In the current fashion scene, a new light is breaking in. Italian fashion designer Aurora Potenti is a self-made woman who is making waves. Refusing any traditional training, she paved her way and realized her dream: to see her clothes published on an important fashion magazine someday…
TQB: So Aurora, you decided not to attend any fashion school. Such an interesting and daring choice…
AP: It’s been a choice motivated by several circumstances. First of all, I wanted to see how far I could go on my own. I though it was such a pity to give up my studies at University to attend a fashion school. I had won some scholarships in prestigious academies and attended courses in some of them, but I found myself in a world which had very little content - both formative and human – that did not justify the exorbitant tuition fees and made me feel like I could’ve not express my creativity at its best. Also, my delicate health forced me to manage with self-teaching – such a free and bizarre education which has possibly been a bless!
TQB: You’re the proof that is still possible to make it in the world of fashion without recommendations or high-sounding institutes. But how hard is it?
AP: It’s hard, it’s really hard and painful! Most fashion magazines, most boutiques and stores which are commercially relevant are “affiliated” to certain schools and only allow the pupils of those schools to benefit from their visibility. As a consequence, those who are not part of this elite – like me – have no chance to be taken in consideration as new talents. These mechanics are clearly to the detriment of meritocracy, but that’s the way it is! Starting from there was hard, as every single work day is hard , but as I said before the will to take it out on the protégé of the day has been until now stronger than thinking how many elements were contrary to me. So I went on my way careless, sure my chance would have come someday.
TQB: And it did. You got to be published on Elle twice in few months!
AP: The adventure with Elle happened – as all good thing in life – by chance. Four years ago I collaborated with Erica Fava – who was a young and unknown photographer from Rome at that time – and we made a photoshoot for fun. It was the first time I had my clothes photographed, and it was the first time she was doing fashion photography. The results were really good, and when we put the pictures on the web many bloggers asked us to publish them. This way they ended up in the hands of the news director of Elle Italia, who contacted me to ask about my activity. In a couple of months this amazing woman gave me the biggest satisfaction in my career, and also the demonstration that my theory about patience and talent was right. An article titled “Fulgida Aurora” brought for the first time me and my creations to the attention of national press, buyers and audience. It was pure joy to me. One month later I was put among the eight most promising Italian designers for the issue of October. This was so satisfying for me, ‘cause among those designers I was the only one self-taught.
TQB: When did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
AP: I have never really realized I wanted to be a designer - sometimes I still wonder if I have made this decision. The moment I have thought I would have given it a try was in 1997, when Gianni Versace was killed. He’s been the most amazing designer we’ve ever had, the one I loved the most. His death kind of pushed me to go and try doing something to pay homage to him and what he dedicated his whole life to. Fashion, of course.
TQB: Have you ever thought “I cannot do this!” and wanted to give it all up?
AP: To be honest, a lot of times I felt like giving up and that it was just an illusion that I had something to say in the world of fashion, but I always found the strength to go on. Sometimes I pictured to myself things that I would have chucked because I though they were not good enough, and then I saw them years later on the major catwalks. At that point, I started thinking that if great designers got there eventually, I could’ve probably had something good inside of me as well. Today, I still fight with doubts about what I’m doing; I still wonder if it’s worth to struggle and deal with financial and bureaucratic difficulties, and every time I’m lost in these thoughts I carry on thinking of my fans, my supporters, the people who admire me, the messages of friends and clients that write me to say they love my work and ask me when will they see something new from me, or when a journalist calls me for an interview or a photographer contacts me for an editorial…in a nutshell, every time that I feel like fashion needs me somehow.
TQB: Where does your inspiration come from when designing?
AP: When I’m designing, I take inspiration from shapes and volumes, or from a piece of clothing from the past, a collection, a designer…I know it’s one of my limits, but I hardly take inspiration from the world outside, like nature, music and so on . It’s obvious that a spark of genius could come from whatever thing or event, but so far my dresses have been created on the exact study of new dimensions for the dress itself: I linger over volumes and shapes that I expect have not been created yet and I try to develop them in the most original possible way; otherwise I take a classic piece from the tailoring tradition and I deconstruct it - I mean I try to give it a new function and a new life. I especially love the tailor-made menswear, and sometimes a single detail like a pocket or a rever sewed in a certain way pulls me to rethink, redesign and reinvent its essence and aesthetic.
