Sometimes the biggest fight comes from the most unusual places. If you passed our latest designer Anthony Manfredonia on the street, you may not realized he has dressed some of the biggest stars from Beyonce to Meryl Streep, and brought a burning business (literally) back to life. The Parsons trained designer is as full of grit as his woman is fierce and confident. Having dove in early on as the assistant to the design director at Donna Karan and perfected his skills as head designer for Isaac Mizrahi Haute Couture, Manfredonia, a true fashion engineer, has built a world of sensuality, elegance and everlasting power. His gowns are timeless, his corsets are constructed to a tee, and he never leaves a woman feeling less than breathtaking. Today we chat with Anthony about how to survive what’s outside your control and finding inspiration in flow…and Blade Runner.
How and why did you start designing?
My life has always had a funny way of working itself out and leading me on the path I needed to be on. I was always interested in the arts. I just never knew where to focus my career path. By chance, I happened to fall into the Parsons School of Design Summer Program for high school students at 16 years old and decided on a whim to try the Fashion Design course. This was all due to a funny circumstance that my older sister’s college roommate’s father was a Parson’s professor. During parent’s weekend, he suggested to my parents that I should try out the summer program. It was unbelievable how all the pieces just fell into place, and I knew I had found my calling. In fact, I knew this was where I was meant to be when, at the end of the course, the Chairman of Parsons Fashion Department offered me a guaranteed spot in the BFA Fashion Program.
What is your fashion philosophy?
It’s all about confidence. There are so many issues in the world with women and self-esteem and the way media portrays women’s bodies. I want women to be fierce yet feminine so I design the Manfredonia brand to be very confident and strong. There is a heightened sense of sensuality with aggressive subtexts to my work.
How has your design changed over time?
Through the seasons, I have developed a stronger and more confident approach to my designs. There is a definite signature of taking the basics and twisting them to add an element of surprise and sensuality. In fact, at this point I believe I have hit my stride where my brand and myself as an individual have perfectly mirrored each other. I’ve grown more confident in myself, which reflects on my designs.
What inspired your latest collection?
I was so happy with the results from the progress of the last collection that I took one of the strongest elements (my group of harnesses) and used it as a jumping off point for the following collection. I wanted to take raw and gritty futuristic elements and twist them into very sensual and feminine designs. I combined the harnesses with jewelry to make fully jeweled and sequined variations, in essence making this aggressive sexual element luxe and pretty. Living in New York City (a very tough, gritty yet sensual city), I was drawn to combining these polar opposite aspects. From there, I thought of the iconic film “Blade Runner” that has those same themes running through it. This was all very much in alignment with the aesthetics of the MANFREDONIA brand.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
That has to be the nature of how to run your business and find your “voice” in an oversaturated world with an overabundance of fashion lines. The normal business plan/model/path no longer exists, and now, it’s a matter of finding the right path for you while still staying true to your brand.
Life can also throw many hurdles in your path that can potentially hinder your progress in business. Last season as I was just days away from launching my collection, I survived a fire that damaged most of my apartment building including my apartment. I was lucky to be able to salvage my belongings and had to launch my collection three days after the fire. Needless to say, if it wasn’t for my amazing and incredible team of people behind me, this all would not have been possible. This hurdle definitely showed me that no matter what life throws at you, you need to remain centered and true to who you are. If you do, you will find a way to get over any hurdle.
What do you think about fashion today?
I think the recent hard financial times that that we have lived through has caused the fashion industry to become skittish about taking risks. More and more, it feels like the bold artistry of the past is becoming lost, making current trends almost too safe. I wish the industry and stores would be more open to take on emerging designers with bold designs.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
For me, inspiration truly is a journey! It strikes me unexpectedly, but I don’t have to go or do anything specific to be inspired. Ideas can come from the people and places I interact with (dinner with friends, movies I watch, art projects from my nephew, walks around New York City, etc.) are combined with an evolution of the current collection’s themes, which all build on what has been previously done in prior seasons. This seamless flow is important to me, as it helps build a cohesive brand.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
First and foremost, you need to always be open to your surroundings, new ideas, and conversations you have, because you never know where and when inspiration will strike you, and where the journey will lead you. Also, you need to have a third eye in a mentor, or a few of them, to give you a perspective outside of yours. Sometimes, we can get too close to our designs and we need the help to balance and focus our direction.
Get gritty and follow Manfredonia to be in the know when he launches his latest collection.
He has already been endorsed by Beyonce, who wore Manfredonia’s white neoprene swimsuit as the main featured outfit in her music video “No Angel.”