Tags: creative director
A good friend who had just come to Greece for the summer and I were lying around talking fashion and swimsuit season. ‘Oh, but you must check out Paolita,’ she insisted. Apparently she had a friend, who had just launched her bikini and swimsuit line in London and she was a pure genius. Being curious, I checked out her website, only to find the most amazing patterns and colors and fabrics I could ever imagine covering me up underwater. It was like the designs were screaming art and tradition and culture and locality all at the same time. Three years have passed since that day, it’s swimsuit season again, and the brains behind Paolita, came to Greece for business. Just for a month. And I managed to squeeze in an imatioθiki session and meet the gorgeous Anna Paola, who is seriously all smiles and the most enthusiastic person I have come to know. Here she is, in between business appointments and designing her next collection, in her parent’s house miss Paolita herself.
Tell me how it all began. Did you study fashion?
I first studied Psychology and then I studied fashion design.
What made you decide to change your carrier?
Well, it was in my second year at Psychology that I decided I wasn’t completely passionate about psychology and my dad and mom always motivated me to do something I am really passionate about and so when I told them how I felt they were very understanding, which was very lucky for me. They were very supportive and said that we need to make an immediate change in your life and figure out what you are really passionate about and I didn’t know it was fashion. I didn’t even know what fashion really was. And I think we did a lot of talk and research and we went to a career counselor and the counselor just asked me if I had ever thought of design. Fashion design. And I was like: that’s a career? I had no idea you could work as a fashion designer, and that it wasn’t something you were born into. I thought it was something, you know, like royalty. Where you happen to be born into something where your mom sells something and you just take it to another level. I didn’t know you could study it. And then it was immediate. It was like a click.
Did you study fashion design in London?
I did the foundation year in London. I guess it wasn’t really necessary, as I see it now. I studied at Marangoni in Milan, which is actually a four year course, which is actually like doing the foundation year again. I decided to go in Milan because I’ve lived in England for four years and I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to live in England for a fifth year. I decided I was too young to live in the same country for so long.
So, you had to learn Italian?
I had to learn Italian. I lied to them, I told them I knew the language and then I had to learn it very quickly.
But after Milan you came back to London. Why is that?
I didn’t like living in Milan. I gave it two years. I gave it a year, because I didn’t like England in the first year, so after the first year I loved it and so I thought I will probably hate it the first year and then after that if I don’t love it, then I have to go. And I didn’t love it, so I left. I was really happy to move back to London, I almost kissed the ground when I got back.
What made you decide to go for swimsuits?
I had no idea I was going to do that. Even in university I had no idea. I wanted to start a brand and I wanted to start a concept and I wanted to start something which would grow to be global and I wanted to start a business. And I thought there are a million talented designers and the design has to be amazing, but for me that’s a given. But on top of that you have to add how you communicate that to your audience and to your customers and that’s where the branding comes in. And that’s quite an undertaking, I had no experience, I thought that maybe it would be easier as a start, in case I completely fail, to go for bikinis and swimwear. They need less fabric and it is not as complicated as tailoring or couture or any outerwear, because it is one product. You are not dealing with tops and bottoms and skirts and jackets, it is just one thing and that would allow me time to also focus on the image of the company.
When you started Paolita what did you have in mind? What did you want people to think and imagine when they hear the word Paolita?
I think that’s something that organically you need to can’t set out from the beginning what you want people to think. Because you might want to send out one message that people won’t want to hear, so it’s more of a back and forth communication where you want to strike the right balance and luckily people really liked what I do right off the start.
Paolita is a 3 year old brand?
Yes, it’s three years. And right from the first collection people really loved it. There wasn’t much I had to change about the design. As we grow, I had to expand the collection and encompass more body types. But what I do want is Paolita to portray happiness, I want it to be lighthearted, I don’t want it to be serious, I don’t want it to be pretentious, so I guess a brand that smiles without being too cheesy.
Was it intimidating to start off a beachwear brand in London? Was that a challenge?
You know, that never crossed my mind. The location. What was terrifying was starting a brand that would have a life of its own and you know, you can’t really go back on that. And that was terrifying. But designing bikinis, no, because London is such an international platform that even if you know that England is not really a predominant beachwear market and destination, you can easily communicate with part of the world that are.
You use a lot of traditional elements and patterns, for example a lot of your designs have a Mexican feel to them, while others seem to have jumped out of
Renaissance paintings. Where do you get your inspiration?
A lot of places. I am half Mexican, so I love everything that is very folklore and Mexican, I guess that’s very nostalgic for me. But my eyes just love looking at visual things. I can do huge amount of visual research. I love going to exhibition, I love going to museums, I love watching movies with costumes.
You design your own fabrics?
Yes. I have them printed.
Are you thinking of expanding your line beyond beachwear?
Definetly. Slowly, in baby steps of course, there is a lot that can be done.
What’s the best thing about your job. And what is the worst thing about it?
The best thing about my job is that I am constantly surprising myself. There is so much to learn and so much to do, and if you look back it’s a big progress from the beginning. But the worst thing is that it comes first before everything. Before everything.
What is a typical day for you when you’re in London?
It depends. I don’t really have a typical day. That’s why I am finding it so hard to answer. I don’t go to the studio every day. Sometimes I find it that I need to be alone. Sometimes I stay home, sometimes I need to go to the studio because all the materials are there, sometimes I need to go to a museum. And it depends on the time of the year. Sometimes I am designing fabrics, sometimes I am designing swimwear, sometimes I am dealing with the production of it.
The production is done in London?
No, Bulgaria, so I need to travel a lot.
How many people are in your team?
About 5 people.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own brand?
Oh gosh, there’s a list of advice! If you want to excel, if you want to be an amazing… whatever… designer, painter, doctor, architect, in every field that’s equally competitive, I think that if you want to start something… you really have to just start! In the worst case, it’s not going to work out. But the worst thing is not to do something just because it might not work out. And if doesn’t, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea. There is a million external parameters that are completely out of your control. So that’s why it is not such a big deal if it doesn’t work out.
When you started what was the hardest thing you had to overcome? Or the biggest obstacle that you faced?
There’s two big obstacles. One in a way was myself. Just to get over the fact that you are doing something. It is really scary some times, so you just need to bury that somewhere. The second obstacle, that comes to the practical bit, is being able to going to a shrinking industry, introduce something new and just be very persisted and prove that it is a very good brand. And that just takes time.
How has Paolita changed your personal style?
I don’t think it has. Paolita is an aspect of my personal style.
A few comments on the things pictured above:
Anna Paola is the most down to earth fashion designer I have ever met. And this is a hundred percent true. So, not only is she mastering the art of swimsuit designs, but she is also mastering politeness. / I had the impression that Paolita’s logo is a pigeon. It is actually a Robin. Her mother’s name is Robin. People don’t always get it, but it’s okay. It’s a cartoon. / Her parent’s house was filled with great works of art. One of which, my personal favorite, is the famous ladder used by Marina Abramovic on one of her performances. Not the Sex and the City one. / The multi- layered dress Anna Paola is wearing was designed by her to wear on her graduation at Marangoni. When I told her it reminds me of Hussein Chalayan’s work, she mentioned she worked for him. I almost fainted. / The amazing heels she paired with the white trousers and the 70s look belong to her mother. She has the tiniest feet, but sometimes Anna Paola manages to fit into her mom’s amazing collection of heels.