Austrian born designer ARTHUR ARBESSER is a Milan implant whose success story has become a reference point for a wave of young brands popping up in the Italian design capital. Following a seven year stint working with Armani, the Central Saint Martins graduate launched his eponymous label in 2013, quickly garnering international attention as well as a nomination for the 2015 LVMH Prize. The accolades culminated in his recent appointment as creative director of the iconic 80s Italian fashion house Iceberg, which he will oversee while simultaneously maintaining his own brand. Photographer duo MAX MARTIN and stylist SILVIA BERGOMI teamed up for an editorial featuring the young designer’s AW 15 collection, shot in the suburbs surrounding the Fondazione Prada.
DARRYL NATALE: Your name is often brought up in comparison to Helmut Lang, Austria’s most successful fashion export.
ARTHUR ARBESSER: Well, the only thing we have in common is that we are both Austrian! But I have always admired him and definitely spent most of my pocket money at his first store in Vienna. Perhaps one area where we overlap is in my love for traditional things – uniforms, workwear and simple shapes.
What is it about Milan that appeals to you and why not London, where you studied, or Paris?
Milan has become home now. My friends, my second family, are here. It has the right size and great production and fabric suppliers and it desperately needs young, internationally-minded designers. It’s actually a really intelligent location choice for a designer. I needed to leave London after graduating. I wanted something more real and concrete, but I do miss London’s energy and eccentricity.
Would you say Milan is a hospitable city for young designers?
Not really. It’s very stiff, and you have to fight harder to compensate. But the foreign press is very eager to pick up on new talent, so there is a lot of optimism. The system is slowly changing though. They are waking up to the idea of a new vanguard of designers and realizing that they need support in order to establish themselves.
Your SS15 collection was inspired by Isa Genzken and Blinky Palermo. What was it about them that appealed to you?
Both artists have been inspirations since my student days. Genzken uses imperfect, unexpected materials and surfaces but often keeps her shapes very clean and simple. The result is always sophisticated and I love how she can transform plastic and chipboard into the most elegant objects. I try to do something similar with my fabric choices. Palermo’s very precise color combinations and shapes are so reduced that it inspires you to do less, to clean up. It’s incredible how modern his work is still today. It oozes real freshness.
You debuted your AW 2014 collection in architect Luca Cipelletti’s apartment. How do you find a common language between the worlds of fashion and architecture when working together?
Luca is a dear friend. He is a great exhibition designer and curator too, and he knows how to present things with incredible vision. I’m obsessed with architecture, and Luca admires all things beautiful, so it is never difficult finding a common language.
You’ve experimented quite a bit with your presentations. Do you think that the traditional runway show mode needs updating?
I don’t think it’s outdated. If you watch a Comme des Garçons show from 20 years ago it’s just as beautiful today as it was then, and still relevant. Catwalk will always be a great way of presenting clothes, but we’ve lost the emotion, the message, and the story in today’s runway shows. So many of the models are so boring and interchangeable today.
But I always believe in collaboration. Whether it’s a presentation or a runway show, I think the real magic happens when you combine forces and get input from different fields. That’s how you deliver goose bumps.