INTERVIEW: Arthur Arbesser Opens Up About SS18 and His Latest Gig

MILAN—Vienna-born designer Arthur Arbesser has a lot to celebrate. The darling of fashion’s elite critics, the Central Saint Martins’ graduate just succeeded Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi as the creative director of outerwear label Fay.  And this isn't his first big break: he has already worked as a senior designer of womenswear at Giorgio Armani and as the creative director of womenswear at Iceberg. 

Controlled by Tod’s Group, Fay has until now been the go-to brand for Italy’s upper crust middle-aged male. Its owners hope that a new, creative edge will revive Fay and make it relevant in a more millennial-dominated world.  


Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION

Here at Milan Fashion Week, Arbesser unfurled his Spring/Summer 2018 womenswear collection, a lineup inspired by the ill-fated pre-Bolshevik Russian court, Heinz Stangl’s paintings, and the music of Franz Schubert – influences that Arbesser says are indicative of his upbringing and his parents inner circle.

A proclivity for the finer things in life is inherent in his clothing designs, which this season possessed a sense of female innocence, a touch of femininity, and cerebral, yet modern, patterns that reflect a digital age.  

In a conversation with NOWFASHION, Arbesser opened up backstage about his fascination with the Romanov sisters and his latest career move. 

SC: I saw some pictures of the Romanovs on your mood board. Was I right?

AA: Yes, you’re not wrong. So it’s sort of like that aristocratic regal, like fantasy of the past world and something melancholic as well. This is part of my world in my way, combined with absolute mad patterns and prints of this Austrian painter called Heinz Stangl, who was a good friend of my parents and who unfortunately isn’t alive anymore. But I grew up with his paintings at home and he was always an inspiration to me in terms of colors and patterns and prints, which is part of my DNA.

SC: But why the Romanovs?

AA: I’m from Vienna. I’ve always been obsessed with Tatiana Romanov, the second daughter, because she was absolutely beautiful and she was working for the army as a nurse and stuff. So there’s lots of beautiful pictures of her in uniforms and with sailor colors and being very sort of, like, rigorous. And there is something slightly melancholic in her eyes, because obviously this story is very tragic. I’m sort of drawn to the drama and drawn to the beauty and the story of them, and I love those elegant pearls that they’re always wearing.

SC: They say that Earl Mountbatten of Burma, their cousin, was in love with Maria Romanov and kept a picture by his bed until the day he died. 

AA: Really? I didn’t know! I love that! 

SC: I’m obsessed too.

AA: I mean, who isn’t? It’s basically the story, the drama, the ending. And then at a certain point, I wanted to bring in my graphics. You will see when they walk, there is a very subtle and soft elegance to it. Although, I love my strong colors and my acid yellow, and my acid green and stuff, but there is something very feminine and soft, and I think I learned a bit of a lesson. I have to maybe soften up a little bit and become a little bit more feminine in terms of like pattern shape. And I think this season I kind of merged all these worlds together very well.

SC: I think things are working pretty well for you… Speaking of… How do you feel about your new work with Fay?

AA: I’m super happy because I think this is a great job that I can do parallel to my job (my own collection), because these are two completely different worlds. I’m super happy that this is more a conservative brand and it’s a real product. People wear these jackets for work around here in Milan. I see a lot of men in those jackets. So this is real stuff, this is not like a fantasy. But I love to keep my world a fantasy and my line magic, in a way, and I want to do a beautiful, desirable product for Fay. So I think these two things can work very well together. 

SC: It’s kind of been for a middle-age, urbanite, up until now. So, maybe they’ll welcome your change. Are you happy with the traditional fashion show? In this digital age, does that work for you? 

AA: Yes, I think this is the ten minutes of magic. These ten minutes, there’s so much hard work, so many brilliant creative people involved in those ten minutes that share this passion for something so beautiful, and when you get your friends together… it’s like so many beautiful emotions, tears afterwards. That’s why I started to do this.