STEFANO CHIASSAI - the man and the designer

This interview was conducted by e-mail because of "scheduling issues". Fashion, our hectic lives, and the distance between Milan and Florence were all decisive factors. I know Stefano Chiassai through his regular column in Fashion Times. Week after week, his articles have become a real mantra to be followed.
Stefano Chiassai

He applies a courageous sense of charismatic sensitivity to the creative process. Perhaps Stefano would call it a paradox of SENSITIVECREATIVITY and CHARISMABILITY: A way of expressing philosophical concepts that push the right buttons and give life to emotional, ahead of creative, processes.

His rather unique way of thinking (unconventional to say the least) is expressed in broad projects. From travelling to photos, memories to inspiration, to the end result: collections with real soul, pieces with a story to tell, that talk about Stefano, his passions and the people he loves.

Reading this interview, it's impossible not to feel the beating heart of a strong TRANSMITTEDPASSION. You'll get a clear idea of the person, the man and the designer. One tip: it's much better read out loud.

Who is Stefano Chiassai? I feel more like a boy of a certain age than a mature man. It might sound flippant, but that's really how I feel about myself at the moment. I am a very positive person, I always hope that something surprising, beautiful, positive, some FUTURELIFE will happen tomorrow. Because of this attitude to life, I am always on the lookout for my identity. Every day I try to understand what my limits and my attitudes are. This helps me get the most out of my work and makes for a more rewarding private life. You're looking at a VERYSENSITIVE boy of a certain age who has been through some intense, negative, exciting, devastating, amazing experiences and some big ups and downs, with really bad patches I was able to overcome by fighting everyone and everything, so that I could make my passion for fashion into my profession.

How did your passion for fashion begin? It's thanks to my mother, who from when I was three used to take me along to the little family company. I basically grew up there amongst the cutting tables, sewing machines, seamstresses and women ironing READYMADECLOTHES. At my mother's side, I got to know and saw work designers who have been and still are legends to me. So my passion came from our FAMILYTRADITION. My brother opened a clothing store at 17 years of age and was immediately so successful that he opened a second store, which I ran while I was studying at the Istituto d’Arte in Florence. That's how it all began ...despite my childhood dreams of becoming a musician or a footballer, which never happened.

Why is Florence so important to you? Walking around central Florence is always exciting. It's like being inside a history book. There is always something wonderful and beautiful to look at that creates this STIMULATINGENERGY out of so much art and history. Florence is not just a symbol of beauty; it's also where Pitti Uomo is based, where I showed my first menswear collection in 1986.

Tell me your favourite and your upcoming inspirations and destinations. Because I'm a WORKAHOLIC I'm always looking for stimulating places where I can do research, take photos and notes, discover little shops and street markets, visit museums. I like to pair what's useful with what's pleasurable, and London is perfect for that, I never get tired of going there. I'm working on my next trip now, but I think it will be much further away...

Stefano Chiassai
Stefano Chiassai

How did the Stefano Chiassai Studio come about and what does it do? In 1994 my wife Alex and I decided to close our STEFANO CHIASSAI Line. It was a painful but inevitable decision. We then set up STUDIO CHIASSAI, which later became STEFANO CHIASSAI STUDIO. We restarted everything from scratch and came up against a number of problems. It's in these situations that you understand who you can really trust. But problems like these help you to grow, especially when you have experience and you can prove yourself as a professional. We managed it and today we work for international fashion brands, remaining somewhat UNDERTHERADAR but returning to Milan fashion week for the menswear shows. SCS is now a CREATIVELABORATORY with a real ENERGYBUZZ. If you come to our studio, you immediately see how we work, which is unlike any other creative studio. Our work is the top priority alongside human relationships and respect for everyone's work.

How do you choose the people in your team? I taught at Florence's Polimoda for 12 years and two of my COLLABORATORS (as I like to call them) were former students of mine. I chose the others according to my own personal logic. I assess their professional and personal abilities, which I feel are equally important. They are all very different, but they share the same simplicity, humility, desire to listen and learn, an ability to challenge themselves, humanity and, most importantly, respect and politeness. I'm firmly convinced that RESPECT should be much more widespread in fashion, as well as common sense and good taste, obviously!

What don't you like about fashion? Clearly, a lack of respect, careerism at all costs, unbridled opportunism. They are widespread in our industry. Not caring about the consequences of certain behaviours, one-upmanship at all costs - these are things our sector could definitely do without. I also don't like the kind of poor taste that I see on the street. I think it's a case of “less is more”, you have to find the right balance in all things in life, from work to how you dress in the morning!

The last lesson learned is the one you pass on. Also, is it possible to balance work and family? It might sound like a cliché but in this job you never stop learning. Every day I meet different people (on a plane or a train while travelling for work) and I like listening to others because they can always teach you something new. This is absolutely the case for me because I've always worked alongside Alex. Not only do we love and respect one another, we are also able to listen to each other. We do argue sometimes (otherwise it would be really dull!), but we always make up afterwards.

What is your favourite quote? STRUGGLE AND FIGHT has become my daily motto. It's a mantra that I repeat to myself every day. I have never given up in the face of difficulty, which has made me what I am today. It's also a fight against that little voice inside me that says, You can't do it, you'll never succeed, you're weak, you're afraid of everything. In the end, though, my positive side always wins and I always make it!

How important are film and music in your work? They are fundamental. The images, sounds and words of a film or song are crucial inputs for my creative process. I go to concerts whenever I can. I went to see DEEP PURPLE last November. Like I said, music is fundamental in my life, I learned to play the guitar when I was very young, I was even in a band - I wanted to become a rock star like everyone else in the Seventies.

Describe the past few decades using one word
I'd start like this
sixties– beatdream
seventies – undergroundrevolution
eighties – glamorousexplosion
nineties – analogueminimal
two thousands – digitalspatial
twenty-tens – uncertainchaos

What human characteristics do all creative people have? I've met many and I hang out with a few, plus I'm one myself so I'd say that all “real” creative people share an ability to multi-task and stay hyper-connected (maybe too much). They are intuitive, visionary, likely to get carried away, but very good at recognising their own limits.

Do you have any projects coming up? I'm working on a book about my work, my archive, my MODUSOPERANDI. The graphic concept is ready and I'm putting together the distribution and production team at the moment… It's going to be very special and interesting, a dream of mine that is finally coming true, and it's a good way to “unplug” from the routine that I find so hectic at certain times of the year. It's another way to regenerate myself, clear my head and then throw myself back into creating collections for the international brands I work for.

One last question: When are you coming to Milan to have coffee with me? I'm often in Milan and it'll be my pleasure to call you next time I'm there.

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