Following his studies in London under Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, Christian Siriano launched his eponymous collection in 2008. Known for whimsical and show-stopping design – from fantasy evening gowns and cocktail dresses, to tailored sportswear, to intricately detailed shoes and accessories – the collection can be found at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and other department stores and specialty boutiques around the globe. In 2012 the first flagship Christian Siriano store opened on Elizabeth Street in New York City, and in 2013 he was inducted as a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Christian Siriano also designs a bridal collection for Nordstrom, as well as four seasonal collections of affordable shoes and handbags for Payless ShoeSource, an ongoing guest designer collaboration since 2009. “Silhouette,” his first fragrance, launched in 2014. Christian Siriano eyewear will debut later this year. Visit christiansiriano.com.
If you didn’t become a designer, what would you have been?
I love fashion and this industry so it’s hard to think about any other position. I did however grow up working in a salon and when I first moved to New York, I was a freelance makeup artist, so I think I would be in the beauty world in some way or another.
What was your biggest challenge when you’re starting your own label?
The list is very long; I think starting your own label is really challenging for anyone. I launched my first collection in 2008 during the worst economic downfall so it was very scary. No buyers wanted to see our collection for our first market. We had to work so hard to prove to retailers that our product could last and hang next to some of the largest brands in the world. My first major retailer was Saks and it was a blessing and a curse. We had to quickly learn about production, shipping, selling, etc. in such a short amount of time but it was the best learning experience that I will never forget.
Who are your mentors?
I don’t have many mentors but I do have some great clients and friends who have built other businesses. I take their advice and turn it into what works for the Siriano brand.
How do you describe your Spring/Summer 2015 collection?
The collection is light, feminine, clean and romantic. I wanted the collection to feel effortless but still powerful.
What was the inspiration behind it?
The glass sculptures of Sergio Redegalli were the first inspiration for my Spring/Summer 2015 collection. I was drawn to the diffusion of light and reflective transparency of his work installed at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, where his sculptures have an almost long, liquid quality to them atop the dark water on which they sit. This is echoed in the collection in the form of reflective fabrication. Inspired by the glass itself are some of the icy arctic blues and greens, the sharp laser cut patterns, and intricate — sometimes voluminous — crystal embroidery. I was also inspired by Tara Donovan’s use of unexpected texture in her oversized sculptures. They are powerful but soft, light, and ethereal. I wanted this collection to feel light, clean, and crisp; tranquil like a Japanese zen rock garden; modern for today’s woman. The collection combines simple elegant separates for day and lustrous, long dresses for evening to outfit the Christian Siriano customer with something light, feminine, clean, and crisp.
What is the one piece from your collection every woman should have?
I never think there is only one item every woman should have because it is too hard to choose. However I think one of our textured crepe off-the-shoulder or open back dresses from this collection are essential.
Christian Siriano blue dress
Christian Siriano off-the-shoulder dress
I think a every woman should have a chic black blazer from YSL, Celine tote bag, and a textured appliqué Siriano cocktail dress.
Who is the Siriano woman?
The Siriano customer is from many different worlds. She is any age and any size. I really feel that we have something for everyone in our collections and I am very proud of that. I do think our customer is looking for something unique with quality and luxury. The idea of getting dressed up is on her mind and it’s never about underdressing or being casual: it’s about getting dressed to impress.
Who are your style icons?
I don’t have any real personal style icons for myself but I do have muses and women who influence my collections at times. I’m inspired by so many different types of women; everyone from Lisa Fonssagrives, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, to my mother and sister or any of the amazing actresses or musicians that I have dressed.
Who was the first celebrity you dressed and how did it come about?
I think my first celebrity moment was either Heidi Klum or Victoria Beckham. It’s hard to remember but Victoria was my first celebrity client who reached out and asked about my collection. Then Heidi was the first to wear a dress to the Emmys awards in 2009, which was a gown from my first collection.
When did you open your boutique in NYC…. how did that feel?
I opened my first retail store in New York in 2012. It was such an amazing experience and something I have always dreamed of having as a young brand. I wanted a place where my customer, any age or size, could come to and shop our collection curated by myself and my team. We have been open for almost 3 years and I love my little Nolita jewel box.
What is next for the brand?
We are growing everyday and there are so many new projects on the way. We are launching handbags, eyewear, hosiery, electronic accessories and the list goes on. I think it’s important to try different products and see what works in the market for my customer; not all will be hits right away but hopefully they will build over time.
What is your advice to aspiring young designers?
I think it’s important to really be obsessed with your work. Find that one item and then really perfect it and make it your signature. It is the biggest challenge to find your own way in a very crowded market full of talented designers.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from everywhere. It can come from books, a city I am interested in, music, plants, and animals- anything really. I love to try new things each collection.
What is your fave website and resources?
I don’t really have any online sites I look to for information unless I’m just looking up something specific. I do however look at a lot of furniture and interior spaces for inspiration sometimes. Sites such as 1stDibs, OneKingsLane, ElleDecor, HouseBeautiful, DomaineHome, etc.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Junk food and online furniture shopping.
What is your mantra that you live by?
Stay true to you, take risks and challenge yourself everyday.
Can you tell me about your line for Payless Shoes?
I have been working with Payless for about 7 years now and they have been a wonderful partner. We produce custom runway samples every season for my shows and then trend driven product for all their retails store world wide. We also create bags that retail under 50 dollars that has really grown into a great business. I love that I am able to bring a little bit of my fantasy fashion world to every woman. With great design and interesting fabrication the customer is getting something stylish, fashion forward and affordable and I love that!
How did it come about dressing Solange Knowles for the Oscars 2015?
I have had the pleasure of dressing Solange before and she really has such great style. I love that she take risks. After my Fall 2015 show we had many requests for the look she choose to wore to the Oscars but I really felt that Solange was the perfect fit for that look and no one else. It was a bit crazy getting this look to her as the timing was so tight. The box was stuck in transit and actually only arrived a few hours before she hit the carpet after begging Fedex to open their facility on a Sunday to deliver. It was a stressful and emotional day leading up to it but I think it all worked out. It was something unexpected and fashion forward for the Oscars red carpet. A new way of dressing for evening. Solange was the perfect match for that look and I think she looked exactly how I envisioned someone wearing it.
Solange in Christian Siriano
Siriano textured appliqué cocktail dress
Heidi Klum in Christian Siriano