TQB: What kind of woman do you have in mind when creating your models?
AP: Long time ago, when I still “played” the journalist to finance my designs, I had to interview the costume designer Gabriella Pescucci, who won the Oscar for the movie The Age of Innocence, and she said something which to me sounded like a revelation: what she envied to a fashion designer was the possibility of creating and thinking of a “perfect” woman, while a costume designer like her always have to stick to the actor’s silhouette and to the functionality of his role. I think I design thinking of a “perfect woman” as well: a woman who is elegant, charming, beautiful (that doesn’t mean flawless – I love imperfections on those who can wear them!) and that in the meantime has a more casual, sporty side, so that she can light-heartedly wear even the most ambitious dress.
TQB: And what about men? Have you ever thought designing for them?
AP: I’ve been thinking of creating something for men several times, because as I was saying before I’m deeply in love with their garments and most important because menswear gives more attention to the quality rather than the quantity: I mean, a man is more likely to have few items of excellent quality and make, while women have been recently pushed to think that it’s better having a hundred T-shirts and fifty pair of jeans than investing in quality and beautiful pieces. Unfortunately, I could have not put into action my wish to design for men just because for me it’s hard enough to carry on my womenswear collection at the moment and try to assert it. The market is saturate with every kind of creation and the new talents don’t get enough space, so we’d better focus on doing a little but at its best instead of trying too hard and ending up with nothing original.
TQB: Of all the ones you’ve designed, which dress takes the cake as your favourite one?
AP: The dress I love the most is always the last one I’ve created. It’s not because I think it’s more beautiful than the others, but just because I have more expectations from it: I want to know what people will think of it, so my attention and my interest are more focused on the new one than the previous ones.
TQB: Who’s your icon of style?
AP: I adore Laure Bacall, Charlotte Rampling, Mia Farrow, Jane Birkin, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn and many other sophisticated but still nonconformist divas. Nowadays I see less and less women of that kind, among whom I could quote Kim Basinger few years ago and Cate Blanchett. However, every woman that can create her own style, that is feminine, elegant and in the meantime – as I said before – still capable to be causal and nonconformist in her own beauty, has all my admiration and devotion.
TQB: Is there a trend you hope it will never happen again?
AP: It’s hard to say, to be honest every year I see something that I hope to see never again, but generally speaking one thing or two that I will never like are coats with huge shoulders like in the 80’s, Capri trousers (I hate them both for men and women) and ridiculously sharp-pointed women shoes, which were in fashion ten years ago and I’ve always found distasteful and aesthetically self-defeating.
TQB: What do you think of fashion industry in our times?
AP: With the financial crisis, fashion industry is less likely to invest, and it tends to do it on a safe ground. Since new talents are an unknown land with no certainty of success, they don’t have many chances to be involved in projects. I understand that daring in this moment is a little dangerous, but we have to keep in mind that the most important entrepreneurs from the past dared just when it was a risk to take, they trusted in innovation and proposed new things when most people sticked on being conservative. I think you don’t go too far without any brave.
TQB: In such a scenario, what advices can you give to young people who would like to choose your path?
AP: First of all, find good and patient tailors that can teach you how to cut, sew and tailor an item in a decent way. This will allow any future designer to understand what’s really behind a dress, what it means to actually create it, besides designing it. Draw a lot, and never stay satisfied with the first ideas that come into your head: you need to learn how to be critics of your own work, because it’s an important source to seriously become an artist. Go and see exhibitions, museums, enrich with culture. Then, as soon as you have your clothes made, look for a photographer who can take good pictures of your creations and spread it all around on the internet, hoping to be noticed. But over all, what I consider is the most precious advice, is to stay strong, be patient and believe in what you do – which doesn’t mean being arrogant or egocentric, but to have constancy and trust that if you have talent you will be noticed!
TQB: So, what’s next? What should we be expecting from Aurora Potenti in the future?
AP: My future plans are hard to reveal because are uncertain to me as well. I’ve learnt that good things come for those who wait, by merit but also and foremost by chance, so both in my professional and personal life I tend to schedule the least. I hope for so many other things to come, first of all run my own fashion show in Milan. As for “minor” projects, like shootings, editorials, publications, interviews and so on, those are quite on the agenda, so all you need is to follow me Facebook, where I daily update my own page to keep fans posted with my work!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="534"] Photo: Erica Fava[/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="534"] Photo: Erica Fava[/caption]