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DELIA COVEZZI

FASHION DESIGNER

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Delia is the designer to keep an eye on.  Her designs have been featured in magazines such as; Vogue UK, Vogue Japan, SHE, ELLE UK, and Harper's Bazaar UK, to name a few.  Not many designers can say that icon supermodel Claudia Schiffer has modeled in their designs; that is a once in a life time opportunity.  Very impressed with our interview, giving precise details on the ends and outs of being a designer.  With her experience and knowledge, Delia shares her story on how she got to where she is today and what it really takes to become a successful fashion designer.


Exclusively Fashion Magazine: For those who haven’t heard of you; can you tell me how you became a fashion designer?

Delia Covezzi: I would love to say that fashion is in my blood line, but I come from a family that has nothing to do with the fashion industry... or any other creative or design industry. But then again, I have always considered myself the ‘black sheep ‘ of the family and always knew I would end up doing something creative and visual.

I also have always loved clothes and accessories and from a very young age I would choose my outfits and how to style them. Now I look back at photos of my childhood and say ‘what was I thinking?!!!’ To which my mum replies, ‘I did try to dissuade you....’ My mum, on the other hand, is one of those women who are naturally classy and elegant. It isn’t just about what she wears, but how she wears it. So I guess I took my stubbornness from my dad and my awareness of making women look good from my mum.

 

Still, beside my innate zeal for fashion, I was quite a late bloomer. I didn’t go into fashion design straight after school. I graduated in advertising and graphic design and I worked as an Art Director in London for a few years. Although I enjoyed coming up with ideas and visualising concepts, I found it was just not personal and hands-on enough. I just wasn’t as passionate about it as I was about fashion design. So I decided to go back to studying and did another degree, this time in fashion and print design, at Central Saint Martins, London, during which time I worked for London based labels Stella McCartney and Tata Naka. Upon graduating I started designing and creating one-off accessories which I was selling in the Middle East and Europe. Shop owners soon started asking me to design bespoke women's wear collections for their boutiques. After a few seasons designing one-off collections, I decided to set up my prêt-a-porter label, ‘Delia Covezzi’.

 

EFM: You have had the privilege to have super model Claudia Schiffer wear your design; can you tell me how the opportunity came about?

DC: I know... it was so exciting! One of the top models of all time (whom, by the way, still looks amazing) wearing one of my garments, photographed by Kayt Jones and styled by Karl Plewka for Vs. Magazine... that’s the kind of stuff dreams are made of! This opportunity came about because the stylist saw my SS10 collection in the showroom of my PR, Blow, and hand-picked a few items with this shoot in mind. 

EFM: Do you find it hard to become a successful designer in London?

DC: I am in quite a unique position, so I can only speak for myself. I am a London designer, but I am not British, even though I have had a lot of British influence throughout my life. I am originally from Italy, although having been born in Africa and brought up in the Middle East, I consider myself a child of the world. Most countries like to promote their ‘born and bred’ designers and I don’t really belong to any country. For me home is where the heart is, and for me that’s London.

London is very keen on promoting up-and-coming avant-garde designers. I, on the other hand, am more of a commercial designer... but with an edge. I don’t so much design show pieces for catwalks or editorials, but rather beautiful high quality garments that women want to (and can) wear. In that respect my label is quite understated, less ‘showy’. At the same time, my designs are strong and unique and would make people stand up and take notice, without them being ‘in your face’.  I think the UK is warming up to the idea of more commercial designers and realising their value in the industry.

As anyone will tell you (if you are not already aware of it) it’s a tough industry regardless, but don’t assume that working from one of the world’s fashion capitals necessarily makes it any easier. It has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, London is becoming increasingly renowned for hot new labels, and as a designer you are submerged in a city that embraces creativity and individualism. On the down side, you are one of hundreds of designers and it is therefore a lot more difficult to get someone’s attention or to be discovered.

The recession certainly hasn’t helped. The fashion industry has been hit pretty hard and stores are more reluctant to invest in new/small labels. I set up my business just before the recession hit... not the best of timings, but I’m making the most of what I can and have been seeing consistent progress which is a good thing! Luckily, recessions can’t last forever and the market is beginning to pick up.

EFM: Do you think that there is much support for British designers?

DC: From my experience, I think that the UK is a great place to set up a label in that you can work with suppliers and manufacturers that are happy to work with small quantities. There are also organisations such as the British Fashion Council, UK Fashion & Textile Association, Vauxhall Fashion Scout and the Princes Trust which are there to help British designers, offering advice, seminars, grants etc.

Worldwide, British designers are becoming increasingly acknowledged and revered, though it seems to be more for their avant-garde style and their show pieces. Don’t get me wrong I think it is great to be acclaimed for that and I feel it sets Britain apart from other countries; although it would equally be good for British designers to be renowned for high-quality, wearable fashion. And by wearable, I do not mean boring!

 

EFM: What do you think are the obstacles on becoming a success?

DC: This is a tough question to answer, because you would first need to define what is meant by 'successes'. Is it becoming famous or making money? These two factors are not necessarily related. There are many well-known and sought after labels that do not make much money, they make a loss even, but they are recognised and desired. Equally there are labels that are not so well-known or sought-after by the press and media, but they are selling well and making money. Ideally, we’d all want to have both! 

Making or breaking it in this industry is a little like Russian roulette. It’s a lot about luck... and hard work and talent, naturally! But a lot of it is about being at the right place at the right time, and about who you know.

