We had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Sebastian Vasileff while he was home in Australia. This emerging Aussie Italian Haute Couture designer who spends his time between Italy and Australia. We do not blame him.
The designer is from Australia (Adelaide) South Australia. Paul’s Italian on his mother’s side, Bulgarian on my father’s side. We also learned a lot from his grandmother. That is what we had in common. He was so lovely to talk too.
We had an afternoon of getting to know each other. He was so delightful to talk to and easy going. The conversation went well and read more about our exclusive interview with the designer.
Follow his amazing creations.
Paolo Sebastian 21 Questions
SC: What was your first memory of Fashion?
My Earliest “fashion” memory would be at age three making dresses for my friends out of scrap wrapping paper and newspaper and forcing them to wear them. I also remember going into my dad’s shed and building “mannequins” out of scrap wood so I’d have something to build the dresses onto for when I didn’t have the cooperation of my friends to model them.
SC: How did you discover your crafts?
I learnt to sew from my grandmother; I would watch her sew from a very early age, and I loved the transformation aspect that fashion could give. From there I would spend my free time drawing and sewing. I always loved the hand-work, partly because my nonna mainly worked by hand, but also because of the control and freedom to create. From age 13, I started sewing and patternmaking/drafting classes to further develop my skills. I couldn’t do enough to learn more, I loved it, I wanted to know everything there was to know.
I began sewing dresses for my friends for their school formals and eventually went on to make wedding dresses. After launching Paolo Sebastian and graduating from High School, I decided to further my studies, so I did an internship at a local tailor where I learnt traditional methods for crafting a suit. Following that, I was fortunate enough to study in Milan on scholarship at the European Insitiuto di Design.
SC: Print or Online Magazines Pros & Cons?
That’s a hard one, there’s something that I love about the tactile aspect of a print magazine. I also love the simplicity of Online magazines.
SC: Tell us about your Nordic fashion journey?
Our new couture collection “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is inspired by an old Scandinavian folktale. I find endless inspiration in fairytales and folklore; I came across this story a long time ago and was always intrigued by it. When I started to research it further and began to delve into Nordic and Scandinavian traditional costume, embroidery and folk art, I was so inspired. I really enjoyed researching and the process of developing and translating those elements into the artwork and embroideries for this collection.
SC: What made you want to create Haute Couture pieces?
What I love about couture is the consideration for the human touch and craftsmanship, there is something so special about being able to take the time to hand-craft and tailor a garment where it goes beyond just clothing and becomes an art form – I wanted to make sure I could keep those skills alive. I love taking every opportunity to implement very old and traditional techniques to make even the simplest of garments. When you arrive at an end result of a beautifully fitted garment it is so satisfying. Because couture is custom made for the client, getting to give women the experience of having something perfectly tailored to them and seeing the look on their face when they put on the piece for the first time is so rewarding. It’s a real Cinderella moment
SC: Where were you when you found out that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I don’t think I can really pinpoint a moment in time. It wasn’t even a decision really, it was more a natural progression. I made my first proper dress for a friend at age 11 but I think from day dot it was always apparent that I would do something creative, I’m not really capable of doing much else.
SC: What has been your favourite career moment so far?
There are a few so it’s hard to pick. For me, the launch of Paolo Sebastian back in 2007 is a memory that I will forever cherish. I knew nothing about the industry or what lay ahead of me, so it was the excitement of the unknown and seeing all the support around me from family, friends, the community and local media who all worked and did all they could to make my dream a reality. It’s something I can never repay and will always be grateful for. I was just 17, so I look back on that time and it always inspires me to keep pushing forward.
Another highlight came 10 years later when we collaborated with Disney for our “Once Upon a Dream” collection. Disney is something that inspired me to start this journey from the very beginning, so having the opportunity to work with them and celebrate what has inspired me for my whole life (and the lives of so many other people) was a great honour.
SC: What is your signature design?
I think we are best known for our soft flowing illusion dresses, I always try to weave a story into every piece, so I think that storytelling aspect is what clients have come to love.
I’d say one of our key signature designs was our swan lake dress, which featured our signature petal skirt. This particular gown was the finale from our “Swan Lake” collection in 2011. The photos from that runway went viral on the social media platform “Pinterest”. The “Swan Lake” gown became one of the most pinned wedding gowns of 2012 and launched us into the international market.
SC: What important lesson did you learn from your grandmother?
To always try my best, and to take pride in everything I do, to take my time and always do things properly. I think she instilled in me her work ethic and her love for sewing and learning. She sees it as an art form and I’m so grateful for her.
SC: What do you want your designer footprint to be?
I think I’d like it to be quality, craftsmanship and the fact that we are able to achieve this level of work out of our hometown of Adelaide. I’m really proud that we have been able to keep this skill set alive and that we are passing it onto a new generation, which I think is really important.
SC: Who is your dream to collaborate with?
My dream was always to work with Disney and we got to collaborate with them for our 10 year anniversary collection “Once Upon A Dream” in 2017
SC: What is your must-have on the road beauty/grooming product?
I travel a lot and skincare is something I’m conscious of, I use a product range called Osmosis which has helped my skin a lot, I’ve been using it for 8 years now.
SC: What news events shock you?
I don’t get much time to watch the news as much as I used to.
SC:| What are you up to when you’re not creating?
Very normal things like spending time with friends and family, which mostly involves food. I also love being outside and getting to the beach!
SC: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully on schedule as an Haute Couture Guest member in Paris. It’s been my dream since I was 10. I’d also love to see the brand grown and expand locally and internationally. Maybe not within 5 years but certainly within 10 years, I’d like to also do ready-to-wear and a shoe line.
SC: What designer do you look up to?
I’ve always looked up to the great designers of the 1940s-50s (the golden age of couture)
The way they shaped the course of fashion and in some cases history through their work is amazing.
SC: What would you change about the fashion game?
I think for people to have a better understanding of the work that goes into creating clothing, be it couture or fast fashion. At the end of the day, someone had to sit and sew that T-shirt or that dress, so I think people need to be more conscious of how our clothing is made, where it comes from and what conditions it was it made in.
SC: What are you listening to right now?
Having just been in Paris I’ve been listening to a lot of Edith Piaff and the music of that era. I know it’s probably cliché’ for most people but it’s so inspiring to me.
SC: If one art buyer would pick up your work who would you wish it to be?
I’d love for something to one day be featured at the MET. We have been fortunate enough to have our work housed at the Art Gallery of South Australia for our 10-year retrospective exhibition. We also had a piece purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria which was a great honour. Knowing these pieces are properly preserved and cared for and they can be enjoyed by so many people is incredibly rewarding.
SC: What are you grateful for?
Everything! I feel so fortunate to have all the amazing people I have around me. My family, friends, my team, and everyone who has had a role to play in this journey. I am one person but it takes a village and I could not have asked for more loving, caring and supportive people to be on this path with. I think the journey is more important than the destination and although there is still a very long road ahead, I’m enjoying every second of it.
SC:| What advice would you give emerging designers like yourself?
The advice I would give to anyone whether they are involved in fashion or not would be to always be the very best version of themselves. Stay true to what you believe in and work hard each and every day. There’s no magic formula, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline but if you try a little harder each day than you did the day before, eventually you’ll get to where you need to go.
It was a pleasure to interview Paul of the house of Paolo Sebastian Haute Couture. Paul makes dreams come true watching him grow as a designer. Totally in love with the carousal gowns. It is extra special to find out we share the love of grandmothers, Haute Couture and Edith Piaff. Gros Bisou to Paul and we hope to see your creations on the runways of Paris and the red carpet.