Arbesser became infatuated with fashion as a kid: admiring chic Viennese ladies, watching his mother get ready (“I loved that final hairspray touch”) and covering the walls of his room with posters of supermodels. But it was theatre and opera that helped him realise the transformative role costume played for stage performers. “That energy that can come from clothes continues to fascinate me,” he says.
Dreaming of going to Central Saint Martins, where all his fashion idols had studied, Arbesser later moved to London. “London was really important for me on a personal level,” he says. “It is the perfect place for a curious, free, young kid who still has to fully discover who he is and who he wants to be,” the designer adds. The renowned school was then located on Charing Cross Road in Soho, the same building where the likes of John Galliano, Stella McCarthy and Alexander McQueen once roamed the corridors. “I loved that gritty old building. There were maybe eight computers with internet in the whole school and, obviously, no one had a smartphone yet… It really was a different era,” Arbesser recalls.
After graduation, the designer moved to Milan and worked at Giorgio Armani for seven years. While he mustered various skills, working at the brand “didn't really interfere with my personal aesthetic, which remained relatively untouched all the way,” Arbesser affirms. In 2013, the designer established his namesake label, which has since become synonymous with bold but refined use of colour compositions and juxtaposition of graphic and figurative prints. The cultural mélange that stems from Arbesser’s multicultural inspirations materialises in deeply personal, visual narratives that mix and match ‘Viennese old school charm,’ ‘subtle beauty’ of Milanese architecture and freedom of expression prevalent in London’s creative scene.
Continuing to design his personality-infused collections, Arbesser has recently ventured into costume design, fulfilling a life-long dream and designing costumes for the opera Der Rosenkavalier in Berlin. “I feel almost more into stage costumes than fashion because it feels so free and is completely detached from sales and all the things that these days drive you a bit mad about fashion,” he says. “I’m in this business not to be rich. I always saw this job as a beautiful way of expressing yourself creatively.”