Designer Interview: Andrea Pompilio

Today we have an opportunity to talk to Andrea Pompilio, the menswear designer from the legendary fashion capital Milan, who is recognized as a rising star of the new generation of Italian designers.

Born in Pesaro in 1973, Andrea Pompilio grew up in a highly creative environment, his father being an architect, his mother a passionate painter and hailing from a family traditionally involved in the clothing industry.

Andrea graduated from Pesaro’s Art Institute fashion design department, then moved to Milan to study at the famous Instituto Marangoni, obtaining Master’s degree in fashion design. His experience includes many years of collaborative work for world-renowned brands, including Prada, Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent. 

In January 2010 Andrea launches his first namesake men’s collection and in 2013 starts a collaboration with Japanese sportswear brand Onitsuka Tiger. In June 2013, Andrea debuts at Milan Fashion Week, being the first young designer to benefit from the support of Giorgio Armani, who hosts the SS14 catwalk at his own venue, the ‘Armani Teatro’. In April 2014, Andrea is appointed creative consultant of the historical Italian sartorial house Canali, and hits the runway in June, with the SS15 Collection.

What is your background and what was your route to fashion industry?

I come from a very creative family. My mother was a passionate of painting, my father was an architect and my grandma used to own two fashion boutiques, where I used to spend most of my time as a kid.

It was the 80s, a playful and exciting time in fashion. I remember observing the customers, the clothes made in incredibly rich materials and bright colors: yellow, pink, gold. This is when I first realized that I wanted to be a designer.

I then came to Milan to study Fashion Design and I started working for Prada straight after my degree. For almost 20 years, I travelled the world working for some of the biggest names in fashion such as Calvin Klein & Yves Saint Laurent, just to name a few. Then, in 2010, I decided to start my own brand.

How did you come to establishing your own brand?

The year 2011, and all the previous years of recession, have been quite tough for the fashion industry: I remember looking at the shops’ windows and thinking that something was missing. Every garment looked pretty boring, soul-less, especially for what concerned men’s fashion: I felt the urge to do something. Encouraged by people around me, I decided to take this step and put myself on the line, with a fresh, ironic and original vision.

What is the philosophy behind the brand?

 Melding opposites and creating new concepts: I love to see contrasting colors and antithetical styles come together. Lines, patterns and colors combine in “mismatched matches”, percolated by subtle irony.   Everything starts from sartorial expertise though: I always look up to the Italian tailoring body of rules that made our “made in Italy” famous worldwide and try to reinterpret it my way, in order to create a great product with an international flavour.

«I love to see contrasting colours and antithetical styles come together»

What is your signature style?

Military style pieces of clothing, such as the revisited military coat and double-breasted jacket with shoulder details. They remind me very much of my Grandpa, an Italian army general.

Where do you find inspiration for your collections?

More often than not, I am inspired while I travel, when I stop by a café in Paris or Tokyo drinking coffee or watching people walking in the street, the way they dress, how they behave. Observation is very important to me.

Could you, please, describe your creative process?

Once I get the inspiration about a piece of clothing, I start thinking about the fabrics, choosing carefully between the newest and refined ones and then decide the colors and patterns. I then imagine the silhouettes of the men wearing them and their proportions, the shape the garment should acquire. Finally, I think about all the accessories to make the look bolder.

 What is the best part of designing?

Probably prototype fittings: anything can happen in this part of the process; All the ideas I had in mind take finally shape and I start re-working them. I may as well turn everything upside down and start anew.

What is the most challenging part of a designer’s work?

 Innovating your line year after year without turning upside down your whole brand’s image.

What is the most important advice you would give to those willing to establish their own brand?

I think the best thing one could do is to make loads of experience and build your cultural baggage working for big companies. This way not only you can get a glimpse of different brand cultures and practices, you can also decide which one belongs to you.

«…make loads of experience and build your cultural baggage working for big companies»

Which event in your life has had the biggest impact on your career as a fashion designer?

Winning the 2011 edition of Who’s on Next, the contest for emerging designers sponsored by Vogue Italia, was definitely a turning point.

What is the story behind your latest collection? What was it inspired by?

The last collection is simply a collection of clothes that I love and would wear every day. I like to think about it as my own wardrobe. As I previously mentioned some garments were inspired by my grandfather. Others are just the product of pure passion and emotions as well as memories and experiences of my journeys, such as the shirts and shorts that remind of my past as a boy-scout. What I wanted to do here is to communicate directly with my public in an intimate and structure-free way, away from formalities and constraints.

We know that you are also engaged in collaborations with other brands. Could you tell more about it?

Sure. The collaboration with Onitsuka Tiger is still going on in Japan, it’s been 2 years now. They let complete freedom to express my flair for their brand and I enjoy it very much.

On the other side, I work with Canali, a well-known Italian tailoring brand synonymous of excellence. I am very honored to work for them and proud of the things we have achieved together.

How does traveling inspire you and what are your favourite places/cities?

 I travel at least four times a year to Tokyo and have to say that this city is surprising me every time I visit, along with other Japanese cities. Japan has such diverse aesthetics and does not fail to inspire me once.

Travelling to other cities opens my mind and spirit: it allows me to consider different ideas and points of view that I normally would not.

You point out that Andrea Pompilio’s man is a cosmopolitan man. Could you describe it in more detail?

Men wearing AP’s clothes are curious about other cultures and like to travel. These men have no nationality. They could be Italian, American or Japanese but they all like to widen their horizons and explore new customs and traditions. They are not afraid to put themselves in the world.

 What has been the highlight of your brand so far?

Everybody still reminds of the monkey print T-shirt and Sweaters as seen on many Italian celebrities!

«Men wearing Andrea Pompilio’s clothes are curious about other cultures and like to travel»

What has been the highlight of your brand so far?

Everybody still reminds of the monkey print T-shirt and Sweaters as seen on many Italian celebrities!

 What are your plans for the nearest future?

Well, my motto is: “just go with the flow!”, I try to avoid making plans as much as possible.

Where can our readers buy your clothes?

 My line is available in the luxury department store Excelsior in Milan, as well as in many shops throughout Italy: Florence, Naples, Rimini. We’ve got two selling points in NY, Bloomingdales and Carlson Street. We also have many shops in Asia: Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei. Check them out on our website: http://www.andreapompilio.it

Photos are provided by the designer Andrea Pompilio.