Creating objects of desire

An interview with our alumna Eva Paola Spagnolo


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Polimoda alumni are diving headfirst into the industry, penetrating the mighty fortresses of contemporary fashion. Specialized in Men’s footwear, Eva Paola Spagnolo has recently landed a role as Shoes and Leather Goods Senior Designer at the court of Alexander McQueen. With her impassioned creative approach and strong devotion to the craft, she has written her own ticket to success.

Who are you?

I am Eva Paola Spagnolo and above all I am an explorer, constantly quenching my thirst for curiosity. My tenacity and passion for art and beauty have always pushed me towards great adventures. My working career is certainly equivalent to my most magical adventure yet. I have fulfilled my dream and today I can proudly say that I am a Men’s shoes and leather goods designer. I am Italian, currently based in London. I inherited the art of painting, the passion of poetry and the obsession in collecting all kinds of objects from my mother. Under the guidance of my father, I learned to practice sport and to love philosophy and science, so I them both to thank for my outlook on life.

What is your professional history?

I was born and raised in Puglia, the heel of Italy. This region allowed me to appreciate the shape of nature and its impalpability, colors and shades; important sources of inspiration for what would later become my job. After high school, I enrolled in the University of Florence on the Faculty of Architecture, with a specific focus on the study and design of fabrics. This led me to simultaneously embrace scientific and technical facets as well as the more artistic and impulsive ones, delineating my holistic approach. After a few internship experiences in Prato-based textile companies, I felt the need to expand my knowledge and enrich my studies with something that involved both architecture and fashion. That’s how I began studying footwear design at Polimoda. Shoes and leather accessories are three-dimensional objects and to project them you must master shapes and volumes. To make an object of desire, you must be armed with an all-round cultural baggage, from fashion to art, from actuality to politics, and to traditions, without neglecting all things technical and product-related.

There is no better place than Tuscany to learn this craft, as it is a hotbed for artisans and tanneries, with small and large enterprises that to this day produce collections for the biggest brands in the fashion business. To complete my Master course, I set my heart on interning as men’s shoes designer at the Fratelli Borgioli shoes factory, which allowed me to refine my taste and focus on specializing in men’s fashion. Following other internships and collaborations with freelance designers, I then went on to work as a leather goods and shoes designer for the brands Daks London and Daks Sport, both owned by the Sabatini company near Pisa. Etro in Milan was my next step. Here I landed a position first as men’s leather goods designer, and then as men’s shoes designer. My current role is men’s leather goods designer at Alexander McQueen in London. A little over ten years has past from my first work experience and now I can finally say that I’m satisfied to spend my days following my passion rather than just calling it my job.

What was your moment of realisation when you knew you wanted to work in this field?

There wasn’t a specific moment. As a child, I was fascinated by the fashion world in general: the smell of wool that my Grandfather bought for his knitwear factory, the accuracy that my mother used in color-coordinating her outfits, my uncle’s endless collections of precious accessories – from the enamel of the cufflinks, to the clock hand of a swatch, to the patina of a shoe. There was also the whirl of emotion, that prompted me to watch fashion shows on television. I have always seen fashion as a multifaceted art form, a live matter that defines itself through the body. It accompanies our everyday life and speaks of our characters and our feelings, affirming not just our belonging, but also our identity.

Describe your typical day.

There is no such thing as a typical day. Every day is unique. I know when I start but I don’t know when I will finish. Sometimes it is necessary to stay in the office very late, because there are deadlines to respect, a meeting that needs preparation or I am required to deliver a project to the pattern makers who will need to interpret it and make it happen. The rhythms are frenetic and it is crucial to always meet deadlines. However, there may be a typical season, that usually spans over a six-month period, dedicated to the design of a pre-collection, a main collection and a fashion show, one intertwined and linked to the other. Everything is a work in progress. Everyday life does not exist: the role of the designer is the ultimate dynamic job. Often, I am travelling for research or for inspiration and, after launching the collection, also to see the progress of work at the suppliers, and exchanging directly with them.
This is also a very stressful job, dealing with pressure from many different angles. The product has to work and will be measured by final sales.

Where do you see the future of fashion?

Answering this question is most difficult. Not having the crystal ball to predict the future becomes problematic when attempting to understand what will happen.

The socio-political conjuncture at world level prefigures a dark presage with the demographic thrust of countries from the South of the world, as they scour for a human living space. It creates an encounter/clash between different and opposing cultures, and doesn’t allow us to fully understand what consequences it will bring. I am optimistic and convinced that beauty will win. You cannot remain indifferent, admiring masterpieces of all kinds. Genius and creativity are the pride of humanity. For this reason fashion, finding the right combination of tradition and innovation, must preserve and enhance its craftsmanship element, because the human hand can never be replaced by machines. A small defect characterizes the uniqueness of the product.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on the Spring-Summer 2019 collection for Alexander McQueen but sadly, I cannot add anything else due to confidentiality purposes. The company itself exudes an international atmosphere. This factor is inevitably natural for a city like London and it’s an added value to the company because of its being at the intersection of different tastes and visions, which offer uniqueness to both the style and the collection. The only regret is not having had the great honor to know and work with the rebel genius and the hooligan of the fashion world, Alexander McQueen. I dream of eventually being able to shape my own brand, where I can express more of my personality through the creation of objects that embody my vision.