DESIGNER EXCLUSIVE| Fashion Fringe Semi-Finalist, Raffaele Ascione

Vauxhall Fashion Scout recently caught up with Fashion Fringe semi-finalist, Raffaele Ascione to talk prep for his coming interview with chairman, Christopher Bailey, and the roots of his hip-hop-infused feminine design. Meeting in his studio- the back room of his shared apartment- Raffaele talks us through images tacked to his walls- sharing wall-space with toile, and sequin samples that hint at what to expect next season- and his career "near-miss" ( surprisingly more in keeping with Beyonce's "Run the World" playing in the background). Raffaele- also an established illustrator- starts with where it all began: drawing.

... I've been drawing since forever. My Mum says now, "my God, Lello, you used to draw all the time. On everything. Anything you could find: bills, anything that was lying around". She'd go mad over it. 

VFS:... not the usual kindergarden scrawls on the living room wall?
RA: When I was in Kindergarden in Austria, it was clothes- in my teens, it was Britney Spears, and Destiny's Child outfits- I really would draw literally every day. It was my only way of being creative at the time. When I decided to study fashion, I began thinking differently... especially because at the time, I was thinking "am I going to be a professional dancer, or am I going to do this?". So, I did take it more seriously, and I would tell myself "you need to practice one hour a day. At least." Second year [of my] BA, I had my first solo exhibition in London, then in Frankfurt a year later- which sold out- and the commissions started coming in, so it really became... "something". 

VFS: So, Frankfurt's where you grew up? It sounds as if you've lived everywhere- Germany, Italy, Ireland- here- where's home?!
RA: Fankfurt's home. If I want to escape, and I have the time, I'll go there. I lived in Italy as well for two, or three years, but I was born and raised in Germany. It'll always be home. Italy completely inspired me all the time though; I grew up with very traditional, Italian women around me. My nan really inspires me- she's one of those really passionate- stubborn- Italian women. That's where my feminine "side" probably comes from; and that side of my work as well, with the lace.

VFS: Do you think the nomadic upbringing is how you've come to work so successfully with two aesthetics that can be considered poles-apart: the traditionally-feminine, with street-wear?
RA: Yeah, growing up Germany, my friends were really into hip-hip culture, and were listening to Fugees, Dr.Dre, Tupac... we were mad about LL Cool J, and I used to wear my Southpole baggy jeans, and Nike oversized T-shirts- well, I'm kind of going back to that now... but you will always see sporty elements in my clothes- but going back to the women I grew up with- I'm also always going to be mixing it with the feminine. 

VFS: So, your aesthetic is already pretty established; what can we expect to see next season? I'm seeing a lot of sequins samples tacked to the wall...
RA: It's important every season to be moving my textile forward. I really want to develop the lace- push boundaries with it, try something new- that's the first focus... and then the sequins came in. I'd like to be bolder with colour; it'll be a continuation of the pale blues from Autumn/Winter- corals, mint greens, baby blues... but then obviously really mix them in with the black looks. 

VFS: It feels bolder.

... and not the extended, uncertain "yeah" of designer afraid to take risks. Ascione knows what he wants; knows where he's going; knows it in detail... down to the Studio 54 walk of his look book girls (see?). 

Images and text by Sara McAlpine. Follow her @sara_mcalpine