“A WORLD OF HER OWN”
- Embracing empowerment and owning your originality.
(March 30, 2021)
Marchioness magazine talks COMMUNITY, CREATIVITY and BEING YOUR OWN BRAND with Parisian Designer and Stylist, Anna Castellano.
Words and Interview by Laura Wilcox
Our post-pandemic wonderland is fast approaching and our fashion needs? Spiralling. I for one have caught myself in a state of panic, urging to frantically prepare my spring wardrobe for my big entrance back into the real world… drumroll, please. But let’s face it, now isn’t a time for my Drew Barrymore never-been-kissed makeover moment, it’s a time for investment. It’s now or never to hone-in on our individual styles, our self-expression and how we really want to be exercising our time. Anna Castellano, in all her immersed and independent glory, is an important reminder of that. Her work would serve us well in symbolism of that post Covid realm; a reworked life, flourishing with new embellishments.
Castellano is a power-house of creativity, oozing innovation in all walks of life. If it’s not assisting the likes of Georgia Pendlebury and Helena Tejedor, styling or collaborating with her fashion-infused social circle, it’s design. But Castellano isn’t your classic fashion design grad. There’s no trend-following tactics here. There is however a thriving talent for upcycling. Think less Nicole McLaughlin madness and more decorative detail. In her own words, the drive comes from a desire to “fill every bit of empty space and give new life”. Well, we love to see her taking up space, both on her canvas and in the business.
By putting her own stamp on hand-sourced vintage clothes, Castellano forms a faultless trio; originality, sustainability and a hell of a lot of passion which undoubtedly shines through in her energetic prints. Inspiration from the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier and queen of punk Westwood is clear but these prints make an ethereal statement of their own. Drawing on a combo of grunge-like cuts and feminine bleach/paint motifs, it’s no wonder the designs are sparking such intrigue. Aesthetic pulls in contrasting directions which is what makes these pieces so mesmerising… Rough and ready yet intricately beautiful. If you fancy a trance, just check the jeans she made for Anna Sui’s FW21 line - a celestial whirlwind with an eloquent nod to 70’s style.
For a designer to be born and raised in Paris, still immersed in the city landscape yet use nature as a key source of inspiration is a refreshing juxtapose. But Castellano’s outlook clearly embodies more than a standard infatuation with the Louis Vuitton, Chanel, big-branded Paris that we all know. Her interests span much wider than reality shows like The Hills in a juvenile fanatic manor. No - suddenly, we’re transported somewhere new, where your friends form your working community and you can dip your toe in every sector of the industry. Listening to Anna talk about her creative world was like a real-life window into the hopes of Allen Ginsberg back in the 70’s for the youths of tomorrow;
“Become more mindful of your own friends, your own work, your own proper art, your own beauty. Go out and make for your own eternity”.
Laura: How do you find the Parisian landscape of fashion, is it an inspiring place to be?
Anna: Definitely. There’s a big fashion world here and a lot of young people trying to get into that world. When I was in fashion school, I met a lot of friends who are photographers, designers, make 3D movies… it's just great. A bunch of people that gather together and try to make new things, you know? In Paris, everyone knows each other. We’re always working together. Fashion, photography, everything.
Laura: Would you say that sense of creative community is strong in Paris?
Anna: There’s the big luxurious fashion world that we think of in Paris. And then there’s this subculture with more independent magazines and new designers that make a lot from nothing. Like old clothes and paint - it can create something super beautiful that we haven't seen before.
Laura: So how did you come to be where you are now, have you always been interested in the fashion industry?
Anna: I’d say yes, I was really interested in runways and magazines when I was younger. But back then I was more fascinated by the fashion image as a whole, the big brands and everything. When I started to go to school, meet new people, read more and get informed, I started to be interested in all magazines and smaller designers. I learnt how you can be a big stylist but work with young designers and big brands at the same time - I think that’s a real new improvement in fashion.
Laura: What inspires your own style, your own designs?
Anna: I’m always inspired by plants, flowers, butterflies. So I’d say nature inspires me. I like to make patterns, to make the most of the immense space by filling it in. Fill every bit of empty space and give new life. That's it! I just don’t want a blank space anymore.
Laura: Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Anna: So I use bleach and paint with my garments, sometimes combining the two. I have some new designs coming with bleach and painting on the front and cut-outs on the back. The first step of my work is to find vintage clothes. I often go to thrift stores in Paris looking for the most unusual ones... You want something different, it's super difficult to find. Then I’ll usually take photos of the clothes with my iPad and do sketches on them to see what happens. Or sometimes I just like to go for it with brushes and bleach.
Laura: How do you get into the right mind-set?
