German-born womenswear designer, Raffaele Ascione, graduated from the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion just three years ago. Immediately after leaving college he set up an eponymous label which, with its intricate craftsmanship and darkly beautiful aesthetic, has been extremely well received by the fashion industry. Now after four seasons with his own brand, Ascione is closing the label to take on a full time position as a Senior Designer at Antonio Berardi. An incredible opportunity for a young designer, he takes time out of his preparations to move to Milan to talk to 1Granary about his new appointment, the success of his own designs and how his time at Saint Martins helped him get to where he is now.
I had to do two interviews to get the job. I had my first interview with Sophia (the editor from Ten) because she’s Antonio’s stylist. I was like ‘Oh my god I’ve loved this woman for so many years’. I had my first interview with her, I had loved her work for so many years so I was really intimidated at the start but she was so nice and so calming and we had such a laugh. Literally a week later she was like, ‘I really want you to meet Antonio, he’s in London.’ I met him and his partner and they were the nicest people ever, really human, no fashion world shit. When I’m working on my team there is no diva behaviour because it’s not necessary and it was the same there. They gave me a preview of the collection and you could see Antonio was really excited. When I left there I was like ‘I want to have this job!’ and five days later I got the email. It went so fast, it was literally crazy. After the MA I had nine interviews with big brands and always got to final stages and then they would say, ‘No…we can’t shape you, your style is too advanced.’
Being told you’re too good to work somewhere?! That’s ridiculous.
Three times I was told that. They kept saying, ‘We’d rather have a BA student so we can shape them’ and I was like ‘I have done the fucking MA at Saint Martins!’ You know? I didn’t tell my parents at all about the two Berardi interviews because after the MA every time I had an interview I didn’t get the job. In fact I told barely anybody and then when I got the job I rang them, and my mum obviously cried. My dad was like ‘I’m really proud son! Now you have to work your way up!’ and I was like ‘No Dad, it’s a senior designer position. I am up.’ He didn’t understand, he kept asking, ‘It’s not interning anymore?’ When he realised he was super happy. Obviously they’re happy I’m going back to Italy because it’s so near to Germany so they can come visit me really easily.
Tell us about being offered the job at Antonio Berardi! Was there lots of celebrating?
I remember it was a Saturday when I found out I’d got the job and I was shattered from all the interviews and finishing the collection and look book. My friends told me to come to their house for a sleepover - I was like perfect. My friend came and picked me up and I looked like SHIT. So we went over to his house and it was really tidy and quiet. His flatmate was like, ‘Honey I’m in the kitchen having a cigarette, come on in’ and when I got there there were thirty five people in the kitchen shouting ‘Surprise! Congratulations!’ They had a massive surprise party for me. Everybody was there; my friends from my MA and people I hadn’t seen in a long time but were really good friends of mine. So it was really nice and we partied till like ten AM.
The Antonio Berardi brand is very beautiful, is that what drew you to it?
So beautiful. I remember as a fashion student I dressed two of Antonio Berardi’s shows and the richness and the embroideries and the mix of materials were just incredible. When I had my interview Antonio told me, ‘I remember your MA show, for us it was the most beautiful collection in the show even though you were a really strong year.’ Then I saw the new collection and there was a great mix of material, this sexy sporty silhouette with lots of lace and embellishment. It’s all the things I love and adore so I can’t wait to get stuck in it.
What will happen to your own label now that you are working at Antonio Berardi?
I decided to close the brand as soon as the job offer came. Buyers were contacting me saying, ‘I’ve just seen your Autumn/Winter clothes, are you going to be in the showroom?’ and I was like ‘No, I’m not selling this season because it’s not possible to run the label and do a full time job’. I thought I’m going to be taking this job on and it’s a big role. I need to be 100% dedicated to that now but who knows in a couple of years time it I may come back to do my own thing.’
We loved your Autumn/Winter ’13 collection!
I know, I’m really happy, it was good. It’s such a good collection for my portfolio. If I need to apply for a new job or sponsorship again in the future it’s a great collection to have.
Are you sad that you can’t sell it?
Well most of the press pieces have sold! And the requests are there, in a way it’s sad but in another way it’s OK. It’s good!
Of course we’re still in Spring now, how do you think your SS13 collection compares to your AW13?
Loads of people liked that collection, but a lot of people really didn’t. They thought I’d abandoned my natural dark side and were surprised I wasn’t mixing materials just because the clothes are mostly all one colour. Most of the garments actually have five or six different materials in them. The embellishments are still happening but because it’s all in one colour means you don’t see it straight away. A lot of work had gone in to it.
With the Autumn/Winter collection I was like ‘Fuck this I’m going back to what I’m good at and what I really enjoy the most.’ That’s why all the lace work is ten times more advanced, we did our own fabric. All the lace has been hand cut and it’s been bonded on top of tweed. This season we only worked with menswear patterns because we only wanted this really structured tailored look for some of the pieces. I found this vintage menswear jumper that I really liked, we cut it apart and I drafted a new pattern from it.
It’s really tough starting your own line as a young fashion designer, what got you through when things were difficult?
You just…do it. I have to be really honest. I have amazing friends who were so great whenever I needed help. Brilliant people like Claire, who always designed my shoes, and Ony at IMG who helps me out with the models. Then I have Paul and Ben who are the graphics boys, they do my website and my invites. I just don’t have the time to do it myself! A lot of people contacted me soon after the MA, they were people who really liked my work and just want to work with you for free. I am very blessed.
What advice would you give to the students who have just graduated from the MA Fashion?
Do your portfolio really really well. I would almost say to approach your portfolio in a traditional way. I kept my portfolio work very traditional in a portfolio pocket with sleeves and stuff. Whenever I saw the agencies in London or Paris they were like, ‘It’s so nice to see a portfolio! Not a book here and a book there! And a little sketchbook here and sketchbook there!’ They like to see it in an actual folder. Keep to the Saint Martins MA way because it’s nice and raw but go back to a bit of traditionalism because people like to see that. Then just go and see all agencies and apply everywhere you can.
What do you think it is that makes Saint Martins special? For us it’s the school spirit, do you agree with that?
You live, thrive for that! Obviously I have no idea how it is at the new building, I was the last year of Charing Cross but for me Charing Cross was magical. So much history. It was a scary year and a half, we were always tense and scared but at the same time when I see my friends from the MA we always say we had a fucking great time even if we were scared. We had a fucking amazing time, made friends for life.
With the MA maybe your work is not particularly amazing or aesthetically pleasing but it’s about that technique or process you’ve learnt. When i was doing my MA collection there were so many silhouettes that I was scared of doing but that’s what Louise really liked. She kept saying, ‘Don’t be scared, make this your own’. A-line skirts, in particular, I kept thinking, ‘Who makes an A-line skirt now?’ Now I do a fucking A-line skirt every season!
See original article here: http://1granary.com/central-saint-martins-fashion/graduates/raffaele-ascione-interview/