INTERVIEW: PAUL VASILEFF
Late last year we got the chance to catch up with Adelaide Designer Paul Vasileff of Paolo Sebastian, you may have seen some of his masterpieces on the Red Carpet at the Golden Globes and most recently the Academy Awards, as well as on the faces of many fashionable celebrities such as Danii Minogue and Guiliana Rancic.
We talked everything fashion and got to play dress ups, every girls dream!
Paul started at the very young age of 17 and since has amazed everyone with his breathtaking collections.
At a young age you chose to pursue a career in fashion, what does fashion mean to you?
It’s not necessarily so much about fashion, I wouldn’t say I work in fashion; it’s more about style because fashion changes by style remains forever.
To me fashion is how people live their life day to day and how they make fashion work for them. I’ve always been interested in that because you can tell so much about people from what they wear, it shows their personality traits, orr if you’re someone who says they don’t like fashion that in itself is a fashion statement, I find fashion really interesting in that respect.
For me the reason I am drawn to it (fashion) I think it’s just something that I can’t explain, it’s more creative, what we do, as fashion can be more of an industry. For us it’s about creating and design work, I guess I’m putting my personal aesthetic in to fashion.
When I was studying In Italy, one of the classes looked at people, we had to look at ourselves and question why we like fashion, why do we like the fashion that we like, why do we draw that way and even now it’s hard to pin-point why.
How would you describe your own personal style? Has it changed much since launching your couture brand?
Someone said to me that I dress very ‘classic’ and yet my dresses are so couture, but you don’t dress that way for yourself. I dress very conservative and I guess it’s because I’m very much of a perfectionist and traditional. All my suits are classic colours, classic cuts, perfect fit and it comes back to my perfectionist and classic part of my personality.
I wouldn’t say it has changed so much, more that it has grown and developed and as new trends come in we get to experience and grow and develop with that, as we have new fabrics come in we get new ideas. My style has always been the ‘old, other world league glamour’ so I would say my style has evolved – it’s built up rather than changed.
Q) As Adelaide is a smaller city in terms of other fashion capitals how do you feel it is growing in the fashion world? And why do you continue to stay?
I think Adelaide is doing huge things compared to what it was a couple of years ago and I think that’s also thanks to the internet and social media.
I get so proud when I’m interstate or overseas and am in contact with someone, for example I was recently in Sydney talking to some ‘big’ magazines there and I got so excited when I found out the people I were talking to were from Adelaide and it just goes to show there’s so much talent here and it’s a shame that in the past everyone has chosen to move interstate. I think more and more people are loving the Adelaide life style, myself included and because of the internet and social media we’re able to stay and work from here – which is great!
Before the internet it would have been impossible (to stay in this industry) but now everything is at your fingertips and you can be in direct contact with anyone you need or want to be in contact with.
I think things are starting to change and how we have events such as the Adelaide Fashion Festival, people in Adelaide are now realising that we do have power and talent and are making it work.
Q) Where does your inspiration come from? And how does it push you to keep going as a designer?
I get inspiration from so many things, I’m very much inspired by my friends and family who give me the drive to keep going and to keep pushing myself because they are so excited for me and seeing that makes me really push myself.
When you’re working all the time, you’re just in it and you’re not thinking about everything , but they are so excited to hear what I’m working on, so that in itself is a huge, huge push.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, like I said I’m always inspired by Old Hollywood, Old Movies but it could be anything. A few collections ago I was in Rome because I lived in Italy for a year and the idea of Rome inspired me. A few collections before that was Swan Lake, I was listening to the soundtrack from the ballet and instantly had a whole different collection. At the end of the day style has to come in to that so you have to adapt that theme or inspiration into your style.
Q) Recently, a lot has been happening to you with your collection how would you describe the last 6 months of your life?
It’s been a real whirlwind and you don’t really get to have a chance to sit back and look at it, because you’re always moving on to the next thing straight away. Even by the time the thing you’ve been working on comes out to the public to see, you’re already steps ahead and have done all these other projects that you’re concentrating all your time on, so you don’t get to look back and it’s not until my friends and family get excited when they can all find out about it all – that’s when you get to relive it and get excited about it again.
When we first find out about ‘The Million Dollar Dress’ we were so excited in the beginning and couldn’t tell anyone and then we made it, and it had to get sent off to get the diamonds put on it and you forget about it until it comes back and it gets launched and it’s exciting again because you’re working so hard and all these hours and doing all these other projects you don’t get to step back and look at it all, which is a shame.
That’s definitely what’s been going on in the last six months, it’s just been a whirlwind of all these projects built up and all these special events and collaborations with Shiels, Big Brother, X-Factor, and other projects that have been going on – it’s been a really, really exciting six months
Q) You recently designed the Million Dollar Diamond Dress what was the process like for designing it?
