A while back I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting artist, designer, photographer and globe-trotter Anna Coroneo (told you I’m fortunate – artistic talent finds me).
It was New York Fashion Week at the Lincoln Centre and spring collections were on the runway. Yet, despite an air of floaty and flirty designs, nothing evoked the essence of spring quite like Coroneo’s ensemble – a handcrafted silk-scarf dress created by the designer herself.
But what was special about this piece – and the woman wearing it of course – was a combined sense of vibrancy, and an equal measure of originality.
Inspired by an upbringing in Australia and a life in New York, Coroneo paints on canvases, transposes these visions to fabric, then constructs sumptuous and sensual pieces reminiscent of the places she inhabits.
What’s more, in addition to painting and textiles, Coroneo is also a skilled photographer. This past year she has held exhibitions in New York and Sydney, and continues to show pieces in Melbourne, Kiev, Monterrey, Milano, Lyon, Hong Kong (the list goes on).
Nevertheless, what I think is so special about Coroneo – aside from her obvious beauty and skill as a designer – is the way she mixes artistic genres to create truly eye-catching work.
My affinity for artistic individuals, and a curiosity for what makes so, inspired me to learn more about Coroneo and her creative process. Given that she resides in Australia and New York, I had to settle for a Q&A session with the lovely artist instead.
Q: You distinguish yourself as an artist and a fashion designer. How does this differentiate you from other fashion designers?
A: My design practice is intensely focused on artworks for textile prints. Without the art, there is no fashion. They go hand in hand.
My collections are distinguished from others by the translation of my original artworks to textiles. The art starts off as works on canvas and paper. I also enjoy exploring the medium of photography, with a keen focus on botanical and marine life.
The design is contemplated from three angles – fine arts, textile design, and from the perspective of a fashion designer. I enjoy creating wearable silhouettes that best work with the textile designs. I often like to think of my pieces as “wearable canvases”. Often my garments are quite uncomplicated in construction, drawing focus to the print. One of my signature pieces is the Chelsea dress…a refined shift dress that can be worn all year round.
Q: You have a pretty innovative way of developing your designs. Can you walk us through your creative process from start to finish.
A: It all starts with the artwork. I usually complete two big bodies of artwork each year that are grouped under the same mood/concept. I’m most creative during the summer season – I’m definitely a sun lover! I love to paint in NYC – usually on my rooftop – and in my garden in Sydney, I grew up there, and return every winter.
However, having said that, I find that I’m creating things on a daily basis…whether it be a quick sketch, photographs or paintings…when I’m feeling inspired. I create and I am not dictated by timelines or a calendar for being creative…it’s really an organic process, when inspiration hits, I just run with it…
I love to travel, and often have my best ideas on flights across the Atlantic/Pacific oceans.
I also can’t do anything without music…I have very eclectic taste in music and I paint/design with music blaring in the studio.
I also enjoy taking on commissioned projects that I can relate to.
I design two fashion collections each year, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. I consult with my team and showroom on which prints we feel are best suited to each season’s mood and overall concept. These prints then inspire the design of the garments. I love to design swimwear and also have a men’s line of swimwear – this is a lot of fun to design.
I’m also excited about venturing into home textiles, with a collection of gorgeous cushions on the way this year!
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, would you rather have your sewing kit or your easel and paint brush?
A: Definitely easel and paint brush! (also some champagne would be nice too, if possible!)
Q: There’s often this misperception that fashion lives in a vacuum – that it exists as a stand-alone craft/trade/business. I think designers are trying to change this by collaborating with artists, animators etc. and revealing their inspirations as derivatives of fine art, architecture, music, photography, even different cultures. A long-winded way to ask you what are your sources of inspiration?
A: I have a solid obsession with natural and organic forms. I am always looking at shapes and textures from the natural world. Perhaps it has been the influence of growing up in Sydney where I was surrounded by many beautiful trees, flowers and beaches etc, that has given me a love of all things wild and natural.
I’m also an avid traveller and explorer. I love vibrant, cosmopolitan cities. I thrive on high energy and love having NYC as my home-base.
Inspiration for me can be taken from anywhere, from spilled oil on a damp road, a funny story from a friend, to the lyrics of a song.
I never deliberately seek inspiration, I think I just take notice of things that I’m drawn to and interpret them to suit my vision/mood of the moment.
I get a lot of inspiration from my friends and family. I am very lucky to have a diverse network all over the world who continuously inspire me.
I also love to research historical textiles. I am particularly passionate about ancient Egyptian and Greek history. I also enjoy the designs of William Morris, Florence Broadhurst and Emilio Pucci. I’m an avid fan of contemporary art and enjoy the works of artists such as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Vik Muniz, Candida Höfer, Damien Hirst to name just a few…
Q: Your earlier collections seem to be more about silhouettes and solids, whereas your newer works of art seem to be about prints. How would you say your collection has evolved since you first started in 2001?
A: I have definitely figured out that my strength as an artist/designer lies in my print designs. They translate so fluently into textiles that it just works well to be articulated into garments. The garments really are wearable canvases.
I feel that the label has matured to a strong position now and my customers come to me for vibrant, exciting and unique prints that have a distinctive and original point of view.
Q: You mix the beachy chic of Australia with the pavement pounding of New York. How much of an impact does where we come from have on our sense of style, in your opinion?
A: I think we are innately affected by our surroundings. Certain places impact our mood and emotions. I always dress differently depending on where I am. What I love about New York, is that it is so liberated. You can wear whatever you want, no matter how bizarre and wacky, walk down the street and no one will blink an eye… I love that people will complement you easily in the streets here, if somebody likes something, often you’re commended for being adventurous in your choice of dress… I am definitely more adventurous with my outfits when I’m in NYC, compared to when I am elsewhere… I tend to tone things down a bit when I am in London, Paris, Milano. I do feel however, that my prints have a magical energy which is, as you said, a synergy of NYC meeting Sydney… city meeting beach… I like to think that my designs all have their own personalities – charismatic energy and a fun flair that encourages a good mood wherever they are being worn!
Q: If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?
A: Ah I feel so old with this question! I’m now 26 and feel like such a small fish in a big sea… I started out by selling my tank top designs at the Bondi Beach markets when I was 17… I know that I still have a lot to learn, though I guess one thing that has always stuck with me was told to me by a boss I had early on – “if you roll around with dogs, you get fleas”. I like to always surround myself with positive people who bring good energy. Trust your instincts and find the right people to move forward with. Be flexible, there are always ups and downs… and always try to be optimistic about every situation.
Coroneo’s last piece of advice – a testament that her clothing reflects her optimistic ideology?
“Always listen to other people’s opinions, even if you don’t agree… and share your ideas with others, so that they can mature and blossom -”
Sounds like things are coming up roses for this bright young talent.
Coroneo’s collections and artwork can be found on her website www.annacoroneo.com