A Self-Made Multitasker: Introducing Alfredo Cortese

Leaving his PR position behind at an esteemed Italian brand in order to start a new: Milan-based womenswear designer Alfredo Cortese took a big jump into the unknown and decided to explore his creative potential by founding his very own ready-to-wear brand named A.C.9. However, it is not the first time that the Sicilian-born self-made fashion designer decided to reinvent himself. After studying chemistry back in his 20s, the now 31-year-old self-proclaimed fashion designer bought a one-way ticket to Milan deciding to explore photography through the prism of fashion and documentary. An experience that motivated him to move to Cuba, where he worked as a photojournalist, before returning to Milan where he eventually focused on building a career as a fashion PR. Whether his astrological sign – Capricorn with Gemini rising, as he likes to point out in this interview – is to blame for his regular life changes remains to be proven. That being said, we can already see that the saying "the only constant is change" is probably the one that best describes the life of this enthusiastic self-starter. We met Alfredo Cortese at the launch of his inaugural collection, intrigued by his unusual background and the utilitarian quality of his clothes – dresses that can be folded up in their entirety. And here's what he had to say. 

You've worked as a fashion PR before switching and becoming a designer on your own. What exactly has motivated you to explore "the other side" of the business? 

My curiosity for "the other side," as you say, and rejecting the routine of a classic 9-5 job, as well as the desire to express myself, are certainly the main reasons. Let me give you an example, so that you can understand what I mean: imagine you are doing PR for a brand, the collection arrives before the show and you would have added or modified something – or even made other garments instead! You would have moved that embroidery, lengthened that dress. Or imagine that if you were on a set for fashion shooting, and all you want to do is have your say. At some point, as soon as you stop and think, with maturity and experience, I realized I could do this on my own. With time, my brand project started to take shape and manifest itself into something that is true to myself.

Alfredo Cortese Spring/Summer 2020 lookbook. Photo courtesy of PR.

So, wanting to be in charge of a creative process on your own was the main reason. How did it feel to take the big jump and opt for this considerable career change? 

In the beginning, I was testing myself, understanding my own taste and vision – and I was surprised by the results. I didn't expect it. I had never explored the process of creating a collection. That of creating a unique product, with a strong and desirable identity, and with characteristics that distinguished it from others. I can trace the A.C.9 values back to my astrological horoscope: the aesthetic side, freedom of expression, and pure charm to my ascendant sign, Gemini, and the rational and practical side of the pocket concept to Capricorn.

Can you clarify what the brand's name means?

I didn't want to use my name and surname ... I don't like telling someone to wear something with my name on it, but with the style that "AC9" represents instead. AC are my initials, but also my father's, and the "9" represents a special number to me. The full stops, separating the letters, are a statement of thought, of form. Of purity. Of geometric bond.

Your collection's lookbook reveals smart, wearable, and entirely packable women's ready-to-wear pieces. What was your inspiration behind creating such a functional collection of what seem to be wardrobe essentials?

Initially, my desire was to create a functional line of products. However, I didn't want to sacrifice the "fashionability" of my collection, which is why each dress in the collection has many well-constructed and well-balanced details. These are dresses that can be worn at any time of day, depending on the personality of the woman who wears them. If you see the photos, the model is without shoes – and this detail says a lot about my concept. I wanted to give the woman space to express herself on a blank canvas. It's not just an elegant dress – the style of the dress is up to the wearer's own interpretation. And then the dress itself can become its own container; it is a concept of elegance that is transformed with immediacy and speed. The whole dress can be folded in on itself within its pocket.

Let's talk about your collection's style, cuts, and fabrics…it mostly features bold monochromatic hues and easy-to-wear fabrics…can you give us more details? 

All 12 of my dresses are inspired by staple pieces with a contemporary Couture charm. The tank top. The polo shirt. The T-shirt. Many are built with unexpected volumes. Enriched with sudden asymmetries. It is a story of opulent simplicity. The form itself becomes language. A certain visual simplicity is combined with some elements of regal decoration – the back of a dress reveals fabric arches, for instance, or a romantic train made futuristic by the minimal cut. There are also dresses that bear the athletic neckline of a tank top, or the simple knot that supports the structure of the dress. I have combined apparently dissonant elements with the purity of form. Also, the choice of a single fabric, a mix of cupro and nylon, gives a technical personality to all the dresses. I chose only three colors, but I never mixed them together in the same dress. It's a purely aesthetic choice. 

What is the most challenging part of launching your own brand today? Especially when you consider how hard it must be to launch a new women's ready-to-wear brand from scratch, in such a saturated industry.

The bureaucratic side is definitely what is the most challenging. Developing the concept and selecting the fabrics is fun, creative, and stimulating, but, on the other side, the more administrative side of the business is challenging for a new designer like myself. In the present day, you can't only be creative. You also need to be extremely business savvy. It's not only about creating fabulous dresses; you actually need to have a commercial mindset. It's also important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and in what you do. People who don't care if you didn't graduate from the best fashion school, or if you don't have a decade of design experience in a big and hyped fashion house. These people are the ones who inspire my collections and keep me going when times are tough. 

