Arthur Arbesser / Iceberg
Do you see yourself as someone who lives and breathes fashion? If not, how would you describe your passions and your work?
Fashion is a huge part of my personality and takes up a lot of my time and headspace at the moment. Luckily it’s not the only thing that interests and drives me. There are so many other amazing things in life. But it’s the one thing I think I’m good at. It’s the most natural thing for me to do as a job, and I also hope it’s something that will never bore me.
How would you describe the brand Arthur Arbesser?
It all started with a profound need to finally do my own thing. After working for a big company for a few years I really needed to express myself, so my approach is very personal. I always try to tell a story, to show something more than just clothes, and to really listen and follow my instincts on every level.
What challenges did you face while launching your own label? How did you overcome them?
The one and only real challenge when you launch your own brand is money! That was my biggest struggle, and it sort of still is. But you learn to focus and just get on with things.
What sort of direction do you want to go in with Iceberg?
Iceberg is an iconic, 40-year-old Italian fashion house. It stands for graphics, knitwear, pop, fun and lots of energy. I'm very honoured to still be able to work with the founder and the family. Their archives are wonderful and the quality is amazing. I want to reinject that energy into the brand and create a beautiful, desirable product.
Are you stressed out about the first Iceberg show?
No, I'm more excited than stressed! I think it’s going to be great, it’s such an amazing opportunity for me and so many fantastic people are involved. I feel so lucky, I just can’t wait for it to start!
Can you tell us a bit about working on your brand after Iceberg?
There is no “after Iceberg”! I’m working on my brand and Iceberg at the same time, which means I’ll be putting on my own show three days after presenting the Iceberg collections. This is such an important time for me right now. I just have to stay focused and work as hard as I can!
You were shortlisted for the LVMH Prize. You won the Vogue Italia and AltaRoma competitions. Most brands have to be established for years before something like that happens. How do you deal with everything, especially in terms of expectations? Do you feel success can be distracting?
Competitions are a great opportunity to get your brand out there. You meet fantastic people and make important contacts. The LVMH prize was a particularly incredible experience! It gives you a kind of seal of approval from leading industry figures, and it shows you’re doing something right. Of course the pressure is really on now, and expectations are high. But the one person that stresses me out the most is myself! I know full well my work has to get better every season. You have to keep telling yourself there’s always room for improvement!
Did being nominated for the LVMH Prize change anything?
The LVMH Prize is the most important award for young designers today, so to be one of this year’s eight finalists gave me a lot of hope and security. It really shows you that your work is worth something and “has a reason” to be out there. My work has definitely been attracting more attention since, and there will be far more people watching my show in Milan in September. Boutiques also start taking notice and treating you differently. The LVMH prize was a fantastic experience.
Would you describe yourselves as an Italian designer? Do you feel Milan is the ultimate fashion city?
I ended up in Milan after studying in London, and I’ve fallen in love with the city over the years, especially thanks to some amazing friends. Friends become your second family and your network in the fashion industry, and even more so if you live abroad. They’re so important. I always defend Milan so much, maybe even more than Italians do! I just love it, it’s my home now. But I still don't see myself as an Italian designer. I’m an Austrian designer based in Milan.
"Well we’re all in a fairly gloomy period at the moment! I think we have two options: either become depressed and miserable, or keep doing what we love in the best possible way."
They say it’s difficult for independent designers in Milan. Do you think it’s a good place to be for young designers?
There’s no British Fashion Council or CFDA in Milan, which means there’s no real support system. It’s definitely one of the toughest cities for young designers. But now there’s a new president of the Camera Della Moda. The wind has definitely changed and it’s bringing a bit of hope with it! Milan needs new blood, and this energy will automatically make it a good place for younger brands.
What did you learn from Armani?
Working at a huge fashion house teaches you a million things, from social skills to simply how to listen to your boss. It was a fantastic school.
Could you explain the concept behind your Arthur Arbesser AW15 collection? How was it created?
The AW15 collection was definitely a homage to my native Vienna. Architects such as Hoffman, Wagner and Loos, and the Wiener Werkstaette workshops were all inspirations in the mix of materials, colours, surfaces and proportions.
Some journalists recently called the latest Paris Fashion Week boring, and trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort announced the death of the fashion system. How would you reply to such gloomy conclusions and perspectives?
Well we’re all in a fairly gloomy period at the moment! I think we have two options: either become depressed and miserable, or keep doing what we love in the best possible way. It’s always so easy to criticise and be pessimistic, but it’s much harder to improve on something. I think being positive is always the best answer. Of course we have to use our heads and stay aware, but we’ll keep doing our thing and try to give our best.
Big houses must be quite fond of your work. We can’t help but wonder, do you get propositions? In what context would you actually consider such an offer?
I’ve started at Iceberg and I want to continue my own brand. I'm so excited about both projects, so I just don’t think there’s room for anything else. I’m just focusing on these two opportunities at the moment. But any interest from anyone is always a great compliment, that’s for sure!
As a label that has to sell its clothes, do you feel like you have to sell an image as well?
Of course, today more than ever! The image, story and personality behind a brand is so important. There’s so much out there, so you have to differentiate yourself from other brands.
How do your designs and branding relate to each other? To what extent are you involved in this process?
I’m just starting out with my own label, so I’m not that worried about the branding aspect just yet. I just want to focus on my vision. By definition it will be a personal project and therefore different from a lot of other stuff around.
Have you ever thought of doing menswear?
I was a guest designer at Pitti Immagine in Florence this June. It was just for fun as it’s a men's show, but I did get to present some Menswear styles! I really loved it, and I’d certainly like to do menswear one day. That way I could finally wear my own clothes!
How do you feel about the speed of the fashion cycle? Do you feel attracted to concepts such as Slow Fashion?
Every designer is different, but I definitely think that the whole cycle is too fast and crazy. Your brain needs time to reflect and gather new ideas. That’s the only way you can achieve real quality. I’m definitely in favour of going at a slower pace.
From #2 issue