Carlotta Actis Barone, an emergent Italian designer who keeps a pocketful of dreams, in her statement red satin dress.
In a cloudy and nostalgic day in her Studio in Bethnal Green in London, Carlotta Actis Barone is happy to talk about her life and her inspiring story as an Italian and emergent fashion designer. Carlotta established her label in 2010 and she is currently working on her 8th collection, after attending many Fashion Weeks in London and Paris. Declared Best Designer of the Year by the multi award-winning fashion event and London based company Fashion Finest, Carlotta never stops thinking about her future. Both English and international press and audience agree about her great talent but Carlotta knows that many things have to be done in order to establish her name within the luxury fashion industry. With 2 concession stores in London at Wolf and Badger, four multi brands stores around the world and three online shops Carlotta aims to increase her business and make her label known.
Everything in her studio speaks about her passion for arts and for life. Her sketches are everywhere and draw the attention. Her garments are full of passion and character. Her collections have sparkle colours, strong slogans combined with feminine and elegant shapes. Over-the-top dresses made of prestigious and refined materials tell intense and dreamy stories. Among them, a stunning and catchy dress seems to overlook the whole studio. It’s a red satin dress, which was made of 41 metres of fabric. It’s easy to enjoy the vibrant and creative environment. Carlotta’s warm smile, her radiant and Mediterranean personality is undeniable and overwhelming.
“It took me a while to understand that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I started to think seriously about it when I was 24 years old. I realized that fashion had always been part of my life and that it was time for me to follow my dream. Sometimes I wish I understood it earlier, but I am happy to be the person I am now.”
London gave you the opportunity to get into the fashion industry. You graduated at Central St Martins College, probably one of the most important fashion college in the world, worked for designers like Stella McCartney and Balmain and was spotted by an agency who sponsored your first collection and allowed you to establish your label in 2010. These are big achievements for someone who had nothing but just a genuine dream and left everything behind her back at the age of 27. London is an inspiring and vibrant city but very demanding at the same time. Tough for someone who is looking for her place, especially in this and difficult sector. Tell me about your approach with this city. How everything started. “At the beginning it was difficult. My English was not so good and it took me a while to integrate myself in the city. I think that nowadays London is the new Mecca for fashion. All the best colleges are here and many international students move here to learn and improve their skills. There is a lot of competition but I would say that it’s a good competion. Personally competition has always helped me to become more creative, by learning from other designers. My family has always supported me, they decided to move with me and my mother in particular is still directing the label with me.” Carlotta lights another cigarette up. Her sparkling eyes speak by themselves. They are alive, smart, curios.
“I got this change to be sponsored by an agency for my first collection. After my third one, I understood that this was becoming real. That I could really think about having my own label.” Her attention to important political and social subjects shine through her garments which become the carriers of strong and provocative messages. In the past, her collections told the story of the Shoah and the problem of the Holocaust and gently touched the racism issue within our contemporary society. With her Ready-to-Wear Carlotta wants her woman to be independent, clever, determinate, versatile, successful and driven by strong social values. Fashion for Carlotta is more than Aesthetics. But it’s not just politics and social issues that move Carlotta’s spirit. Arts and Music have always driven her creativity and her need to represent the world through her drawing. Carlotta knows how important the link between these arts is. She thinks it’s important to let them dialogue and influence each other. Steam Punk movement and avant-garde for instance influenced her last collection. Building a collection it’s not only about inspiration. It’s about research and new inputs. Carlotta likes sourcing new fabrics, creating new prints, discovering cultural and music influences. “Every collection has its own story. I think that my last two are becoming more personal, more mature. I am getting closer to my style.” In the last few years Carlotta also had the opportunity to collaborate with Kate Nash, the English songwriter who likes wearing her dresses during her performances. For the future she also would like to involve more celebrities and cooperate with international fashion bloggers.
Carlotta is full of dreams, but she wants to remain down-to-earth. She knows very well that fashion industry is a really demanding sector and it is not enough to be a good designer with trendy and innovative ideas. You have to work hard, think about what the market needs. You have to get used to all the commercial dynamics and the cultural differences without forgetting what really drives you. The genuine love behind this. It’s a fragile balance between becoming more popular and remaining the person you have always been. « It’s a perfect mix that I want to achieve. That would mean I am successful enough. I would be able to develop and increase my label without getting rid of my personality. »
“I like thinking I have two different personalities. Carlotta as a designer is much more organized, focused, target-driven. The ‘normal’ Carlotta is messy. I think that my pieces become the mirror and the expression of both of my personalities.”
Her body language reflects her strong and histrionic personality while she is talking. Her gestures are enthusiastic but her sensitivity shows through her authentic glance. When things seem to become more difficult, drawing is the key for Carlotta. It calms her mind. It’s the hook that brings her back to her primordial push, to her pure passion, where there are no specific expectations, no particular pressure to achieve any professional goal.