 

You need to have the finance to back up your business. There is a lot of investment involved, and as you grow your investment increases. Aside from your general overheads, PR fees, catwalk or trade show fees and sampling costs, when you get orders in you need to be able to pay for production up-front, as no store will pay for the order up-front. It is wise to request a 30% deposit before going into production. This is allegedly meant to cover your production costs should the store cancel their order last minute. However, if you are a young label, this will not be the case as to begin with you will not have the quantities required to make such profit and will most likely only be covering costs.

 

Recessions are definitely not helpful, though these will not hinder you to become a success, but they are likely to delay the process.







EFM: You are represented by Blow; can you tell me why you think that it is important to have a PR?

DC: Exposure, exposure, exposure! No matter how amazing your product is it isn’t much good if people are not aware it exists! Especially considering how image-led the fashion industry is. Exposure creates demand, whether someone has seen your designs in a magazine or better yet on a celebrity.

Having a PR is good for getting your name out there, but also for networking. I am currently working in collaboration with a UK online retailer. They discovered me through Blow and they loved my designs. Had I not been represented by Blow they probably never would have found out about me.

EFM: One of your design pieces was featured in Vogue UK Dec 09.  How does it feel to be recognized as a designer, especially featured in Vogue UK?

DC: Although I am in this industry for the passion and not for the fame, I would be lying if I said that recognition for my work didn’t affect me. Whether it’s by a renowned fashion publication, a store you love, a celebrity endorsement or a person on the street who stops you to ask where your outfit is from, it is all very flattering. A designer’s work is very personal; it reflects their ideas, taste, style and their skill; all factors that are unique to them and that make them individual. It’s your creation, your ‘baby’. To be featured in a renowned glossy such as Vogue is... it’s surreal really! I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet!

EFM: I love your A/W 2010 collection, the cropped jackets; what gave you the inspiration for this collection?

DC: Why thank you! As with all my collections, my inspiration stems from the unique qualities of the female gender and how woman has the natural ability to be feminine and soft and at the same time strong and powerful. It is a strength and power which is often understated, but by no means should this be underestimated. For my AW09 collection I looked at the subjects of Helmut Newton’s photographs. These women, through the eyes and work of Newton, equally and simultaneously epitomised femininity and strength. For my SS10 collection I looked at the similarities between armour and plumage and how something so tough and strong can be so delicate and yet so beautiful. For my AW10 collection, I continued with the theme of body armour (which is essentially what everyone wears and ‘hides’ behind), mixing strong and structured details with softer, more organic ones, with Joan of Arc as my muse.

EFM: Describe your personal style?

DC: My style is feminine without being girlie, sophisticated, contemporary and classy, but with an edge. Comfort is important to me, yet I do believe you can be comfortable and look stylish at the same time. I feel almost guilty saying it, but my wardrobe staples are black, navy and grey. I find more muted colours are generally more sophisticated and easy to wear. I love a pair of red heels though! I am a firm believer of ‘less is more’ and generally go for single statement pieces, be it the detailing of a garment or a striking accessory. I do love my statement jewellery and belts.

EFM: What advice can you give to aspiring fashion designers?

DC: I have so much material for this question; I think I could write a book! I’ll try to be as basic and concise as possible.

- Be prepared to work hard.

 

In the beginning (and possibly for a while to come) you will have to do everything yourself. It’s a lot of hard work and there will always be at least one cause for concern. You cannot just go home at the end of the evening and clock-off. The same applies to weekends. From an outsider’s point of view the fashion industry looks very glamorous, the reality is a lot of blood, sweat and tears! More often than not, you will find yourself spending a disproportionate amount of time on the business side of things than on your designs, which is the complete opposite of what you’d ideally want.

 

- Before setting up your label do your research and know your target market!

 

Draft up a business plan. Make sure you have sourced appropriate suppliers and manufacturers, and if you are not intending to do the patterns yourself, a good pattern cutter and machinist are a must. Make sure you have an idea of what your costs and overheads are going to be and how much you are planning to sell your designs for and to which stores. Look into which shows you would like to exhibit at. Decide who your competitors are and do some research: where they’re stocked; what their prices are; who their PR and/or sales agents are; where they show; where they manufacture, etc. A lot of it will be trial-and-error as you go along, but the more prepared you are, the better.

 

- Get advice.

 

There is a book I strongly recommend: How to Set up and Run a Fashion Label, by Tom Meadows. This book highlights all aspects that you need to cover and also includes case studies and templates to follow. Speak with people who have experience in the industry... pick their brains!

 

- Money, Money, Money.

 

Whether you’ve got a loan, savings or an investor (with very deep pockets), make sure you have enough to keep you afloat until you start making a profit. This could take a while; pre-crisis days the statistic was about 3 years just to break even. You will also have to be able to pay for production once you start receiving orders. No one pays up front. Some pay a deposit. Some ask for sale or return. You must have the investment capital!

- Be organised!

Most creative people either hate this word or are completely clueless to its significance. But if you want to run a business you HAVE to be organised.

- Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance... and did I mention, perseverance?

I hope I haven’t scared anyone off! This is just advice to prepare aspiring fashion designers for what they are letting themselves in for. Running your own business requires a lot of hard work, but at the same time it can be really rewarding.

     

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Interview by Rochell “E” James


   
 
 

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