Interview: Carli Pearson debuts CIMONE


“I think that in order to become a great designer, you must put yourself outside of your comfort zone,” says Carli Pearson, which was the reason she started her own consultancy company, exposing herself to more brands, before launching her label CIMONE. Her debut AW16 collection becoming a compilation of her experiences.

Pearson, an MA Central Saint Martins alumni, previously designed for Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Emilio Pucci and Alexander McQueen. However, now with the free to design for her own label Pearson constructs her garments in her atelier, carefully considering each piece like design houses did decades earlier.

With a theme of Japanese and Samuri armour informing the collection, garments are voluminous and structured, and cut from juxtaposing materials. “I see the clothes I make, more as sculptures, ways of decorating and shaping the body,” says Pearson. “Hopefully, what we create at CIMONE will transcend time and trends.”


What are your earliest fashion memories? 

I always remember my mother being particularly creative with clothes, having pieces made for her. She would always pick something up and say, “this is nice, it’s a bit different,” which I guess is where I get my ‘not wanting to look like everyone else’ complex from!

You were a designer at Stella McCartney for over six years and went on to design for Alexander Wang, Emilio Pucci and Alexander McQueen. Can you walk me through your career? 

I was called into Louise Wilson’s office (when on the MA course) and was told that I was one of seven students to be put forward for an interview at Stella McCartney. I never dreamt that I would actually get the job.

I was with Stella in the early stages, so had the privilege to be involved with a company that was quite young and I was able to witness the growing pains that come along with that. Eventually, I moved on to Alexander Wang, a brand that was quite new, but a very different in approach. Americans never seem to do anything by halves, they are much less cautious than the Brits.

At Emilio Pucci, I gained a lot more experience in texture and embellishment, and was able think about silhouettes in a different way. From there I moved onto McQ.I loved the idea of the attitude and spirit of the girl being very important to the brand identity. It taught me to think much more about who was wearing it and why.


So, what lead to launching CIMONE?

I decided to start CIMONE as I really wanted to showcase everything that I had learnt under one roof, and have creative freedom to take the brand in the direction that I felt was right. I wanted to be able to spend more time nurturing something from beginning to end. Sometimes you lose that working in big places, as you have big merchandising teams governing your output.

What is your design vision with CIMONE? 

Many of the clothes I design have unexpected but balanced proportions. It’s really important to me that the design isn’t so serious that it loses all sense of fun, and for the brand to have a youthful spirit and to be irreverent.


Why did you name your label CIMONE? 

I wanted something short and punchy, and also a name that wasn’t immediately associated with me. Unlike many female fashion designers, I don’t design for myself. I want people to see “CIMONE” as her own person, and not a direct reflection of her mother!

I finally decided on CIMONE, as for me it was a representation of all my experiences. I am English but my middle name is Simone, which is French in origin. In Italian, CIMONE is the name of a famous mountain. I really quite liked the connotation of this great mountain to be scaled and conquered.


You mention your studio functions like an atelier. Can you tell me more about your work process and production? 

From the beginning of my career I was always fascinated by the workings of the ateliers of yesteryear. We work very hands on, with specialist professionals, handcrafting and developing each garment in house. This somehow gives you much more freedom to be creative and stumble on things by chance. Working in such a close proximity to every piece each day really helps place emphasis on finesse, where every detail is carefully considered and pieces are loved at each stage of their make.

ALSO READ:  Coachella's New Website
Heralds the Launch of the .Fashion Domain

When I look at [vintage] Dior and YSL, they really do stand the test of time, and when handling them, you really do feel like you are holding something precious. I don’t always see fashion as clothes, fashion is just the way I express myself creatively. I don’t really design for “fashion”, I aim to design “pieces” that so happen to be clothes. The word fashion automatically implies that something is “in fashion” or “out of fashion” – by labelling clothes as fashion, we’re already limiting them to a timeframe, and saying that they effectively have a sell-by date.


You speak about timeless pieces become coveted and cherished. What pieces do you have in your own wardrobe that remain particularly valuable? 

I have a lot of vintage from the 40s onwards, as well as specific collections of designers that I love: Helmut Lang, Junior Gaultier and Bodymap. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to clothes. As far as my own dress sense goes, I go through fads, so don’t tend to stick to one style for long. But there are two things that I always carry in my hand luggage, wherever I fly, in fear of my suitcase getting lost, these are a chunky necklace from the 50s, and a crazy kaftan from the late 60s.


The laser cut leather and hand embroidery was inspired by Samurai armour. What was the story behind AW16? 

Samurai armour was something I always would stop and look at in wonder whenever I went to see an exhibition at the V&A. I always told myself that one day I would try to do something with it.

There is a loose Japanese theme that runs through the collection, manifesting itself across a range of jackets, dresses and accessories. The weaving technique that we developed for the armour-like jacket is something that we hope to evolve in future collections.

I’m always interested in challenging the norm – often exaggerating portions – this is represented in blown up giant collars this season. Some designs have been reproduced in various fabrics like the plastic jackets. The seam work on the plastic is highlighted when worn over something plain, so you really see its construction. I also like the way it looks like a photographic negative.


What are your aspirations for CIMONE? 

I like to think that one day we will be this fashion laboratory experimenting with new techniques and modern materials, being innovative and reinventing the familiar into something new. Above all else my aspiration for the brand is to inspire and challenge, and to always work with integrity, not to be over governed by what I think will sell.

Interview: Janine Leah Bartels