Welcome back to our second Shanahan Studio Session and joining us this week is Federica Zangelmi, who is an up and coming fashion designer. I met Federica last November and I was fortunate enough to have a look at her portfolio and my god, it was insanely good. I am so happy to have her answer some of my Q&A and I hope you can learn something from it! We speak about moving to other countries in pursue of your passion, getting internships and everything fashion.
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
I realised it quite soon. After elementary school I was already starting to sketch garments and my approach with the creative subjects was very strong. I’ve always been very involved with things that were welcoming my creativity and so I guess that there wasn’t a sudden moment to realise it, it just came naturally.
Describe growing up for you, did you have creative parents or is there anyone in your family into fashion?
I grew up in a small village in the north of Italy and that made me realise quickly that to satisfy my curiosity and my desire to visit new places and find new inspirations, I would have had to leave soon. In my family no one is really into fashion, however I’ve always been fascinated by art in general and in a way I could have been influenced by my parents that have the hobby to paint. Unlike me, they’re very good at it.
When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
I landed my first internship while I was attending the last year of my Fashion Design course. Every day, after my classes, I was going at the studio to work until late afternoon. That has been a very hard year for me, because I had to combine my studies with work, and for both I had deadlines to respect. This is probably one of the most important things that I have learned from that experience, when you commit to something, you need to give the 100 percent and even if you are extremely busy you can’t forget about your responsibility. Also, I’ve learned the intrinsic value of handmade garments.
What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
I hope that this answer will encourage a lot of aspiring creatives. A month after got graduated in Fashion Design in Italy, I caught a plane directed to London. I didn’t have friends here, I didn’t have a job and I didn’t know the language very well and as many young foreigners do, I started from the beginning. I found a job in fashion retail with a big company and I went from sales assistant, to visual merchandiser, to image specialist in one year and a half, meanwhile my life in London was setting. Anyway fashion retail wasn’t my path, most likely a good springboard, so as soon as I could I started to work as a designer.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
BE PATIENT. I think that nothing else could be more appropriate. I actually should tell myself that every day, I always feel like I’m running to achieve new goals. Few years ago, starting a career as a fashion designer seemed too far to pursue. Nowadays it looks too far to be an established creative, so tomorrow morning I’ll just tell myself to be patient.
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
My biggest rookie mistake was to think that interns, to be considered, should just learn the most from their internships. Few experiences later, I would say that to be actually considered, they should make themselves essential by giving something new to the company.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
I think that a lot of brands are evolving thanks to social media today and that highlights their importance. In my opinion we are in a period of time where fashion is modelling itself according to the new media waves and is not just about the appearance or superficiality, but more likely to which kind of message an individual can express by what is wearing. In this sense fashion is getting deeper.
What was your biggest fear when you moved to London?
My biggest fear was being unable to pursue the reason that made me move here, a creative career.
We both moved to different countries with different languages. I moved to Germany when I was 19, I had 2 weeks to learn the basic language, I found it extremely difficult. Any tips for readers learning a new language?
Oh Hannah, I feel you. It’s never easy to deal with new languages, my only tip for the readers would be to don’t be afraid to make mistakes as sometimes we care too much about how we talk in a foreign language and to push ourselves in situations where they just need to adapt. Time to time.
What is your favorite part about creating designs?
I love all the process but probably the experimentation part is my favourite, is when I free my creativity the most and I let my imagination go. It’s always fascinating to assist through the many evolutions of a starting project.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
I want people to feel proud, confident, powerful. I say people because I think that a garment should be worn regardless of gender. These last years have been essential to emphasize the diffusion of a gender fluid movement and I feel very positive to embrace it.
I have seen some of your designs, they are incredible, talk us through the process. I want to know if you do any research or where your inspiration comes from?
Well, first of all thank you Hannah. My designs often happen after a research process, which is fundamental to make me visualize in advance the final project. I am usually inspired by feelings rather than material things and that allows me to range a lot. Before I start sketching I gather all the elements found during the exploration such as images, pieces of fabrics, key words, etc… Then I’m ready to design. What skills according to you are necessary for a successful fashion designer?
As a young designer I would say that experience is one of the most important skills for a successful designer. Not less important is to be persevering, passionate and open minded.
Who is your favourite designer?
This is a tricky question for me Hannah, being an eclectic person means that I have many favourite designers/collections. Lately I found very interesting and inspirational collections by Rick Owens, Simone Rocha and Vivienne Westwood.
What are you working on now?
As a freelancer Fashion Designer I’m always working on different projects. Currently I am working with a brand on something very special that I hope to be able to show you all very soon.
What is next for you? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Next for me is to achieve something really important. I’ve always dreamt to become a Creative Director for a brand in which my ideas and aesthetic could really fit. I do have in my future plans to create my own brand too, but that will probably take more than five years.
Where can people find you?
Website portfolio will be soon available on my IG bio, thanks Hannah.
Thank you Federica for your time and great advice for anyone pursuing or in pursuit of their passion.! I wish you luck for the future, Hannah x.