We met Italian fashion designer Andrea Pompilio in his Milan studio and had a long talk about his personal vision and sophisticated taste he's been expressing perfectly through his eponymous brand since 2010, after having gained loads of experience working for the biggest names in international fashion.
We know you were born into a creative family. Your father is an architect and your mother loves painting. We also know that you grew up in your grandmother’s clothes boutique and that as a child, you already knew you wanted to work in fashion someday. Could you tell us more about your very first approch to fashion and how this approach has changed along your professional path?
In order to do this kind of job you need to have it in your DNA. You’re either born creative or you aren’t.
The fact that I grew up in my grandmother’s boutique helped me a lot because I always had so much input from the images of all those women who shopped there, and that encouraged my innate sense of fashion.
I’ve always loved clothes and I was always fascinated by new trends even if they were perceived as being out of context in my hometown, Pesaro, a little town far from any fashionable metropolis. However, Pesaro itself has also contributed to building my fashion career through its amazing school of art called Ferruccio Mengaroni attended by almost everyone in my family. This education experience provided me with the basis of fashion design knowledge like working with paper patterns even though I still was only a teenager.
And then, what happened when you moved to Milan?
Once in Milan I attended the prestigious fashion school Istituto Marangoni and even though I was only a student, I already felt like I was part of the fashion system. It was the 90s, and to me it was like a dream living in the same city as Versace, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. And, above all, I was finally in a real metropolis.
Before founding your own eponymous brand you worked for many important brands like Prada, Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent. Could you tell us what it was like working for them?
Each of these brands gave me so much, just as I gave very much to all of them. They were all amazing experiences, extremely different from each other: from Prada's conceptual minimalism to a minimalism with a commercial attitude at Calvin Klein, to the maximalism of Yves Saint Laurent in its Tom Ford version.
I consider myself very versatile and chameleonic: although I have a very strong identity, I always managed to identify myself with the concepts behind the brands I was working for. I immersed myself in these experiences by trying to understand which were the aspects of my own vision they wanted me to express.
I left my personal style for the future, thinking about having my own brand one day.
Today this project is real and I can consider it the result of an expertise built up during the last 20 years, also gaining inspiration from these jobs and life experiences deeply connected to the cities I used to live in.
What urged you to found your own brand? Could you tell us some more about this transition?
At a certain point, all of my friends and the people from the tailoring laboratories started to encourage me to start my own brand after so many years. I’ve always been a fashion and shopping addict and used to buy iconic pieces for my archives. As soon as the economic crisis started I couldn’t find any interesting clothes anymore and the most exciting colour you could find in stores suddenly was mélange grey. This flat general environment convinced me to put myself on the line with my own ideas and emotions.
Everything was born from the will of creating a small wardrobe to satisfy my fashion craving and where I could find everything I was looking for and share it with everyone. From that moment on, that wardrobe became bigger everyday until it became what you can see today.
Have you ever had to face hard times or challenges?
Setting up a business is already a big challenge itself, although I’ve been very lucky and found a lot of support from the whole fashion system, maybe because I was considered someone who could improve the fashion design overview by bringing a breath of fresh air.
What kind of advice would you give to a young upcoming fashion designer?
This is an extremely tough job and it takes guts to work in this field. You need to control emotions and have a thick skin besides a cultural heritage and above all, a lot of experience and the will to learn before claiming to be creative.
Although you run your own brand now, you still collaborate with other brands like Onitsuka Tiger and Canali. These brands are extremely different from each other but still wanted you to express their style and identity. Could you tell us something more about this?
The one with Onitsuka Tiger is actually a co-branding: the brainchild of two different minds. An Italian who lives in Milan and is in love with Japan and a Japanese brand. I consider it a kind of enclosure of my brand: Andrea Pompilio in his twenties riding his skateboard. It’s the expression of this dream.
What about Canali?
The one with Canali, on the other hand, is out-and-out creative consulting. It’s another kind of dream: a designer’s dream coming true. It’s an 80-year-old highly organized and structured company with a huge heritage in Italian luxury tailoring able to achieve extremely flawless garments from designers' sketches.
When it comes to your creative process, how do you carry out your research? What are your inspirational sources?
