What made you decide to switch from graphic design to fashion design?
The transition was a natural one. I had always been intrigued by fashion; especially menswear. During my last year at college, my final project was to design a magazine. I thought this would be the best opportunity for me to dabble in fashion. It paid off, and helped me take the decision to move to Milan and develop this passion further by studying at Istituto Marangoni. Different types of design overlap with each other, and, to this day, I find that what I had studied in graphic design can apply to fashion: be it in the study of composition, prints or other graphic elements. Design is universal.
How easy was it for you to join the Versace fashion house? Did you go straight from graduating to working for Versace, or did you work for other brands first?
Thanks [must go] to Istituto Marangoni, which has an amazing placement office and great connections with the industry. After my graduate fashion show, where I had presented my menswear collection, the school got a call from the Versace design team, who had seen the show, asking me to come in for an interview. I met with the Versus menswear designer twice and at my third meeting I signed my contract. It was very exciting and daunting, considering I had just graduated!
You’ve lived in quite a few different places. Do your physical surroundings inspire your work, or does it come more from within?
It’s a bit of both. Having had the opportunity to live in diverse places sure does influence the way one views things. As a child growing up between Johannesburg and Venice, I witnessed the contrasts of landscape and culture, yet felt connected to both these worlds; it was definitely inspiring. I had a staunch Italian upbringing, but in an African environment.
I moved to London in 2004. Working here is really exciting; it’s this hub of creativity. You are not put in a box or stereotyped; the fact that we all come from different fashion backgrounds is appealing to the UK fashion system and offers you different opportunities within the creative field. We all contribute in our own unique way. That is how I got into styling and working with magazines.
When starting a collection I am usually inspired by a photograph of someone or an image. I get captured by its mood and that then transports me to a certain place and, from there, all the rest follows.
I look at artists for their use of textures, materials and colours. Catherine Story and Rebecca Warren are great for this. Catherine’s new exhibition Angeles was a great source of inspiration for my collection; she was referencing Picasso and Chaplin, whereas Warren has this contemporary Giacometti element in her sculptures. I am also working on developing prints with the artist Patrick Morgan.
I have recently completed a curating course at the Whitechapel gallery with Iwona Blazwick, so art for me is a great source of inspiration and I enjoy being surrounded by it. I am always out at exhibitions and museums looking and researching.
When I come down to designing, I am quite old school: I do all my illustrations and technical drawings by hand. This is something I have done since college; even during my days at Versace, everything was hand drawn. I have since started working on computers, and use Photoshop to create my mood boards and my print designs.
This year you were asked to be part of the jury for the BeNext Competition. In your opinion, why are competitions like these so important?
Being asked to be part of the BeNext jury, with such important people as Diane Pernet, Stefan Siegel (NJAL), Catherine Baba and Robb Young, is on its own a wonderful experience. Competitions like BeNext are important as they help young designers get the exposure they need to be able to succeed in their careers and are a great launch pad for both them and, in this case, the Georgian fashion industry.
As a judge, what do you look for? Do your personal tastes play a big part, or do you have to be a bit more dispassionate and objective?
Creativity and talent do play an important part. It’s also important to see how the designer can create an exciting and innovative piece while keeping the garment functional and practical: one must not forget that what we design has to be wearable.
We can’t let our own personal taste get involved in the judging panel. Everything is viewed in context and we need to be neutral. Usually the results are unanimous and we all get the same feeling about a certain design.
In 2006, you co-launched the Cross & Spot label. This year you’re launching your solo label. What made you decide to go out on your own?
Co-launching Cross & Spot was a wonderful experience and an eye-opener in what it takes to start up your own brand. After two years, I felt that the time had come for me to concentrate on my solo work and collaborations. MCG was a work in progress; it took a while to get to the official launch this year.
On your website you talk about the designers and the historical movements that have inspired your new men’s shirt collection, MCG. How would you describe the end product, in three words?
Clean. Crisp. Contemporary.
Often, the fashion industry can seem very female-centred. Are you encouraged by events such as London Collections: Men?
Absolutely! London has a rich heritage when it comes to menswear and I think that London Collections: Men has come at the perfect time. Over the past few years menswear has steadily grown and gained the recognition it deserved in London. Thanks also have to go to people like Lulu Kennedy, Fashion East and Topshop NEWGEN for helping to push and promote menswear. I look forward to seeing London Collections: Men grow each year with more designers showcasing their collections and eventually growing into a full scale men’s week like Milan and Paris.