Interview with FILIPPO LATERZA, the new dream-maker of Haute Couture

Oniric, theatrical and with a deep sense of Haute Couture, Filippo Laterza is one of the most promising designers of the new generation. In this long interview we’ve discovered his most sensitive side…

Filippo Laterza is a 23 years-old young man. At his age many guys are still at college to complete their studies, but Filippo decided something different, beginning a path which brought him under the spotlights of international media.

He is a designer, or it would be better to say “couturier”, because his field is Haute Couture, his job is not only to project collections, but to create real masterpieces that have something close to artworks, beyond the widespread business logic.

Filippo Laterza portrait

Filippo is a dreamer. Already a sophisticated creator of images and visions, also if so young. Maybe because his cultural education is something different compared to the classic scholastic pathways chosen by the major part of aspiring designers, there’s something about him that remember me that great masters of the past. 

Backstage of Filippo Laterza's fashion show

After seeing his collection during AltaRoma, I’ve decided to contact him to ask an interview. Very kindly, Filippo soon accepted and we had a nice conversation in a particular moment of his life, rich of many beautiful news. A few weeks after his successful fashion show, leaving for Paris where he has to meet the representative of Zhejiang Maidilang, the textile industry of Shanghai which produces his fabrics.

This is our chat.

Models wearing the amazing wedding dresses

TFP: First of all, I want to thank you to have accepted the interview. I’m very happy to have the occasion to speak about your creativity, because I really appreciate it. 

F.L.:  Thank you so much! 

TFP: You come from a family of tailors, so fashion was your childhood environment, but you’ve anyway attended a fashion course at the Agherbino high school in Noci, near Bari. What have you learned from that experience compared to the working experience in atelier? 

F.L.: My answer is a bit different than usual. I made an important choice, to follow the school of life rather than universities or important academies. My great fortune was to be born into a company that produces sartorial male trousers. And my grandmother, who’s gone just before my last fashion show, made wedding gowns. So I always breathed this atmosphere of creativity and played with fabrics and sewing machines. My passion was born there...

Filippo Laterza in the backstage

F.L.: ...I was lucky enough to meet some designers and professional people who gave me many tips. School was important because trained me and explained not only the world of tailoring, but also of creativity. And thanks to it, I won the contest for Stefano Cavalleri, for who I started to work immediately after the win. I’ve decided to enroll at IED in Milan, but shortly after the beginning I decided to leave because I prefered to follow a school of life.
I think that the professionalism of an artist like Stefano Cavalleri, who gave me a lot of space to express myself within his collections, made me grow up and primarly turned me into a designer able to follow different paths and projects. That was really my education though I’m continuing to evolve and transform thanks to life experiences, travels and people I’m getting to know.
Stefano Cavalleri in the backstage of Filippo Laterza's fashion show

TFP: Each designer has his own vision and an ideal woman as reference. Who’s yours?

F.L.: Actually my vision is more generic, in the sense that I don’t have a unique vision about women. However I prefer a feminine woman with a strong character. My approach is more about fashion itself, not about a particular type of woman. A fashion that is not only made of superficiality or just clothes, but which has something to communicate...

An outfit from "Opera Orientale" collection

F.L.:...All this is surely understood by people of this sector, but to reach the final public showing how much work there’s behind the scene is not easy, because often people see only the parties, the travels and the good life. It’s not just that, anyway. At the end parties and travels are beautiful and funny, but they don’t give you the same satisfaction than see your dress finally finished, or when you can see your print, fabric or sketch that becomes true. 

This means to turn fashion into art, to create something that is fashionable and can emphasize the female silhouette of the wearer, but that should have something to tell about the incredible work that’s behind the scene, otherwise we are just making clothes. 

A model in the backstage wearing an evening dress

TFP: Art is the main source of inspiration of your creations, it’s tangible. I can see and almost breath it. What’s happen in your mind when inspiration comes and how it’s technically translated by your collection?

F.L.: This is really a beautiful question, I have to say that it’s very different from all the other asked me, so thank you to have understood my passion and real love for art and because this question allows me to explain my creative process.

Filippo Laterza speaking to a model just before the fashion show

TFP: the references are so rich in your collection, it’s so evident!

F.L.: My first collection was to honor my ten favorite artistic icons through my creations. After, and especially in my last collection, I’ve chosen another type of art, not only the pictorial artworks seen on art history books, but something less known in Europe, the Pechino Opera Theatre. Because I think that art is a powerful means of communication, is always beautiful, especially if it communicates something and reflects the moments I’m living. 

