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Veronica Etro’s Vibrant Life

Q&A
Veronica Etro smiles for the camera.

By Jessica Michault

Veronica Etro is one of those positive people who always see the bright side of any situation. This “glass half full” optimistic attitude probable has something to do with the fact that she grew up surrounded by the dazzling paisley patterned prints that are at the heart of her family run business.

Founded in 1968 by her father Gimmo Etro, the Etro brand has become famous for its chic boho designs that put intricately pattered fabrics at the forefront of each collection. For the past 15 years Etro, who graduated from the renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design school, has been the mind behind the womenswear collections for the house. While her charismatic brother Kean takes care of designing the menswear.

Here, we speak with Etro about the unique environment of working with family and why, for her, today fashion is all about movement.

Fundamentally what do you want people to get out of the clothing they buy from Etro?
The Etro woman is individualistic and independent. She likes to play with clothes, but she doesn’t take them too seriously. In fact, I’d say she is more interested in style than she is with pure Fashion. For her, clothing is a creative expression. There’s a sense of freedom when she gets dressed. She follows her whims and enjoys the fantasy, and exoticism that fashion can bring. I design for a woman who is bold and isn’t afraid of color, or a touch of eclecticism. I want our customer to be in love with little details, that sometimes are hidden like linings, haberdashery, buttons, under collars, etc.

Your brand is known for its amazing prints, but what are the new ways you are trying to integrate that element into your designs. Basically how do you still keep it feeling fresh after all these years?
A collection is a six month work and sometimes it is a little autobiographical, you take a trip to the far East, you see an exhibition. You obviously put some of your experience to the collection. I tend to leave it very instinctive, panta-rei, fluid, to let things flow rather than to give a theme at the beginning and that is it. Then I start with an intensive research period. I spend many months gathering images, swatches of fabric, and taking notes of things that inspire me. The inspiration comes from many different sources and it changes with each collection: it could be a movie, or a trip, an exhibit I’ve seen, a book I’ve read, or a special corner of the Etro archives or even I dream. Once the theme starts to emerge, I dive more deeply into the research and this begins to inform the development of the materials.

We always start with the fabrics at Etro as this is the most important part of our brand’s DNA. Each season we push new techniques, new boundaries to create innovative materials and prints. Obviously I already have in mind the idea of silhouettes, so maybe fluid or more stiff fabrics. Once I have established this stimulating visual playground, then I begin to design the silhouettes of the clothes.

What is the biggest challenge about working in a family company?
It’s a very unique environment because it’s not often that you can blend the personal with the professional. As everything in the fashion world gets bigger and our company gets bigger, I like the fact that family remains at the center of it all. We work very close together and we rely on one another to share ideas and discuss our vision. We are also able to make very quick decisions without getting bogged down in bureaucracy. Obviously when you’re working with family members, you can get into heated debates over the lunch table, but this honesty and openness is also probably one of our greatest advantages. You’re in a safe place to push the boundaries.

I think what is key to our success is that we each have clearly defined roles inside the company. And at the top of all: we have fun together!

What did you love most about the design process of creating you Fall/Winter 2015 collection?
The inspiration was the world of home interiors, ornate wallpapers, rich tapestries and luxurious upholstery textiles to provide a new creative playground. I like the idea that the opulence gets tamed with a new sense of precision and an intimacy that feels cozy and warm. I called the whole thing Maximalism under control as I remember when we were putting together the patchworks, it all looked a mess on the floor: hundreds of different jacquards, prints, etc…My aim was to create a patchwork without having the harlequin effect, choosing different patterns, keeping them tonal, made it controlled. I always love to put things in an order…Do you remember the movie “Mary Poppins” when she is in the kids room that looks like an untidy mess and then with a magic touch everything goes back to its place? It was a little bit like this creating this collection.

What is exciting you right now in fashion? Where do you want to push the envelope for your brand?
It is exciting to see how fashion is changing in the digital era: it’s not anymore about a picture, it’s a movement, 3-D videos, films; it’s about lifestyle, an experience, It is very interesting to work with young video-makers and directors, creating a film that tells your collection, work with LEDS for a window. It’s fascinating cause fashion is linked with the arts, jewellery, film, music, theatre, video, a 360° on visual arts and that drives my curiosity. As it is not just about clothes anymore.

 

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