Who better to ring in the start of The Fashion Law Interview Series this summer than recent CFDA award nominee and menswear designer to the some of the most stylish men in the US and abroad, Antonio Azzuolo. If you saw the opening of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund's series, you know just who I am referring to. The Canada native is at the forefront of custom menswear with his one of a kind craftsmanship and tailoring. Its no surprise that he has amassed quite a following earning nods from the CFDA, Vogue and Fashion Group International as one of the most promising emerging design talents at the moment. Azzuolo talks to The Fashion Law about the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, his friend Prabal Gurung and how is brand is changing right now.
The Fashion Law - I think the opening segment of The Fund really sheds light on you and your amazing brand.
Antonio Azzuolo - I was really flattered and really loved that opening segment. Because of the Fashion Fund process and the documentary, a lot more people are aware of who I am and my work and the collection. The environment is so different today than it was ten years ago when designers would just be in their studios or ateliers all the time working. Today people are out networking and you have big PR firms. Everything is about branding, which is a good thing as long as the product doesn't suffer. Until recently I've been that type of old school designer where I really just spent time working on my product. The CFDA/Vogue process was an eye opener in that respect, which was a great thing. It was a big turnaround for us because I realized the brand has to be branded and the designer himself - you have to brand yourself, as well.
The Fashion Law - You have had a PR firm for awhile but you've said you never really focused on celebrities or social networking. Do you think it will be able to embrace the social media aspect of designing and yet stay true to your brand, which is custom and almost of another era in terms of quality and craftsmanship?
Antonio Azzuolo - I think this is very possible as we grow, as the team grows, and hopefully we can do so within the context of who I am. There are certain values that the brand stands for, such as exceptional craftsmanship and the artistry involved in the designs. I want my work to be thought provoking. I want to influence the way guys to think about and look at things, and influence the way men see and buy fashion and buy my fashion. In that context, I source people that value these things and that come from the same place and they help me with the PR and media aspects. Personally, I do go out a little bit more and socialize a little bit more and it's great. Meeting people is great. It's inspiring, and that's what business is about. It's about people.
The Fashion Law - Prabal Gurung wore an AA suit to the Met Gala last month (and to the CFDA awards) and Daniel Radcliffe did, as well. The Met Gala is arguably the biggest night in fashion. How does it feel to have had your designs on the red carpet there?
Antonio Azzuolo - That was nice. Prabal is a friend. I've known him for quite awhile and he comes by a lot and he's very supportive. It's great to have that because that's how things happen. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool with PR and even with our bespoke business. It's like one guy gets a suit and through a series of small changes, we are changing the way that men dress one suit at a time. And Daniel, we dressed him for three other occasions, too, the BAFTA awards and the world premiere [of The Woman In Black] in London and the premiere in Paris and now this. What's nice is getting all the feedback from the press and they're on the best dressed list. (He laughs.)
The Fashion Law - It's pretty striking because you see Prabal and his date Greta Gerwig, who wore one of Prabal's design, and Prabal is almost out-shining his date. He looked amazing in your suit.
Antonio Azzuolo - He said it himself. He said, 'You know, I felt really good that night.' and Daniel said the same. I think it is really important to have fittings like that, especially in my business. The custom business is very time consuming, but when you leave a fitting and you realize, Wow, I added to this person's - the way he feels about himself and the way he looks in such a positive way. Prabal said to me, 'I felt really confident,' and I said to him - It shows in the pictures.
The Fashion Law - What are you working on now?
Antonio Azzuolo - We are working on a couple of exciting projects. I really want to focus, as we have been for the last two seasons, on sales in the US and globally, and really focusing in on the core DNA of the brand, which is building this mans wardrobe. Every season I do a presentation and it's great, but it's really about product. For Spring, we will be introducing a couple of new products, not product categories, but products I feel are essential and that complete this man's wardrobe. So, in terms of the collection itself, this is really exciting.
Also, there are a couple of collaborations in the works with shoes and maybe eyewear. I'm excited about that. I think the bespoke business is picking up, and we are really going to focus on the product and sales and distribution, and the collaborations are just going to be a little compliment or accent. Maybe a small capsule this season and next season maybe a larger capsule. I feel like menswear is really an ongoing process. When u introduce something it takes two, three, four seasons to catch on. I don't want to move on a quick and cyclical basis. I want to nurture the customer and if I really believe in something, I'll keep reintroducing it.
The Fashion Law - In comparison to many other designers out there right now, you have such a strong, core vision of your brand, and you're not spreading yourself too thinly.
Antonio Azzuolo - The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and other CFDA initiatives are to thank for a lot. It's easy to kind of go further and further beyond your specialty but working with the CFDA and NYU's Stern School of Business, they are like, 'No - what are u known for?' We are known for our tailored jackets and the wardrobes that revolve around them. So thats our message and everything else is just kind of an accessory. The focus has been there from the beginning but sometimes it gets a bit lost in all of these different opportunities. We want to keep our focus and the image we give off consistent and the Fashion Fund and the CFDA have helped us with that.