I haven’t got so much time to do research. Inspiration comes to me while I travel, very often when I stop by a café in Paris or Tokyo drinking coffee and watching people walking in the street. I am like a sponge: I assimilate everything I experience. I don’t like working with moodboards, I prefer having all in my mind instead. Sometimes I draw sketches of ideas coming to my mind when I travel. I usually start an entire collection from one of these little draft drawing details.
I’ve noticed an interesting contrast in the music selection from your SS 2015 show: Ennio Morricone and Gesaffelstein together. In my opinion, that was a perfectly matched choice looking at the collection itself. That makes me think of a specific interest on your part in other creative fields like cinema and music. Is that correct? Could you tell us more about the inspirational sources for your latest collection?
Cinema and music are both inspirational for me: the former for its colors and the latter because I usually draw while I’m listening to some music.The contrast you heard in the soundtrack perfectly matches the juxtaposition from which the idea for the latest collection came: it’s the image of a Milanese noblesse family man, smartly dressed reading the newspaper in his living room while his punky rebel son is listening to tough music coming from his room when the door is open. Two different generations and attitudes coming from the same family as a metaphor for a collection based on classic sartorial menswear pieces like elegant white popeline shirts re-edited with studded collars or large eyelets like earlobe streching piercings on them.
What kind of fabrics do you usually prefer to represent or be indicative of the garments you create?
I like winter fabrics better than summer ones because with the former it’s easier to have a three-dimensional effect that is not possible to achieve by using cotton or linen which are basically flat.
In winter there are many more options because there are many different types of wool: furry, flat, matted. This allows me to diversify the outfits with completely different textures. I like felts and all those three-dimensional fabrics able to create depths. They have to be swollen, full and opulent to the touch. I love furry textures because they remind me of the teddy bears from my childhood.
What are your favourite color palettes?
Colors are my prerogative. When I won the contest Who’s On Next my menswear collection was completely based on a printed wardrobe. Hawaian prints mixed up with pyjama-like prints together were a novelty at that time, while today it’s something we’re getting used to. That’s why I decided to evolve in another direction. I still have a sensitivity for colors but I always try to create new palettes.
For the last collection I didn’t use any print, there were a lot of pastels instead: Palm Spring and Californian shades trying to have a new approch to colors in menswear.
If you had to chose just one garment to express your own style which one would you choose?
A white t-shirt/shirt or a pair of jeans. That’s my uniform. As a designer, I would definately say a jacket or outerwear instead; which would be a winter coat, a trench or a bomber jacket.
Tell us about the differencies between your kind of man and woman in terms of fitting and tell us more about the main features related to them.
My vision of man and woman is quite similar. Although male and female shapes are obviously very different, I’m inclined to prefer androginous women who steal their men’s clothes to the mediterranean stereotype who draws attention to her curves with her style.
My kind of woman personality is sophisticated and intellectual and doesn’t need to show off in order to be noticed.
You speak about Andrea Pompilio's man as a cosmopolitan man. That seems to me like a trait d’union for every collection. Could you explain to us what you mean by this?
I’m Italian, from Pesaro but live in Milan and I feel like a citizen of the world. I’m able to adapt to any different city as long as it’s a metropolis. My creativity is like a vulcano and I need dynamic energy around me in order to be continuously inspired. My idea of man is just like me.
Which cities do you find most interesting and exciting and why?
I would say Tokyo, New york and Los Angeles. Tokyo is a magic place. Everything looks surreal over there. I love Japanese people’s creativity and their style in contrast with their strict attitude when it comes to work and duties. It inspires and influences me a lot when it comes to my job.
New York is still in my heart since I lived there and I feel like I haven’t really closed that chapter yet. I had to move to Paris unexpectedly and had to leave but I wish I can move back there one day. Los Angeles symbolizes my spare time dream: playing around in a beautiful warm place surrounded by beautiful people and palms.
What is your relationship with Milan?
I’ve got a very strong connection with Milan. I built my studio and my house here. Milan is now my home and it’s where I like to come back after all of my travels. I also feel a positive energy around Milan as if we were going back to the glorious 80s.
What’s coming next?
At the moment I’m thinking about summer holidays after having worked hard on the latest collection. I’m getting used to evolutions and unexpected development in terms of my work so we’ll see what’s coming next after summer break.