Plusthirtynine: “Fashion is an art form that you wear and experience”
Working away in her creative-yet-cosy Hackney-based studio we sit down with Serena Di Marino the creative director of emerging fashion brand plusthirtynine as she discusses British fashion, art and the correlation between her life experiences and her intricate designs.
What are your inspirations, what prompts you to start designing?
All of my designs are personal. They’re influenced by what I’m going through and what’s happening in my life. I’ve worked in fashion for thirteen years and have always had an urgency to deliver a message to the people around me through fashion. The label was prompted by the breakdown of close relationships in my life and I feel as if my designs are an emotional journey for me.
How early on in life did you know that fashion was the path you wanted to take?
I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was in primary school, so around the ages of seven or eight. When my teacher would ask me what I wanted to be I would always say fashion designer, there was never anything else for me.
You say that you bring Italian manufacturing traditions to contemporary life, how much does your Italian background influence the brand?
I would say that a good 50% of my inspiration and way of working is Italian. Working in Italy before moving here has had an effect on how I process my collection. I find that London designers are very academic whereas in Italy we always look at the customer first, it’s a typical Italian way of thinking to question “what would the customer feel like wearing this”.
When did you move to London and what excites you about the British fashion scene?
With Italy being very customer focused, it’s almost too much about the customer and less about me. I feel like London is fresh, new and avant garde which I felt was missing from my life and my collection. Now I feel that the brand is a fusion of my Italian roots and my new London lifestyle.
Your designs have evolved greatly from the first collections Seduction and Only Love Can Break Your Heart, what caused this change in direction?
They are for two very different customers. The first two collections have a very young feel, when designing them I saw myself as part of the young generation of the time; I was purely expressing my feelings. These collections were before the label even started so they were just an expression of myself saying what I wanted to the world.
The latest collections are all named after numbers, what made you decide to do this?
I have a fascination with numbers and maths and they are very important to me. I feel emotionally attached to numbers and want people to remember the number not the name.
What type of person do you think embodies plusthirtynine?
It doesn’t appeal to everyone. I’d say I appeal to young women who aren’t girls anymore; they are professional women who are embarking on a serious career. Women who love to look beautiful and wear high quality clothes.
Your latest collection no 3 seems to have a religious influence, what are the ideas behind this?
I am a Catholic but that wasn’t the main influence behind it. I wanted to have some sort of printed design but I didn’t just want to be another print designer. The religious theme came from a traumatic moment in my life which caused me to become more spiritual. I feel like the designs catch peoples’ eyes and they reflect my own life.
How important is the relationship between art and fashion to you?
I go to a lot of art exhibitions and this has a big influence on my designers. Even the lighting at the photo shoots for the lookbooks is reflected by the paintings I have seen. I absolutely believe that there is a relationship between fashion and art. Fashion is an art form than you wear and experience, not just look at.
Do you have any favourite designers?
When I was younger I loved Alexander McQueen, he was so talented and poetic, his designs are like pieces of art, but as I’ve become a woman I’ve fallen in love with Stella McCartney, she brings such fun and playful designs to the modern woman and I’ll always be forever in love with Coco Chanel!
Where do you hope to see the brand going in the future?
My hope is to be in selected stores across the world. I want it to stay niche and exclusive, I’m not looking to be the next Alexander Wang.
With each item being characteristic and distinctive the designs are artistic one-off pieces and can be worn season after season, trend after trend. The upcoming collection no 3 will be available to buy from November.
Photos: Courtsy of Plusthirtynine
Find out more about the brand here.