chose to take that bit of affirmation and run with it.
You now live in Miami, can you tell us about your favorite things about the city?
The dolphins, both the ones that frolic in the waters of my backyard and the one’s that never make it to the NFL playoffs. It’s warm here; I don’t have to carry a thirty five pound dog through snow covered city streets strewn with rock salt that burns her paws. I can kayak in January and ride my bike to the movies or dinner or an outdoor concert at The New World Symphony. I love the energy, the entrepreneurial spirit, the room to grow.
What do you think about the new development with the Art scene in Miami?
Umm, the art scene is fledgling to put it kindly. Architecture great; Perez Museum gorgeous; Perez Museum collection, meh. I think it all has quite a ways to go. Wynwood is a great place to start but even so it is nothing compared with the early Soho scene. I do believe it will get there; I really do.
Anything to add?
Just that Sue and I appreciate the opportunity you guys have availed us. You remind me of us when we were starting out; and that is, I know, a very self serving compliment.
Conversation with Joanna Ferrone, Miami, March 2015. Photography by Études Studio