Anna: I listen to a lot of music or podcasts while I work. Older stuff like Otis Reading or jazz music gives me the right mood. Anything too aggressive and I'm not going to work!
Laura: What brands are you loving right now?
Anna: So my style is either super feminine or masculine when I dress. And it’s the same mood in my brand and my work. I like to incorporate both. So I really like feminine collections and brands like Miu Miu but at the same time I really like things like Ottolinger which has hints of masculinity. I also love the work of one of my really close friends - Zoe Coutureeier. She makes the most like unbelievable rings and necklaces, they’re super beautiful and she inspires me a lot.
Laura: So do you enjoy surrounding yourself with creatives?
Anna: Definitely. I lived with Zoe and a styling assistant, all of my friends are creatives, my boyfriend makes videos and is an artist, too. We have this group of designers, photographers, everything. They all work in fashion.
Laura: What’s your approach when it comes to social media and capturing your work?
Anna: Most of the time, it's just me that takes my pictures. I want to photograph friends in my pieces. I think with Instagram you just have to develop your own space. My aim is to show the people that I work with, especially the women because they're so inspiring. I really enjoy seeing the people I love in my clothes, we support each other and I want to document that.
Laura: What does being a woman in the industry mean to you?
Anna: I feel quite lucky that the fashion industry is open-minded. I'm not judged because I'm a woman and I never feel less than. But a lot of us get stuck in the assisting world. The fact that we are women means we all want to be successful or to achieve something and that’s sometimes more difficult for us. It’s even difficult to feel ourselves successful when we are and there is a lot of competition between girls.
Laura: So with those limitations and competition, how does one succeed?
Anna: You have to try and stay true to yourself. Don’t follow trends - a lot of people get lost in that. I think you can really achieve something interesting when you love and embrace your own ideas, in your own world. Follow your strengths, develop yourself. I think it's the most rewarding thing. The aim is not to be famous. The aim is to be successful in what you want and achieve your own goals. Or maybe not, even if you don't have any particular goals, just do your stuff and find your own way. But that takes a lot of time. At the beginning I didn't know what I wanted to do in fashion. I liked to make patterns and everything but my desire was not my hobby. When I discovered I could paint and alter old garments it changed everything. Then I had a new vision and knew I didn’t have to be stuck in one thing. Now I can do design, styling, photography, maybe even consulting for events. Anything.
Laura: Can you tell us about your experience freelancing for Anna Sui?
Anna: It was really interesting. She contacted me on Instagram because she saw my work and asked if I could do samples for her upcoming collection. It was a little bit scary at the beginning because I didn't know what I was going to do. She had sixties, seventies and eighties references and I had to do something with sun/moon/stars symbols. In the end it was pretty quick and simple… I made a few sketches on my iPad, sent them to her, then she sent me the jeans and I did them! She's super nice and really involved in her brand. She wants to discover and collaborate with new young designers and that’s super important.
Laura: What about your other experiences with designers, any crazy moments?
Anna: I’ve had a lot of crazy moments! When I worked on commercials, just seeing the amount of money used is insane. And the amount of clothes that we use for ads or editorials. We would have like 13 suitcases to get in an Uber van and then take everything back less than eight hours later. Runways too, they’re super hectic. Running around, checking every look, making sure everything is perfect - it's the worst and the best feeling in the world. And when everything is done you're so happy to see the final results or photos. Fashion is crazy. You’re always travelling and meeting new people, it’s always interesting.
Laura: If you could pick any era to live through, what would it be?
Anna: Seventies. I have a thing for seventies furniture. And they had so many crazy psychedelic prints and patterns, I would have loved to be around all those.
Laura: Let’s talk Covid. How has it impacted you/your work?
Anna: When everything was closed before, I had to order online, like eBay or Depop. But I actually found some really good vintage bits. France went into lockdown on Friday but the thing is, the government isn’t clear about which stores are closed. So I had to run to buy materials, paint and everything. It’s definitely had an impact on my career. When the first lockdown was announced, I couldn't work for two or three months because we were really stuck, stuck, stuck at home. No one was even going outside because they were really afraid of the virus. I had a scooter accident after the first lockdown which didn’t help but I started assisting again in September and now I’m really focussing on developing my brand. I'm also working on some editorials in the next few months.
Laura: What are you most looking forward to when things get back to normal?
Anna: My aim is to focus on my community, my friends, growing our space and collaborating with eachother. I don't want to limit myself to design or styling. I’d love to make patterns for bigger brands or do consulting for little brands. I just want to grow with my friends, my family, my girls.
Check-out some of Anna’s current work at apoc-store.com/collections/anna-castellano-women and keep an eye out on her insta @bunnyna96 for her new drop in April.