Designer, New York City
Why I love him: He knows his stuff. He’s worked so long in the industry, he has seen it all and he’s able to bring that into everything he does now.
What made you want to pursue design vocationally as opposed to it just being a hobby?
My grandmother Anna Cipolli was a fashion model when she was young. She was a beautiful woman with high cheekbones and dark hair. I was very close with my Nana who I always admired her looks and style. Nana would be shopping every day for her newest clothes to match her purse, scarves, belts, shoes, lipstick and jewelries. Everyone I know has said my Nana was a beautiful woman with style and good taste. She was classic. She was my “Mame Dennis.” She was one of my inspirations.
I’ve been in the industry most of my life, but my career changed when I received a phone call from Pratt Institute, the fabulous Rosie De Pasquale who was the Chair of fashion design at the time, asked me to come on board to teach draping and patternmaking. A semester later, the dean of fashion at Parsons School of Design, Tim Gunn of Project Runway, offered me the opportunity to teach Couture and several other classes. I had an incredible ride working with one of the most classic gentleman I have ever known. I taught at the three top fashion universities in the country, Pratt, Parsons and FIT, for eight years. I am now the fulltime professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and work closely with students on the CFDA scholarships, the Fashion Art and Design Club I created, and I continue to work in the industry. I wake up every morning with excitement to come to FIT and work with my colleagues.
Besides doing what I love as a blogger of my own, Christopher Uvenio Collezioni, I am working with Vasilios Christofilakos who is a shoes/accessory designer and a colleague of mine as well, on spectacular coffee table book, it has something to do with first supermodel of the world, Janice Dickinson.
What was your training in design?
I got my interest and training at the very prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology where I received my BFA and continued to study abroad at Polimoda in Florence, Italy and ESMOD in Paris.
I learned a lot from my idol, Gianni Versace when I was studying at Polimoda: Draping, hand sewing, embroidery and fittings. My favorite and most unforgettable experience was working with Donatella Versace during Milan Fashion Week. I was a male dresser backstage, dressing the 90’s Supermodels of the World: Linda, Naomi, Christy, Cindy, and Claudia. I was extremely lucky to work at the time when the fashion world was bigger and more glamorous.
When you begin designing new garments, what is the starting point for you?
I seriously love this question. Since I’ve been a designer for over twenty years, I love to research. I enjoy life by seeing the world around me, traveling, seeing a classic film, going to the gallery, and looking at amazing photographs from European fashion magazine including Vogue Italia. Painting, colours and architecture all become the inspiration. When the colours come to life, I start developing designs on paper. I ask myself, “What does my collection want to say?” Most times, my collection is fashion-forward, cutting edge with a twist of Avant Garde.
The internet has changed the fashion industry in numerous ways. How have you utilized it and social media to get your work and your brand to a larger audience?
Diana Vreeland famously said, “The eye has to travel,” but these days, the eye gets really tired. There are so many images being flung at us — as editors and consumers — it makes you crave simple beauty and great design. Fashion is by definition a reflection of what is going on in the world. We live in a moment of total disruption as our tools change and the speed increases. Everyone is surfing a tsunami, trying to understand how to deal with waves of so much information, so many images. When in periods of change, clarity and quality become imperative. The world of social media and fashion is on fire because people are so attracted to it.
Where has that attraction got us? How has that social dependency we have on imagery changed modern runways?
Nobody claps anymore because they’re busy taking pictures. Fashion is now full of people doing crazy things just to make people talk. I don’t want to be part of this system. I just want the beauty and the dream. As an industry, in the past decades we have been transformed by globalization and now digitalization, the latter of which is really just an iceberg with the tip showing. Why can’t we embrace this time now as a golden age of fashion, a time in our history where we have more abundant opportunity than ever? We are a desired industry, wanted by the art world, the tech and digital sphere and by all forms of entertainment—theater, music, film. The collaborative lines are blurred, we all inform each A true visionary or an industry that breaks new ground is one that doesn’t look to the past, but just keeps moving forward. Everyone certainly feels the pressure of delivering more. Marc (Jacobs) now goes into the resort collection with a different mind-set. It’s not clothes on a rack anymore, but a show. And shows themselves have become such a spectacle, with all the extra material that can be generated. There are very different goals now. You find yourself at 2 a.m. doing a whole fashion shoot before a show — on top of working on the looks and the fittings. It’s all out of hand, but it’s all in your hand. You’re taking on the world in your hand.
What was it like the first time you saw someone wearing your designs in real life?
When I was working at Bob Mackie and I created special collections, I was shocked to find out that one of my gowns will be worn by a big name actress to host the Tony Awards and it was the one and only Angela Lansbury! It was her first of many, Ms. Lansbury seen in a black long sequin gown with a huge off shoulder white crepe collar.
I also created RuPaul’s Isis wing fitted dress made with blue and white sequins for the VH1Fashion/Music Award, later seen in Mackie’s book “Unmistakable Mackie.” Last year, Coco Mitchell wore my long black sequin knit train gown with big long feathers pointing off the shoulder strap. Every design is like a first when seeing it on someone that will stand out, it becomes special and memorable. It’s always a wow factor and excitement when the design is worn by someone who admires the craftsmanship that is being done.
What is your advice to emerging designers who are trying to separate themselves from the pack to get noticed?
Remember that a job, even a great job or a fantastic career, doesn’t give your life meaning, at least not by itself. Life is about what you learn, who you are or can become, who you love and are loved by. Take criticism or “feedback” for what it is: a gift given to you to make you better at what you do. Work harder than everyone under you or above you. Nothing commands respect more than a good work ethic. Be unique, exciting and creative with fresh ideas.
FAST FASHION FACTS
My aesthetic in five words: Defiant, individual, slick, blend, knowledgeable.
My client is… the one who wants Bold. Fashion forward. Cutting edge. Sophistication. Classic and some drama added to the twist. My potential clients will look at your portfolio, point their fingers at a piece of work and say: “I want exactly this, but different.”
My dream client is…my all-time favorite supermodel of the 90s, Linda Evangelista. She was primarily known for being the longtime muse of photographer Steven Meisel, as well as for coining the phrase “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” She holds the record for her multiple appearances on the cover of Vogue Italia, all of which were photographed by Meisel. Beautiful cheekbones and hair, the walk…I always admire her beauty.
For more on Christopher, head over to http://christopheruveniodesign.blogspot.com/