Meeting Milan’s Happiest Man: Arthur Arbesser

It’s something of a universal acknowledgment in fashion that Arthur Arbesser is a really great guy. He boasts a firm handshake, is full of beans, has great curly hair, and always seems to have a smile on his face. Plus he seems to have one of the speediest end-of-show runs we’ve seen – so much so, in fact, that we slightly worried he might fall over! But luckily, for him and for us, he didn’t. What he did do, though, was present, appropriately, a great collection. 

Among an established Milan landscape, he provides a fun breath of fresh air. His clothes are relevant, wearable, cool, come with a sense of youth sewn into their seams – though there is no age limit as to who can or can’t wear them, something Arbesser will delight in telling you. 

 

Arthur Arbesser Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan

 

“I’m more of a real designer,” he says. It’s two days before his show and he’s whisking me around his studio, from rail to rail, piece to piece, shoe to boot. “I love the way things work on different ages, so we did simple dresses but put them on the aunt of my friend and she’s 60 and looks great and then they also look great on someone aged 23, for example. These are things that you learn.” 

Arbesser, hailing from Vienna and a Central Saint Martins graduate, worked at Giorgio Armani for seven years before going it alone, something he says that stint gave him the confidence to do, realising he had something to say. “I realised I could so something here and obviously you can see what’s happening and I thought I can compete with that,” he reflects. Because up until that point having his own label had never really been part of any big plan. It kind of just happened. “The whole approach to fashion was very innocent. I was really just into it but not in an overly ambitious way.” What he did love to do was go out and socialise. “I loved CSM; it was so much fun. Our tutor the first year told us that he would rather have us come in destroyed from the night before but having met someone really great and interesting than having a perfect sketchbook. And I really took his advice,” laughs Arbesser with a grin. “And of course London was great for that.”

 

Arthur Arbesser Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan

 

It’s also really where his signature developed from the get-go. “At the end of the third year I realised I had my sort of sensibility and when I look back at my final collection, the whole concept is very similar to this one – but done much worse! Very scholastic and Austrian lederhosen. I’m very happy that over the years that sensibility wasn’t lost.” 

Now showcasing in Milan, if anything it has refined and heightened his aesthetic. Much like Vetements showing in Paris meant the spotlight was instantly on them, Arbesser – as a young and emerging designer in Milan – makes him stand out too.

 

Arthur Arbesser Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan

 

“There are not a lot of young designers here that have a reason to exist, and there is not a lot of them. But at the same time it’s a fantastic place in terms of how things are down and sewn and you are in contact with great fabric people. But in terms of support it’s very hard,” he explains. Just as in Paris, there isn’t quite the same tiered system of development support as London. “To do this [be a fashion designer] is complete madness. You basically have to be out of your mind because you work your ass off; every bit of money you save and put into this and it’s so out of proportion. But you know there is a force that is stronger than you that pushes you towards suicide and you do it anyway!” He’s saying this in jest, sort of. 

But the point is, it’s hard work. This season, however, he did have some shiny support in the shape of The Swarovski Collective. He holds up a gingham green and blue suit, its fabric smothered in the shine so that when it takes to the catwalktwo days later, you see it flashing down the catwalk and catching the light way before it even gets to be in front of you. “I would never have done these sorts of things, the fabric is really incredible,” he says of the value of this support. It adds another level of quirk and cool to his already self-described eccentric and pure aesthetic. 

 

Arthur Arbesser Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in Milan

 

Another thing that’s helped him on his way is his personal and professional support network, friends and good advice-givers. “A lot of important people had told me not so long ago – since I started to work for a big Italian company – to focus on my own brand and not focus on other things. When I started to work as a creative director for another brand I was really happy but everyone told me, for the first 8 years, to focus on my brand not to get seduced by opportunities that come my way. And that’s totally correct, I think.” Arbesser formerly worked at Iceberg, the house at which he’s credited with injecting new verve, but the two parted ways in August of this year. “Obviously you need collaborations, but I think you shouldn’t be seduced too early by job opportunities. I’m really happy to be free and focus on my brand. The first few years are really delicate and you need to be on it from all levels.” Arbesser clearly has his head screwed on. “I started this project when I was 30 and had in my mind that this is a life project. Ideally, step by step is a good way.” 

Flick the switch two days on and it’s show time! His bold colours and nautical-equestrian take combined with square-toed boots in contrast colours of the perfect semi-jarring mix have its audience all a-swoon. One step down…

 

Read our latest fashion features and trend reports in NOWMagazine.

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