For example, and it’s a little-known fact, in my penultimate collection I suddenly ended up to change all the entire collection. It was inspired by other artists in which I reflected myself in that period, but after a trip to India I’ve seen an exhibition about Fauves and I’ve thought that was the period that can more represent me and so I changed all the collection, just a month to fashion show.

"Fauves" collection

TFP: You did a brave thing!

F.L.: Yes, it was pretty crazy! Anyway, this is the creative process. Everyone have periods with particular emotions or moments. As when you look a masterpiece or, in my case, when I was at Pechino Opera Theatre. Sincerely I didn’t understand very much about what they were saying, because obviously they spoke Chinese. But the way to communicate through make-up, gestures and colors were exactly what I wanted to express. The great passion that East has for fashion and communication, and also ours. To express this union I used other form this of art.

An outfit from the lookbook of "Opera Orientale"

TFP: Are there any fashion designers who influenced you? Someone you met, studied or admired?

F.L.: About designers of female fashion, many of them influenced me in different ways. Of course I’m speaking about designers as artists, like Alexander McQueen or Yves Saint Laurent.

TFP: I was thinking about Saint Laurent…

F.L.: Yes, in fact in their historical periods they made something really different, having an important message to communicate. It’s exactly this thing that I feel like mine. Not simply making something different, not necessarily being weird. This is not the sense of fashion. That instead is having something to say, but how can I do without using words? Wearing a dress and walking around the city. This is what the great designers made, they revolutionized also the way to live and this is my inspiration. 

Obviously the one who influenced me more than each other is Stefano Cavalleri, having the great fortune to collaborate still today with him. Certainly he gave me the possibility to learn the technique, but first of all to have a new vision of fashion.

Tailors at work in the backstage

TFP: The use of fabrics and colors impressed me. In your collection you’ve worked a lot on them. Do you like experimentation? What do you invent from time by time?

F.L.: My first focus in on materials. I think about the color, the fabric but also the embroideries. These are my starting points. The color gives me immediately the idea. Not only the color in itself, but in the way it’s juxtaposed  to the others. From that I start the selection of textiles. There are fabrics with a particular brightness or that can modify the color perception, so is really important to have the right tone but also the effect you want.

Fabric designed by Filippo Laterza

TFP: Do you personally design your embroideries?

F.L: Yes, I do everything, included fabrics. Fortunately I worked with different manufactures in the last 4 years, also when I worked for other brands. They always supported me and are now part of my cultural and technical background. They have the energy to follow me and to intercept soon my desires. Embroideries are all designed by me and there’s a lot of work. From the first basic idea, maybe through a mistake, experimenting something different or with a final touch, you can work on until the moment of the fashion show, when the embroidery must be completely finished and you can’t add nothing else. 

Fabric have a shorter creative process, because when it’s done you can’t modify the texture or the pattern. But I’m so lucky to work in a partnership with the Maidilang group in Shanghai for the textile collection. A part was showed at the fashion show, another is dedicated to the European, American and Chinese markets.

Detail of the embroidered blue dress of "Opera Orientale"

TFP: Speaking about your collections… “Fauves” is a jubilation of colors and unusual combinations, like flowers, delicate details, strong colors and maybe references to years before the present day, so it seems at first sight. What was the inspiration? How was born and developed this successful collection?

F.L: Like I said, it was born unexpectedly. One month from the fashion show I admired some artworks. I already knew the period, but I said to myself: “It’s a so short period in the art history that surely was enhanced, maybe less compared to other artistic movements, but wow…this is exactly what representing me in this moment!”. Which means to make contrasts of different colors, expressing everything through color. That was the basic idea. 

No more making only a lot of embroideries and applications, I wanted really start from something pure, from a basic color and a basic fabric and then develop the collection culminating with some outfits in which are emphasized those colors of flowers. It represent all my journeys made during the year. As I said, I often travel for my job, but obviously I try to allow me a few moments within these business trip to study and live the culture of the places I am. So every color matching was for me the way to express how I felt in that journey.

Collection "Fauves"

TFP: Instead “Opera Orientale”, which had a great success at AltaRoma because you appeared everywhere in the mass media, is a further step, an evolution of your style. It seems already a mature work. I’ve seen the fashion show and there were amazing coats, working on fabrics, overlapping of Prince of Wales and fringes, really particular details. What was it about, also speaking about fabrics and textures, and what are the most representative outfits?

