From Vienna to Milan with Designer Arthur Arbesser


Designer Arthur Arbesser
Green gingham dress by designer Arthur Arbesser

“I LOVE Vienna!” exclaims Arthur Arbesser. “I love it especially from afar”. The tousle-haired womenswear designer, who last September appeared at the finale of his Milan Fashion Week show in faded black jeans, matching T-shirt and trainers,spent his boyhood in the Austrian capital, before enrolling in fashion at Central Saint Martins. Following an offer to join Giorgio Armani’s atelier upon graduation, Arbesser upped and left for Italy. “The move from being a student in London to working in Milan was quite a shock. But after some months and a few too many Negronis, I started to love it here.”

Having spent seven years with Mr Armani in Milan, Arbesser debuted his eponymous brand in 2013. Arbesser renders the tailored silhouettes of uniforms and sportswear shapes in unexpected fabrics and detailing. For spring/summer 2017, ginghams are dusted with iridescent Swarovski crystal powder and a collared polo shirt is made of knit intarsia of white arrows, tips pointing skywards. “It’s a motif on boyscout sashes and since their uniforms were part of the research, the arrow sneaked in”, he explains. “I always have a soft spot for very classic symbols or patterns”. The designer’s meticulous approach has not gone unnoticed: in 2015, shortly after setting out on his own, Arbesser competed as a finalists for the LVMH Prize, accepted an invitation to show during Florence’s Pitti Immagine and was appointed creative director of womenswear at Iceberg, a post he left last autumn.

Arbesser and his team of four have recently moved to a new studio by the historic Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, which circles one of Milan’s oldest churches. From his desk, the designer looks out onto Italianate arches, medieval walls and the Seventies Aeronautics Pavilion. Italy’s storied expertise in fabric development and skilled manufacturing sit at the heart of Arbesser’s fledgling brand; but it is also the rich culture of his hometown many miles across the Alps that regularly inspires designs. “Now that I go back more as a ‘tourist’, I pack my days with museums, theatre and opera”, he says. “Every time I leave Vienna I’m inspired.” Favourite compatriots include the architect Adolf Loos and artist Kiki Kogelnik, a well-dressed fixture of the Sixties pop art scene.

Snippets of Austrian history are also referenced in Arbesser’s presentations, some more esoteric than others. “The beautiful thing in fashion is that you can collaborate with so many amazing people and friends”. One of the designer’s closest friends is Luca Cipelletti: the first Arbesser show took place in the architect’s private Milan flat. Most recently Cipelletti oversaw the restoration of stables dating to the Habsburg Monarchy (the family’s historic power base had been Austria) into an annex to the city’s Leonardo da Vinci National Museum Of Science And Technology. With the finishing date coinciding with spring/summer 2017 Milan Fashion Week, Arbesser’s infantry of models marched through cavernous halls to a staccato drumbeat, dressed in orange and baby blue camouflage shirting, lime green tailored jackets and pleated skirts. Arbesser sums up this summer’s wardrobe as, “a mix of very classic military uniform symbols done in the most inappropriate colour-ways.” Fabrics and knitwear in broad stripes reference jockeys’ decorative get-ups at the annual Palio de Siena horse races. For peacoats with traditional blue-jean collars, he looked to the naval uniforms donned by his own great-grandfather.

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Little did he know but dressing up opportunities as a child would one day become more than make-believe. Arbesser’s parents regularly hosted dinner parties at home, during which a young Arthur would dress up and play the dutiful butler. “My own uniform was this quilted black jacket with red roses my father got me on a trip to China”, he remembers. “Underneath I had my pyjamas. I loved it.” Abandoning dreams of becoming an opera star (today, he admits to possessing “no ability to sing whatsoever”), he became enthralled with fashion instead. It was the Nineties, and Arbesser collaged scrapbooks charting the dizzying careers of the era’s supermodels in dedicated folders,“one for each girl.” Several years later, Arbesser swapped his party livery for tight fitting Levi’s, worn with chunky boots and a diaphanous silky shirt designed by another Austrian designer – Helmut Lang. “My mum wasn’t happy, but I was”, he says and sure enough, last summer’s collection opened with a patch pocket shirt, made of transparent azure blue chiffon.

From Vienna to Milan with Arthur Arbesser first appeared in Something About SS17

Story by: Felix Bischof

Fashion: Ola Ebiti

Green gingham dress by Designer Arthur Arbesser
Green gingham dress by designer Arthur Arbesser