JOURNEY TO ITHACA

The goal of “bringing visions to life”, so essential and ubiquitous in the art world, is often hindered and challenged by compromises, most often on the technological and material side of things. But putting Susanna Pugliese's fantastical fashion sketches next to the near-identical final garments is a testament to her commitment to fulfil this goal no matter its labouriousness. Read on for the interview with the Italian-born fashion designer in possession of a wide range of artisanal skills.

Can you share the story behind your latest Viaggio per Itaca collection? 

My graduate collection is a personal narrative that draws inspiration from my childhood memories spent in Italy and the captivating elements of nature, including mushrooms, moulds, and the seaside.

Exploring the traditional construction of the crinoline underskirt, I take a bold and unconventional approach, deviating from the established norms. The structure, rather than adhering to traditions, undergoes reinterpretation, pushing boundaries and challenging expectations. Throughout the progression of my collection, embellishments inspired by nature gradually emerge, seamlessly integrating with the overall designs.

I play with contrasts, both in colours and materials, as well as in the interplay between embellishments and structures. This deliberate choice serves to underscore the connection between the hidden layers and the visible surface, with the bottom layer assuming a central role in the overall aesthetic of the garments.

The silhouettes and intricate details of each piece are shaped by historical references, specifically drawing from sources like French military uniforms of the 19th century and the attire worn for horse riding. This amalgamation of influences results in a collection that not only reflects my journey and connection to nature but also pays homage to historical sartorial elements, creating a unique and captivating narrative within each garment.

You have an impressive range of artisan skills. Can you share insights into how these diverse skills have enriched your role as a designer?
To bring my creative ideas to life, I use various techniques with fabrics, like needle felting, screen printing, beading, and hand embroidery. I also add drawings, artwork, and photos to my designs. I love the hands-on work—it’s crucial for expressing my ideas. In my graduation collection, I put a lot of emphasis on decorations, and everything else in the collection was built around that concept.

Regarding expressing ideas, do you feel more connected to the storytelling of photography or the expression of illustration?

I deeply value both photography and illustration; photography, being a straightforward way to convey reality, becomes my tool for research, allowing me to capture and retain what fascinates and inspires me. Meanwhile, illustration serves as the ideal method for developing diverse ideas and crafting something entirely fresh through an extensive research process, making it the perfect ‘tool’ to express design concepts.

What defines haute couture, and how do you incorporate those elements into your philosophy?

For me, Haute Couture is about the close connection between fashion and craftsmanship. It’s a unique space where fashion transforms into a personal art form, resulting in one-of-a-kind pieces meticulously created through dedicated study and handwork. In this exclusive domain, garments go beyond mere clothing—they evolve into distinctive works of art that showcase the essence of creativity and skill. Haute Couture, therefore, stands as proof of the strong link between the creativity in fashion and the hands that bring these exceptional creations to life.

Now, at SWARM Mag, we are focusing on the theme THE ROOTS OF TASTE. So, the last question is: how do you remain connected to your roots while embracing the future?

I believe our roots and heritage wield a pervasive influence over us, shaping every aspect of our being. I hold a deep attachment to these influences; a significant portion of my inspiration, both in my work and personal life, draws from my childhood, my home country, daily experiences, and family. Yet, I’ve been fortunate enough to immerse myself in the concept of travel and living in different countries—a priceless experience that has become one of the most valuable lessons in my life. Exploring diverse cultures not only enriches my understanding of others but also serves as a profound journey of self-discovery, allowing me to learn more about myself in the process.

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Bio

Susanna Pugliese is an emerging designer with a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion from the University of Westminster, London. Growing up in Rome, which is renowned for its art and culture, has deeply impacted Susanna’s outlook and character. Through her strong interest and love for fashion, Susanna has developed a great admiration for photography and illustration, which she uses extensively in project-related research and development. During her studies in London, she was exposed to a multicultural environment with different ethics that enabled her to explore various paths and gain insight into her art and aesthetics. Susanna is knowledgeable and experienced in a wide array of design skills such as beading, experimental textile, fabric manipulation and embellishment, print techniques, laser cutting, leathers, shirts, denim, dresses, tailoring, accessories and outerwear.
After spending a year at the atelier of Viktor & Rolf, in Amsterdam, she gained a deep appreciation for the Haute Couture world and the intricate craftsmanship it involves. It was then she realized the powerful effect attention to detail, order, and balance have on her personality. Susanna also values the incomparable experience of creating something from nothing, and, thus, delights in translating aesthetical concepts and ideas into tangible reality. Her creative ideas, insight, and dedication to her craft have been instrumental in her work as a fashion designer.

Credits

Designs / Susanna Pugliese @susaaaannna

Interview / Kateřina Hynková @khynko

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