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Q&A with designer Romina Vairo

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Fashion

February 2, 2015

Romina Vairo profile

Romina Vairo
2014, Bachelor of Science, Fashion Design, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh

"My [instructors] opened my eyes to the fact that I truly have a voice and a vision, and inspired me to show the world what I have to offer. There is no clear-cut path to design and we all must find our own unique way."

Romina Vairo is an Italian-American fashion designer and artist who combines her innovation and artisanal skills to create influential womenswear. Romina studied at Polimoda International Institute of Fashion Design in Florence, Italy for two year before transferring to The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

From the age of five, Romina could be found sketching in the corner of her immigrant father's pizzeria, surrounded by people fascinated by her creativity. Her design goal is to give women the chance to release their existential beauty.

The Art Institutes: What is your vision when it comes to your collection?

Romina: My [vision] for "Frozen Bone" was to combine fluid lines of draping and soft structural tailoring. [I was] inspired by the French film actress, Sarah Bernhardt, from the late 1800s. Her beauty was versatile as she played both male and female roles, which is why the mood of this collection plays on a slight androgynous note. The voluminous silhouettes and minimalist touches are a result of skeletal and muscular formations found within the human anatomy— [paying] homage to the great Leonardo da Vinci. The design focus is meant to illustrate the quiet, chilling embrace of winter and all its elemental formations. This collection showcases the silent and translucent beauty of women.

The Art Institutes: Describe your design process for this collection.

Romina: My design process always starts by doing research. I went through thousands of images including winter landscape photography, Leonardo da Vinci sketches, Gray's anatomy medical illustrations, Sarah Bernhardt portraits, and anything else that captured my attention. I gathered a small collection of the ones that truly spoke to me. Then I created a painting to enhance my creative spark and allowed my mind to produce whatever it wanted after the influx of imagery. Once I had a concrete mood and design purpose, I scouted everywhere for high quality fabrics to create a luxurious and artistic feel for the collection. Once all these variables were set, I sketched different silhouettes that would be interesting to view from all angles, especially from a side profile. This allowed me to move away from the confines of the typical front and back view. All these steps set the precedent for the "Frozen Bone" collection.

The Art Institutes: Describe how your education prepared you for this opportunity. Provide specific examples and/or classes that have provided you with "A-ha" moments.

Romina: The education I received at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh really allowed me to hone my abilities as a designer. I've been an artist my entire life, but to be able to design is another beast entirely. Designers must fuse art, function, and commerce all into one—my business classes really helped me understand that fundamental element in this industry. Also, my [instructors] opened my eyes to the fact that I truly have a voice and a vision, and have inspired me to show the world what I have to offer. There is no clear-cut path to design and we all must find our own unique way. I was able to find mine at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

The Art Institutes: Where do you find inspiration?

Romina: I am inspired by artists from all over the world, from contemporary to classic. I drew a lot of inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci and his medical sketches as well as contemporary artist Kris Kuksi and his skeletal sculptures. The designers I appreciate and hold in high esteem are Gareth Pugh, Hussein Chalayan, and Stéphane Rolland.

The Art Institutes: What design blogs or publications do you read?

Romina: Worth Global Style Network (WGSN) and Stylesight are my preferred sites for referencing and forecasting. They help me keep up to speed on the industry, but I also spend hours sifting through books in the library for inspiration and reference images. Technology is a great thing, but there is something about print and imagery in a bound book that can never be replaced.

The Art Institutes: How are you preparing for the runway event? What challenges have you faced?

Romina: To prepare for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, I am trying to push my creative abilities to the max. Creating this brand collection has allowed me to understand the full process, from inspiration to construction. I am learning to work with materials such as neoprene and [I'm] producing all the knitwear by hand. Also, I am introducing a lot of new silhouettes in "Frozen Bone," which have put my draping and patternmaking abilities to the test. Each look has a specific purpose, but I designed each garment so they could be mixed and matched because that is the true nature of fashion.

Stream the show live at 8PM on Tuesday, February 17. Find out how—and get the date on your calendar!

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