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Arnold Zimberg Talks About His Buttoned Down Business

May 24, 2011 By Lauren Valenti

Arnold Zimberg’s resume reads like a who’s who of fashion. His career includes his beginnings at Valentino, working alongside Emilio Pucci, spending an astounding 21 years at Givenchy (where he, as a company partner, created the infamous four “G” logo), discovering Geoffrey Beene…and that’s just scratching the surface. We had the opportunity to sit down with Zimberg recently to discuss his immensely popular contemporary shirt business.

How did you transition from working with all these notable designers to creating woven shirts?
I believe in classification buying from stores, not collection buying. I think that people buying shirts and knitwear from companies that focus on that category probably will do better on an individual basis. But, they have to be intelligent enough to pull it together by color and such, which sometimes they can do and sometimes they can’t. Today we are the most copied shirt in the world. We created on the men’s side a look that was never done—heavily washed, contrast fabric, and velvet going down the front for men and women. It’s trademarked. Anytime you see velvet going down the front you know it’s ours.

What is so interesting about your line is that there are those little touches, such as the velvet down the front or a button randomly missing on the breast pocket. Why add or subtract these details?
I think our product is not cheap. It needs to have something to distinguish it from a shirt that’s much cheaper. So in designing it, I think of all the reasons why somebody would want to pay the price for the shirt and I add little things that are not predictable.

Each month you create 12 new styles for consumers. How do you stay inspired?
A good friend of mine is Donna Karan. One of the things that drove her is passion. She would try everything on and she was her own muse—if she felt good in it, if she liked it and her body told her it was right—then she went with it. And I’m pretty much the same way. I design what I want to wear. Even on the women’s side. I don’t wear women’s shirts obviously, but what I want my women to look like.

You lead a bi-coastal lifestyle. How does this influence your aesthetics?
I think up until now, California has had a great impact on me for design. I design for the lifestyle we live in– a very casual one that has little boundaries. The weather and how people dress all impact my designs. For the Autumn/Winter 2011 Collection New York came to play a bigger role than Los Angeles. A lot of it is more sophisticated and the trims have been toned down. I was thinking more of New York and Paris rather than Los Angeles. It’s funny how where you live can impact what you’re doing.

The color combinations of your shirts call out to us. When choosing for spring or fall, how do you decide what tones to utilize?
It goes back to what I want to wear and what I want to see. If I get tired of something, ultimately my consumer will get tired of it. So I have to keep it fresh for myself, as well. There have been seasons for Autumn/Winter where I’ve done bright colors and there are times for Spring where I’ve done desert colors. That’s what designers do, they create. And that’s what many designers, I think who don’t succeed, forget. They’re not creating. They are just making clothes to put on your body, and I don’t think it works that way.

On that note, what advice do you have for aspiring fashion industry hopefuls?
In order to be successful in the fashion business, to be a creator, you have to love what you’re doing. You have to wake up with a passion that’s burning. And that passion will play a big role in your success or lack of success. With that passion will come newness, creativity and ingenuity. I have known every major designer in the world, whether it’s Givenchy, the late great Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, or Marc Jacobs when he started at Perry Ellis. They all had one thing in common: they all had this passion. Without the passion, just to do the work, I don’t believe breeds great success. The money never comes if the success isn’t first. Without this formula it’s very difficult.

For more information on Arnold Zimberg or to peruse his collection, visit Shop Arnold Zimberg.

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