Fannie Schiavoni is a Swedish-born, Chalayan-trained designer living in London. The New Gen award winner’s bellicose handcrafted harnesses and jewellery have already captured the fancy of Skin, Gaga and Rihanna; Wonderland caught up with Schiavoni to learn more about her AW12 chain reaction.
We think bondage, empowerment and restraint when handling your designs; are we on the right track?
When I design or research I never look at any of that. Neither do I look at armour. For me it’s always been about craft and the ancient techniques I use to make my chains, ring by ring. I design while making and carefully explore shapes on the mannequins that are influenced by my background in tailoring. I hardly ever draw. Drawing is not direct or realistic enough for me. Anyone can draw something beautiful, but for me it’s about actually being able realise it well.
Skin, Gaga and Rihanna have worn your designs, do you think that your pieces compliment a musical environment?
I love making stage clothes; the chains have a great weight to them that works well in movement. I was on the set when Rihanna wore my chains for her Rockstar 101 video and I loved the way they looked on her. But also that experience made me realise that stage clothes need a lot more support as the wearer’s moving a lot. So when Skin requested a stage outfit I constructed a whole undergarment to make sure it stayed on her for the whole performance.
On average, how long does each piece take to make?
There is no average. Sometimes a piece takes me thirty minutes and sometimes it takes three days. I almost lose money on some pieces, but if I love them, then they have to be in the collection.
You’ve interned for Giles and Hussein Chalayan, how has this experience influenced your design aesthetic?
I think working at Hussein made me realise that just because it’s fashion it does not necessarily have to be clothes, bags, hats or jewellery. And Giles taught me the importance of researching the little details, such as trying out 20 different ways of making a bow. Honestly, I think it more influenced the way I run my company and the way I treat the people that work for me. Hussein was great at that. I was just an intern, but he learned my name in the first week and always said “hi” throughout my placement. I know it sounds stupid, but in a bigger label like that you can’t take those things for granted as an intern. It was just a beautiful place to work and I still miss it and keep in contact with some of the people there, even though I only interned there for 3 months.
You have a background in tailoring, have you applied this experience when creating chainmail pieces?
Attention to detail. My AMAZING tailoring tutor always used to say that every mm makes a difference. My assistants probably want to throw me out of the window when I tell them something is not well enough made. To them, and probably every other person on the planet, it looks perfectly fine. I can’t let it go, and if it’s not perfect then it’s not leaving the studio.
What’s the typical reaction of people trying on your garments?
I think most people are surprised that they can pull it off. They think it’s not for them, that you have to be a rockstar or something to make it look good. But the designs are often so simple that it could adapt to anything that you want it to be. I think it looks more amazing on a stylish 40-plus woman then a 20-year-old hipster. Or rather over a pink lace dress then a black jumper with holes and a leather jacket. I love contrasts.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Paco Rabanne. I’ve deliberately done my very best to not be influenced by his designs, as I want to do it my own way. But there’s no denying that what he did was genius. I’d love to meet him and talk about chainmail.
What’s next for Fannie Schiavoni?
Bigger and bolder creations. I was told once to move on and away from the chains, but I believe in development.
Words: Charmaine Ayden