F.L.: Once again I narrate my travels, but more than the trip in itself, I spoke about the two places I just felt like home. So in the first part there’s all the inspirations about the Pechino Opera Theatre and obviously I think that the most iconic outfit is the overture dress, nude-style and completely hand-embroidered with sequins that reproduce the typical faces with make-up of Pechino Opera.

The blue dress and a printed silk coat
TFP: The stunning one long with train, embroidered and with blue fringes? I just fell for it!

F.L. (laughing): Thank you! I think that was the iconic dress of that theme, maybe of all the entire collection. The choice of that place was not only for the  way the Pechino Opera communicates, or because I like it. As I said, travelling frequently you have a kind of distortion about your roots. That’s why I chose the final music “No roots”, about not having an origin. It’s true, we don’t have roots, we have traditions, we grow up and mature...

Blue dress and coat

F.L....I’m feeling more a son of the world than simply Italian. But I love to be Italian especially in England where they appreciate our way of being Italian and in China, where they love Made in Italy. For them all the best fashion is made in our country. When I felt their way to love our strengths, that maybe we take for granted and we don’t emphasize strongly, I was really proud. That’s why I chose these two places. Going back to the main question…Because I often strayed from the subject…

The dreaming and theatrical presentation of wedding gowns during the fashion show
TFP: Oh, don’t worry! It’s so interesting that we could talk for hours…

F.L. (laughing again): Well, the iconic dress is the first one, but there’s another part. There’s a red dress completely embroidered and made by small frills in chiffon. It’s an important dress for me. I made something similar but not equal, with the same process and volumes, when I designed my first collection for Stafano Cavalleri. He said to make a dress for the collection, and it was the most sold. In fact the clients called it the “Filippo-dress”

I should say…see it on my namesake collection… with the people who follow and support me since I was a child and my partners saying “Here’s the Filippo-dress”… That’s why I think it’s another iconic dress of the collection. Red is my favorite color and also that of my grandmother who, as I was telling you, has gone just before the fashion show. The dress was ready the day of my grandmother’s funeral…A little strange coincidence…So definitively those two are for me the most iconic pieces.

The red "Filippo dress"

TFP: Actually, they are surely eye-catching. I loved a lot also the coats, both the black version and the one with fringes are gorgeous!

F.L.: You know…every piece has its own story behind it and I’m particularly attached to all of them, but if I have to select some outfits I choose those two. One because I think that is the most elaborated and high-profile, so it was in overture. And the other because there’s so much behind it…It can appear simple but there’s so much work and stories about…

The gorgeous coat in Prince of Wales fabric and fringes and two cocktail suites

TFP: Last question. Now that you are becoming internationally famous and noted as up-and-comer designer of Haute Couture, not only Italian but also generally speaking, what are your future plans?

F.L.: Thanks for this definition! I’m feeling a rookie! It’s all a beginning and I’m so happy and proud that people is appreciating so much my work and my creative path. Each season I’m always a bit scared because I invest all my heart expressing me in a completely free way through fashion. So I’m so glad that people appreciate what I have to say...

Filippo Laterza with his models before the show

F.L.: ...Anyway, speaking about future projects, someone asked me the same question the day of the fashion show and I had an idea of future projects in that moment. But today, after some weeks, I should say that the world’s opened up to me in many different ways, and once again the partnership with the Maidilang will be even more important. So there will be a more rich collection and my fabrics will be presented also with an event in China, along with my collection...
Moments in the backstage

F.L.: ...I will sign a childrenswear capsule collection for a Chinese group which makes high-end products. My choice is always luxury. My great desire is to include a my childrenswear collection. Another great passion are accessories. So I need to assess all the proposals of this moment and also the desire to produce one of the two collection, among childrenswear or accessories, considering what can be the most right to present at the right moment.

TFP: Thank you Filippo for this interesting chat!

F.L.: Thank you, hoping I wasn’t too long!

TFP: No, I really appreciate this long interview! Because you have a very strong and beautiful soul, so I was glad to have the occasion to speak about you.

F.L.: Thank you so much!

(photos by Daniele Romeo Belli)

Here the video of the fashion show at AltaRoma.


Dear readers, I'll wait you soon with other interviews and fashion stories!