Meet JoAnn Tan, installation artist extraordinaire and the city’s secret weapon working wonders behind the scenes of Milan’s most iconic windows since 1994. The brain (and the beauty!) tasked with translating our kaleidoscopic world into fantastical store displays, JoAnn is the “batwoman” behind our new ethereal bat light installation in our Sacred Grotta. Join us on our trip through the looking glass for a sneak peek into JoAnn’s wonderland Milan Studio, where she introduces us to her latest beautiful beasts…
A creator to her core, JoAnn’s artistic journey began in Chicago, where she studied at the world-renowned Art Institute. Though she went to study fashion history, she found herself more focused on the artistry and sculpture of clothing, rather than what was “fashionable.”
“In art school, I found I really enjoyed the process of making things, rather than simply designing them. As the world of installation art started becoming really strong in the mid-Nineties, I began thinking about how fashion and installation art could come together in a window display.”
JoAnn landed in Milan in 1994, fresh-faced and dreaming of an internship at Moschino. “I gave myself two weeks to get it, thinking that if it doesn’t work out I can go stay with my mum who lives in Copenhagen. It wasn’t until day thirteen, when I was all packed and ready to go, that they asked me to come back.”
It was here that JoAnn met Rossella Jardini, a grand dame of Milanese style (and one of our inspirational LDJ Legendary Ladies). Inspired by JoAnn’s portfolio, she went to Franco Moschino himself, to sing her new protogés praises. Franco, initially hesitant, reminded Rossella of their “no-intern” policy, to which Rossella simply replied, “This one is different.”
JoAnn admits it took a moment to find her feet in Milan. “At first, I found it really tough. I didn’t think I was going to last.” Rossella would soon become her “Italian fairy godmother.” “I was 21 when I met her and really grew up under her guidance.” Watching and working under her majestic new mentor, JoAnn learned about fabrication and garment care, and that innate sense of style unique to the Italians. “She had a certain way of sitting, that was both elegant and totally at ease… She used to come up behind me and flip the collar up on my shirt, saying it was more ‘chic’.”
While she would continue at Moschino until 2013, JoAnn launched her own studio in 2010, based initially out of Stockholm where she had her first major client. She says that while Stockholm has been incredibly good to her, it became that, over her years spent at Moschino, she had simply “become more Italian” at her core, and so decided to move her base back to Milan’s artistic Città Studi neighborhood.
With her now eight-person team, JoAnn studio is perpetually abuzz with creative energy, an in-the-works wonder being crafted at each station.
“I LOVE animals – I can’t stop making them! It wasn’t until I got to meet J.J. in person, picking up on her energies, that I was able to grasp the full vision for what we could create together.”
Amid her countless wild creations (she often works on three projects a month), there are some that stick out in her mind. The “Mousechino” fashion show windows, where she dressed each of her mouse “models” in made to measure Moschino. The oversized lips, eyes, and wild suspended hair sculptures she created for Pucci (based purely on the brief “make it sexy!”). The iconic cat lamps for Hermes, which would later become JoAnn Tan Studio’s first purchasable product.
Working with DoubleJ has also been a favorite project of hers (ma, certo!). “I would say that J.J.’s brand identity is really unique, which sets it apart from many of the brands I work with. That she has such a clear vision for her brand is something I really appreciate. When working on the original installation for the LDJ store, it wasn’t until I got to meet J.J. in person, picking up on her energies, that I was able to grasp the full vision for what we could create.”
Living just a five-minute walk from her studio, JoAnn has curated her own little community of craftsmen and artists. In one corner of her bright, airy studio, Stefania, a modista (hat maker) is sewing the velvet skirt for one of La DoubleJ’s tables. At one moment, a friend Mike pops in to say hello – we later discover he is the carpenter behind the gorgeous Hermès cassette tape we’ve been admiring all morning. “It’s a fun little island of creativity, a little on the fringes of the sometimes cutthroat fashion world.”
Another such creative is Luciano Longoni, the undercover craftsman behind La Scala opera’s iconic headdresses. “No-one knows how old he is,” JoAnn whispers with reverence. “He’s this ageless local legend that once in a while emerges from retirement to help out on a specific project.” Luciano’s handiwork can be seen in JoAnn’s latest (and, in our totally unbiased opinion) greatest creation to date – the breathtaking bat light installation commissioned by J.J. for Salone 2021, illuminating our La DoubleJ Sacred Grotta for a wild, immersive cave-like experience. Each beautiful bat baby took one week to create, painstakingly crafted with exquisite ivory and blush silks and glove leather appliques laid atop a metal scaffold handcrafted by Luciano himself.
Accompanying our new winged wonders are her oversized spirit animals, keeping a wild, watchful eye over our fairytale store windows. Her studio is evidence of the love of animals that she shares with J.J., a veritable fantasy zoo of multicolored creatures.
“I love when that synergy of the client’s needs and my own artistic desires come together.”
We love it, too, JoAnn, and we love you!
With huge gratitude and love to JoAnn Tann. Follow JoAnn on Instagram at @joanntanstudio.
Photography by Lucas Possiede.