See all the looks of the Alfredo Cortese Collection Ready To Wear Spring Summer 2020


SHARE
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
SIMILAR ARTICLES
Travelling without moving at Armani Privé
By Gianluca Cantaro
“The idea of this show originated from a memory. In 1990 I used an ikat blanket I found in a flea...
By Gianluca Cantaro
“The idea of this show originated from a memory. In 1990 I used an ikat blanket I found in a flea market to tailor three jackets for the spring summer collection”, explained Giorgio Armani before the Privé show. “What I liked about this particular technique was the blurred effect of the motifs,...
“The idea of this show originated from a memory. In 1990 I used an ikat blanket I found in a flea market to tailor three jackets for the spring summer collection”, explained Giorgio Armani before the Privé show. “What I liked about this particular technique was the blurred effect of the motifs, the fact that the decorations were never well defined and I conveyed this concept by concealing the...
The Show Must Go On
By Elisabeta Tudor
Ready-to-wear fashion shows by top brands are often elaborate star-studded affairs. Haute Couture...
By Elisabeta Tudor
By Elisabeta Tudor
Ready-to-wear fashion shows by top brands are often elaborate star-studded affairs. Haute Couture shows, however, take the glitz and glamour to an entirely different level, and Paris' currently on-going high fashion extravaganza is no exception. Speaking of glitz and glam: over his 50-year-long...
Ready-to-wear fashion shows by top brands are often elaborate star-studded affairs. Haute Couture shows, however, take the glitz and glamour to an entirely different level, and Paris' currently on-going high fashion extravaganza is no exception. Speaking of glitz and glam: over his 50-year-long career, Jean Paul Gaultier has excelled at staging fun-filled Haute Couture shows at his headquarters...
Can Haute Couture Survive In The New Decade?
By Elisabeta Tudor
The answer is plain and simple: it has to, as the craftsmanship it is based on carries the hope...
By Elisabeta Tudor
The answer is plain and simple: it has to, as the craftsmanship it is based on carries the hope for a plausible form of sustainable fashion. And, according to the first Spring/Summer 2020 shows in Paris, there is a growing interest for Haute Couture itself and the levels of craftsmanship and...
The answer is plain and simple: it has to, as the craftsmanship it is based on carries the hope for a plausible form of sustainable fashion. And, according to the first Spring/Summer 2020 shows in Paris, there is a growing interest for Haute Couture itself and the levels of craftsmanship and textile innovation it implies. In fact, the Paris Haute Couture Week – which has just started today –...
Dior's Peplos-Wearing Feminists
By Gianluca Cantaro
Once again, Maria Grazia Chiuri proposed her...
By Gianluca Cantaro
By Gianluca Cantaro
Once again, Maria Grazia Chiuri proposed her feminist manifestos at today's Dior's Haute Couture show. This season, the 80-year-old American feminist artist Judy Chicago, who has been investigating the role of women in history and culture in her work....
Once again, Maria Grazia Chiuri proposed her feminist manifestos at today's Dior's Haute Couture show. This season, the 80-year-old American feminist artist Judy Chicago, who has been investigating the role of women in history and culture in her work. Chicago’s work inspired Chiuri, who collaborated with the French Maison on a series of exclusive...
At Lanvin Corto Maltese Got the Look
By Gianluca Cantaro
Bruno Sialelli, Creative Director at Lanvin, finally shook off the Loewe imprinting that was...
By Gianluca Cantaro
Bruno Sialelli, Creative Director at Lanvin, finally shook off the Loewe imprinting that was blurring his vision and delivered a Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese inspired collection marking a substantial design switch from the previous ones, that somewhat resembled his past job at the Spanish brand....
Bruno Sialelli, Creative Director at Lanvin, finally shook off the Loewe imprinting that was blurring his vision and delivered a Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese inspired collection marking a substantial design switch from the previous ones, that somewhat resembled his past job at the Spanish brand. Sialelli continued the collaboration with cartoonists, started when he first took the helm of the...
Paris Unveils a Man in All His Greatness
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
At the beginning of the menswear season in Paris,...
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
At the beginning of the menswear season in Paris, Alexandre Mattiussi made a statement by celebrating the 9th anniversary of his label Ami with a birthday party that notably featured accordion music, red velvet curtains, and movie sets. The following day,...
At the beginning of the menswear season in Paris, Alexandre Mattiussi made a statement by celebrating the 9th anniversary of his label Ami with a birthday party that notably featured accordion music, red velvet curtains, and movie sets. The following day, Tahliah Debrett Barnett, aka FKA Twigs, performed live during Valentino's latest menswear show....
Paris Menswear’s Final Bow
By Marta Represa & Elisabeta Tudor
It might be a Fashion Week Sunday, but for Alejandro Gómez...
By Marta Represa & Elisabeta Tudor
By Marta Represa & Elisabeta Tudor
It might be a Fashion Week Sunday, but for Alejandro Gómez Palomo, that’s no excuse to forego church. The Andalusian designer reconnected with the Catholic heritage of his native Spain and turned a minimal concrete space in the 19ème arrondissement into...
It might be a Fashion Week Sunday, but for Alejandro Gómez Palomo, that’s no excuse to forego church. The Andalusian designer reconnected with the Catholic heritage of his native Spain and turned a minimal concrete space in the 19ème arrondissement into his own temple by having his models walk while carrying thuribles loaded with incense and Paschal...
Loewe's Playful Wardrobe
By Gianluca Cantaro
"I wanted to be optimistic and joyful,” explained Creative...
By Gianluca Cantaro
By Gianluca Cantaro
"I wanted to be optimistic and joyful,” explained Creative Director Jonathan Anderson after the Loewe show. "I imagined a child that plays with mom's ball gown in front of the mirror, giving a 2D effect to the 3D object.” Being positive is often...
"I wanted to be optimistic and joyful,” explained Creative Director Jonathan Anderson after the Loewe show. "I imagined a child that plays with mom's ball gown in front of the mirror, giving a 2D effect to the 3D object.” Being positive is often synonymous with being light-hearted, something that lets you enjoy life (and clothes) as it is without any...