It was really exciting, for me it was something completely different, from never having worked with jewellery before. I learnt a lot because designing jewellery is a very different process from designing dresses and we had to work in a way where the diamonds would have to be incorporated in to the fabric which was a challenge for Shiels as well, because their jewellers had to work out a way to heat set and you obviously can’t heat set on to fabric.
For both of us it was a lot of trial and error and learning, for that six months it was a lot of back and forth. It was a really great experience and very exciting and again while we were doing it we weren’t really thinking about creating a Million Dollar Dress – which is very cool.
Q) How did it feel to unveil the Million Dollar Diamond Dress and your 1920s inspired collection in November?
I was really proud of this collection because it was bringing together all these elements over the last six years of Paolo Sebastian. I used key elements of different styles that we’ve done, like our ballerina cut which has been very popular for us and working them in to a way which personifies the essence of Paolo Sebastian, so this collection was very significant for me because it was taking our design aesthetic to the extreme and pushing as much as we could, like with the crystal work and lace work to show what we’re about as a brand.
I was very proud and very excited to put this collection together because it was condensed, all of our style put in to one – everything that we loved put in to one collection.
My inspiration was everything that I love, 1920’s, Old Hollywood – it was really fun.
Q) What do you see for yourself in your career in the year 2014?
I don’t know! We had a discussion the other day on the next collection, what we’re going to do and how we’re going to launch it. There should be some exciting things coming up, but we’re just taking it as it comes and that’s what has been great for us in making decisions I tend to follow my gut.
I’m doing this because I love my job and really enjoy it, so I’m making decisions that I enjoy and that I want for myself and my company, and that’s what feels right to me. I’m not doing anything just to get ahead, the fact that the brand has taken off is a great thing.
If you’re just doing the same thing every year, it’s expected, it’s boring and not fun for us.
I always said I couldn’t live the same day twice, with this job every day is different, every day is a new and exciting challenge, there’s always boundaries to be pushed and working out new ways in doing things and I love that. You never know what can come around the corner.
Q) What advice would you give your 17 year old self with all that you have learnt and experienced now?
I don’t know that I would want to say anything, because I wouldn’t want to change anything. I’m so happy with where I am that I wouldn’t want to do anything that would jeopardise that and alter the experiences that I’ve had.
You have good and you have bad experiences, but the bad ones are just as important as the good ones because you learn so much from them. I guess I would say, definitely keep at it. If I could go back to any point I would go back to my 18 year old self when I was in Italy and say ‘just relax and enjoy, it’s only a year’.
I only applied to go to Italy, because I was forced to, my parents said there’s this scholarship, apply! And I just did it to say I did it, pity I didn’t get in… but then I did get in. The first thing that was going through my head when I got that call was, you have to go now. I just wanted to stay.
I think now I should have just enjoyed it more than I could have if I had just relaxed. I had friends visit every month, and we travelled together. I got to see Europe, and when I went back this year it was great, because I had been there and I knew where everything was, knew how to speak a bit of French, knew how to speak Italian so when I went with my friends, I got to show them around and going back to Milan I got to reminisce, it was a really great experience.
Q) What has been one moment where you had to pinch yourself to see if it was all real?
There’s a lot of pinch yourself moments, so many, but you pinch yourself then you have to go and do the work. I’ve had the fortune of meeting so many amazing people, celebrities, people in the industry that you get to work with and even clients; you meet so many wonderful people.
The biggest pinch yourself moment was when I met Giorgio Armani in Paris. I went to the Christian Dior Couture show and the Ellie Saab Couture show that was this year’s pinch yourself moment. Even then I was numb to it, so when I look back on the books from the show I still can’t believe it. The Ellie Saab show was just beautiful, the most beautiful space, and at the Dior show they had built a ‘marquee’ but it was a building, and we were all sitting in the middle in a square staircase area, the models walked around and the wall was a moving video, so it felt the room was moving around you, it was really impressive.
Q) Since you started so young and so far have had a lot of success where do yourself in the next 10 years?
I would like to see Paolo Sebastian overseas, maybe either Paris or Milan, hopefully showing. The ultimate aim is to be in the same level as Dior.
The shops that we’re stocked in now, we’re on the shelf with Marchesa, Valentino which in itself is really huge for us.
Since I was little that’s where I wanted to be, one of those brands, the fact that we’re on the road to that is really exciting. In ten, fifteen, twenty years’ time, it’s scary to think, but hopefully we’re there.
We want to thank Paul for this interview and for being an amazing inspiration not only for everyone who loves fashion in Adelaide, but all over the world.
‘If you’ve got an imagination you can never stop growing, and once I do stop then it’s time to maybe stop.’
All photo credit goes to Morgan Sette