For Milan-based Francesca Liberatore, a design career was somewhat inevitable. Her father, renowned sculptor Bruno Liberatore, has an entire room at Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum dedicated to his work. Yet her artist mother was determined not to let her daughter become a “starving artist.” As Liberatore recounts: “she said to me, either you go to the best design-oriented university, or you have to become an engineer.” So Central Saint Martins it was. After leaving London, Liberatore held positions at Viktor & Rolf, Brioni, and Jean Paul Gaultier before launching her eponymous label in 2009 after winning the Italian fashion council’s Next Generation competition. In 2014, Liberatore’s work garnered her the DHL Exported Award, which, in conjunction with IMG, has allowed Liberatore to present her collections during New York Fashion Week for the last three years. No wonder Kelly Osbourne, Cassie Scerbo, and Canadian actress Serinda Swan are fans of her unique blend of classical know-how injected with a sense of romance and whimsy. And so are we, which is why we’re thrilled to introduce Liberatore as our latest collaborator. Her collection is one you definitely won’t want to miss, so we sat down with the designer to find out what she’s all about.
DESIGNOW: Can you talk a little bit about your aesthetic and how it’s evolved? You’ve worked for some pretty big name designers — anything they’ve taught you along the way?
FRANCESCA LIBERATORE: Studying at Central Saint Martins was the biggest thing for me. But I also had really amazing experiences with Viktor & Rolf in Amsterdam, Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris, and Brioni womenswear in Italy. I learned so much from all three. Viktor & Rolf do such beautiful work and the team was very small, which was a huge plus. Even living in Amsterdam was a life-enriching education. They’re true geniuses as well as performance artists. Gaultier was a different experience, but also incredible. Jean Paul Gaultier is one of the names that defines French fashion and as it was a small atelier, I got to experience the entire creative process, from pret-a-porter to haute couture. One of the more fun moments was working on the costumes for Madonna’s Confessions tour!
DN: Who are you designing for?
FL: Someone that wants to be unique and is not a follower, but that loves a conversation piece. It needn’t be extreme, just different. Maybe it’s an unexpected pattern on the lining of a smoking jacket. The Francesca Liberatore woman always wants to have a surprise. She’s feminine but she’s strong. Sometimes, people say it is sexy but that’s not my main point. It’s quite subtle.
DN: How did growing up in Rome affect your visual sense?
FL: It gave me a really fine sense of perception which is valuable in my line of work. It’s a sensitivity to perceive things. At the same time, to have a very classical exposure in history and the arts is a wonderful filter and reference point. It allows me to look at the modern world with a solid foundation.
DN: Did you notice a shift in your business when you started showing in New York?
FL: It was a wonderful change to get closer to the American market, which has such an international reach. Having the endorsement of the American press, and the international press in New York, has in turn given me an even stronger appeal to the Italian press. I was very young when I first showed in Milan and now I’ve had a very important showroom in Milan take note and we have a partnership. Sales-wise, this has been my strongest season to date. All of this has led to the commercial side growing, and the opportunity to work with American companies and universities, as I’m now teaching a course at Marist University.
DN: Tell me about the DESIGNOW collection—how did it come about?
FL: The collection I am doing with DESIGNOW is one of my biggest challenges to date, but it’s an important one. I’d really like to expand my business and to open it up to a larger audience. When I first met with the DESIGNOW team, I was really fascinated by their ability not only to manufacture, but to market, devise the perfect packaging and to distribute that product, and not in a way that feels “mass.” This is a special capsule.
I’ve long wanted to do a T-shirt, but in Italy that’s quite difficult. We Italians are great with leathergoods, silk, etc., but jersey or fast finishing, not so much. [Style coming soon]