The story of Mexican born and New York based textile and embroidery designer Nadia Albertini is so fascinating that looks like the plot of a novel.
Nadia opened her box of memories to tell us a happy ending modern days fairytale that will inspire you following your dreams.
- What brought you to the world of textile and fashion design?
When I was a teenager, I used to love fashion magazines like the French Elle or Madame Figaro, reading the articles about Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano. I loved the behind the scenes pictures of the haute couture shows, the fittings on the super models, the ateliers. Most of the things were entirely handmade and the process fascinated me.
At the same time, while growing up in Mexico, I started embroidering little cross stitches flowers (I actually still have the book she gave me to copy the artworks. It’s falling apart but I still have it and use it from time to time). My nanny used to wear this very traditional Mexican blouses and gave me tiny versions to wear. All these things had an important influence on me.
So when I graduated from the French Lycee in Mexico, I knew I had to go abroad to study fashion, since there wasn’t a proper fashion school in Mexico City.
Annick, one of my mother’s friends, helped me getting into the foundation course at the Duperré School of Arts in Paris: she did all the paper work for me since she lived there and knew the system. Moving to France on my own wasn’t easy, the first year was quite hard for me but I managed to get in to the Fashion and Textiles BA course. It’s considered one of the best schools in France: Duperré is known for its creativity and innovation, the conceptual approach and the importance given to fabrics.
At Chloé, I was given the opportunity to work in the embroideries department. And I loved it. I loved it so much that during the next two school years, I volunteered to help them before and during the fashion shows. So I was there two weeks every three months: sewing, dressing models, running all types of crazy errands for the studio, booking hotels for the seamstresses who needed to stay late the day before the show and couldn’t go home, buying cigarettes, Prince and Pepitos (famous chocolate cookies) for the head designer, dyeing fabric, etc…
I learnt a lot in the studio but most of all in the atelier. I was very lucky because I was the only intern who could actually speak french, so I was their contact with the studio during those crazy weeks. All the other interns only spoke english and almost no french. Even my boss, the embroidery designer couldn’t speak french. So the chef d’atelier used to talk to me if they needed anything and I translated.
Working there meant missing classes and the school wasn’t very happy about it but it paid at the end. Just before graduation, Chloé offered me a job as a junior embroidery designer. That’s how my career started.
After Chloé, I went to work at Chanel, then I worked at Jason Wu and J.Mendel in New York, then at Dries Van Noten in Antwerp.
Now I’m a consultant for three different brands in New York City, where I moved with my husband almost a year ago.
- What does inspire you the most?
What I like the most about my job is working with talented people and the fact that it changes all the time.
Every client is different and has his/her own aesthetic, his/her own vocabulary and style. And each season evolves into something new. I have done many different things: from Chanel to Tory Burch, from Balmain to Dries Van Noten, from Chloé to Jason Wu. I listen to the designer’s needs and I adapt his/her vision and translate it into embroidery. I know the techniques and the best ateliers around the world and my job is to work with them to create something unique that answers the designer’s initial request.
What inspires me is to work with passionate people, truly committed to their craft, both on the design and the execution side.
- What’s the meaning of an artisanal and artistic work like yours, nowadays?
Not only because it has given me incredible opportunities and friendships, but also because I know how important it is to preserve these techniques and savoir-faire.
A machine can only partially imitate a hand-embroidered piece. From far they might seem similar, but if you take a closer look, you will see the difference and you will of course feel it if you get to wear the garment.
Besides, you can do thread work and some types of sequins by machine, but you cannot do beading and more 3D pieces that only the hand is capable of.
That’s why I love teaching. I’m going to Tokyo in April for a couple of workshops and might also go to Colombia later this year.
- Which fashion designers do you admire the most and why?
I admire Madame Gaby Aghion, founder of Chloé. She was a lovely lady, so inspiring! I had the chance to meet her a few years ago and my only regret is not having worked with her. She was the first to create Pret-à-Porter as we know it today and I think she had an extraordinary vision.
I admire Valentino for his beautiful dresses, they are one of the reasons I was so fascinated with fashion when I was a kid. I like Alber Elbaz for his freshness and sense of humor, his talent in mixing unexpected things in such an elegant and feminine way. And more recently, I have become a huge fan of Josep Font’s designs for Delpozo. For his modern approach to color and shape, for the details that are delicate and beautiful. They are pure poetry.
- How does the city you were born and raised (Mexico City, ed.) influence your creations?
Mexican culture is extremely vast and rich, from Aztec ruins, to colonial churches, beautiful huipiles, hand painted murals. There were so many different things than inspired us on a daily basis: modern architect Barragán, amazing photographers like Alvarez Bravo, the food, the light, the landscapes.
Mexico, and particularly Mexico City, teaches you to be quick and smart, to move and learn fast, to survive in any type of environment. And to do all this with a smile. Mexican people are really hard workers so you learn that as well. My country had a strong influence in who I am as a person and how I think and feel. And Paris had an influence in me as a designer and professional, in my work method. So I feel it’s a nice and unexpected mix.
I used to love going to the Centro Historico. First, because of the buildings that are so elegant and beautifully decorated. I love the details like the azulejos (traditional hand painted tiles, usually blue), the carved stone façades, the mosaics. And second, because the shops there are amazing: old fabrics, beads, stones, cheap colorful ribbons, yarns.
- What’s your ideal playlist for creating?
I enjoy listening to music while I work, even if I’m only doing research or answering emails. But when I’m really designing something new, Music that I can sing along to without even thinking. It goes from Norah Jones, to Madonna, to U2, to ABBA. I just need something familiar that makes me feel comfortable and at home.
- What’s your mantra?
Cover ph Anne Laure Camilleri, courtesy of Nadia Albertini
Cover title and illustrations, Sara Ottavia Carolei