The fashion designer tells us how Japan is a great source of inspiration, not only for her collections but also for her lifestyle.
Born in Valencia, Spain, Elisa Palomino has had a great fondness for fashion and far eastern culture since her childhood, as she spent whole afternoons in her grandmother’s attic dressing up in kimonos and exotic knick-knacks her aunt, a nun living in the Philippines, sent abundantly to her beloved sister.
Elisa attended a Master in Fashion Design at the Central Saint Martins in London, where she had the opportunity to get to know some of the greats of fashion, including Alexander Mc Queen, Matthew Williamson and Antonio Berardi.
She says in her interview with Fish&Chic that amongst all the extraordinary teachers she had, one stood out throughout the whole course of study: Natalie Gibson, now a good friend of hers as well as neighbour and great source of inspiration for Elisa because of her eccentric refined style. Natalie and many other over 60’s, friends of Elisa, represent the inspiration for her next collection “…creative ladies, fond of vintage items and jewels, meticulous in matching colours and creating new looks, with a vast cultural background which makes them extremely interesting people to observe and learn from”, says Elisa.
Cultural background is a huge asset for Elisa Palomino to draw on, and this ongoing search for inspiration has determined her choices in life, such as where to live and start up her fashion brand. After living in Italy for five years working for Moschino, she stayed in Paris for eight years, where she became Studio Director of John Galliano as well as collaborating on the creation of the Haute Couture di Dior, “a dream become true”, as she herself puts it.
She then moved to New York to work as designer for Diane Von Furstenberg. There she meet her future husband, the visionary film director Tristan Von Christann, with whom she’ll launch in 2010 her first collection at New York’s Fashion Week.
Elisa tells us how the Big Apple was too young and modern for her, and how her love for history and all that’s antique prompted her to move back to Europe, London, where she now lives with Tristan and enjoys spending time with creative friends, such as writers, poets and theatre actors, from whom she can constantly learn and be inspired, as well as exchange cultural opinions and experiences on a daily basis.
Elisa notes how all this travelling, gaining experience and absorbing different cultures has influenced her work, enriching both her life and spirit. “Life is SWIFT” she says “we’re all global gypsies and through change we learn new things and create opportunities”.
Elisa Palomino welcomes us in her London show-room, which is absolutely mind boggling for the huge quantity of Asian artefacts in every nook and cranny: she shows us some wonderful kimonos bought during her honeymoon in Japan (she says she bought 40 in that trip alone!), a collection of Japanese fans and Korean fabric patchworks.
Furthermore there is a whole wall in the living room covered with portraits drawn by her assistants, who she lovingly calls “My dear children”: youngsters who not only she holds in her heart as if they were her own children, but are source of strength and inspiration.
Her love for Japan is present in all her collections; she actually admits that she tries to stray away from it, to do something different, but then ends up anyway creating clothes inspired by the far east and geishas, as can be noticed in all of her four collections. But this is what her clients love of her: she doesn’t try to follow the going trends and make her creations more commercial. “Elisa Palomino is always concentrated, not diluted” and it has been like this ever since the beginning of her career.
Japan fascinates her for its ancient traditions, for the way the Japanese approach life, for its food, history, handicraft and culture. The young Japanese are also inspiring because they manage to interpret traditional clothes with huge creativity and a modern approach, in a process of rebellion/revamping of the past which she finds similar to her of doing fashion. What Elisa Palomino admires the most is that they are subversive and rebellious against the repressed society they live in, and express themselves in the way they dress.
For her 2010 Autumn/Winter collection Elisa Palomino was inspired by the 20’s Vogue Japan Japanese illustrator Tasho Katahata, whose post-war work was created when western fashion started meeting the east, resulting in a fresh and sophisticated blend. In the wake of Katahata’s work Elisa Palomino has therefore created ultra-feminine clothes such as Japanese version 20’s flappers, using traditional prints on silk such as cherry and ginkgo blossoms.
She’s adamant to point out that all the prints on her clothing items have been entirely created by her: the development of images using different techniques, such as embroidering and print, is one of the main characteristics of her creations. Everything can inspire her: the packaging of Japanese hairspray, a flower and an old box are all taken and transformed into Elisa’s dreamlike clothes for which, she says, her clients rave about by just seeing them. This is what satisfies her the most of her work: “Putting a smile on the face of my clients is therapeutic”.
Elisa Palomino is really an exceptional person, so genuine and radiating with creativity and love for her work that we all felt slightly SWIFTer when leaving her studio.