Every decade has an emerging, quintessential designer in which he or she designs, creating a symbolic tangibility between fashion and the world around them. Freedom and youthful energy is not the only thing reflected in the intricately, understated elegance of New York-based designer, Michael Fausto’s latest collection; a universal intersection of past, present, and future intermingle in creating the ultimate source of beauty.
It’s only a matter of time before Michael Fausto leaves his mark upon the fashion industry, and some may agree that he already has. Upscale Living Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the designer to talk about what inspires him and how he magically translates those feeling into unique and empowering pieces.
Where are you from, and how did you get your start within the fashion industry?
I grew up in New Jersey, surrounded by acres of trees and expansive horse farms. This bucolic surrounding was often juxtaposed by frequent trips to New York City with my parents, as my mother was an executive at ABC News for more than two decades. Art was an integral part of my childhood; I could often be found sitting in the grass of my backyard, sketching on whatever I could get my hands on.
While the majority of my illustrations revolved around women and what they were wearing, it wasn’t until my uncle, a film editor, had shown us his most recent movie, The Devil Wear Prada, that I realized where I should be channeling my creativity. Determined to carve my path as a fashion designer, I began taking classes at a local quilting shop to learn how to sew. I then took summer classes at FIT, where I befriended actress Sadie Friedman, daughter of Tony Award winner & Oscar Nominee Joan Allen, whom I began making dresses for (most recently dressed her for the opening night of The Waverly Gallery on Broadway).
Upon choosing what college to attend, I was conflicted with the choice of an Ivy League education at Cornell or pursuing my passion at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Choosing to follow my dreams at FIT, I was thrilled to spend the next four years enveloping myself in work and ready to take advantage of every opportunity I could. After interning at houses such as Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa, and Dennis Basso, I was recruited as the Associate Designer for Evening Wear and Couture at Badgley Mischka. While at Badgley, I developed new styles that were featured in Bergdorf Goodman and Saks, in addition to working on custom celebrity dressing for clients such as Robin Roberts for the Oscars and Allison Janney at the Emmys. From there, I moved to Theia, an evening and bridal company, where I headed their beading and embroidery design and had my work featured in the New York Times.
In pursuit of continuing my professional growth, I began consulting for several luxury bridal labels where my designs were featured in ELLE, Glamour, and Town & Country and showcased by retailers such as Bloomingdales. After reflecting on how well my work had been received by the press, media, stylists, and buyers, at the age of twenty-five, I ventured into creating a label of my own.
Do you have any mentors?
I am lucky to have several close friends and associates I can refer to as mentors. They vary significantly in industry and experiences, which is most advantageous to me when I need different perspectives on matters I am contemplating. They include entrepreneurs, lawyers, hedge fund directors, and even broadway producers.
One of the most significant mentors I have had is Massimiliano Giornetti, former Creative Director of Ferragamo. During my studies at Polimoda in Florence, Italy, I was paired with him to develop my thesis. A talented and intelligent designer who is eager to share his knowledge, Mr. Giornetti advanced how I think about the design process and also the construction behind my work. Through his largesse, I was connected with the premiere vendors throughout Italy. Mantero Seta, one of the most well-regarded mills in Europe, developed by hand-painted artwork into yards of beautiful silk twill. And Mazzanti Piume, the artisans behind feather embroidery for Fendi and Cavalli, provided vibrantly dyed plumes to accent pieces of my thesis. His guidance and assistance have been invaluable to me, and I carry it with me in every new venture.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I often find inspiration in music. I find it as the purest source of inspiration, as music has no inherent imagery attached to it. Yet in listening to a song, I can envision debutantes twirling in mille-feuilles of tulle, empowered dames strutting down Madison Avenue, and countless other incarnations. Whether it be through an overture or an 80’s euro-pop song, I create a world in which my muse lives and designs her closet around this.
Walk us through your design process?
As previously mentioned, I often gravitate towards a song or sub-genre of music, which becomes the soundtrack of the collection. From there, I create the environment for my woman, who she is, where she is, what food she likes, what she does for work, etc. In the creation of this world, I begin sketching immediately. Scribbles and ideas slowly become balanced designs, common themes begin to connect looks, and a story starts to unravel.
After clearly defining my concept and amassing piles of sketches, I start fabric sourcing. I work with many European vendors, small and large, who carry everything from opulent jacquards to sensuous silk satins. Texture and depth are integral to my designs as well, so much of my artwork comes to fruition in custom beaded pieces. This is evident in pieces such as our ‘Azzurra’ skirt, which made from custom dyed hand-woven strips of raffia and scattered Swarovski crystals, and our ‘Bimonte’ skirt, bestrewn with custom dyed coral beads.
Tell us about your newest collection?
The newest collection is born from my love for the jewel box that is Capri. An eternal spring of life and beauty, the island has been a magnet for artists, poets, socialites, and more for years. Whether you are having a freshly grilled fish at La Fontelina or envisioning Homer’s sirens bathing near the Faraglioni, Capri offers glamour and excitement to everyone.
After years of visiting the island, I recently watched the movie ‘It Started in Naples’ with Sophia Loren. In the film, Loren sings and dances in a local club on Capri (the most memorable performance being ‘Tu vuo fa L’Americano.’ Immediately I began creating a world in my head, along with Ms. Loren supplying the perfect soundtrack. From there, it was easy to picture my muse shopping in the Piazza Umberto, basking in the sun at a local lemon grove, or drinking sangria at one of the glamorous beach clubs.
The inspiration was interpreted into vibrant colors seen in limoncello and bougainvillea Italian satin, dramatic ruffles reminiscent of nymphs emerging from the shore, and undulating hand draped neoprene. The collection features pieces for any occasion a woman may have, whether you need a simple white crepe pant to wear for a luncheon or a climactic Limone jacquard gown for a benefit gala.
We recently debuted the collection with a presentation at The Baccarat Hotel, with attendees such as David Barton (David Barton Gyms and TMPL Gyms), Suzanne Grant (Producer behind Moulin Rouge on Broadway), and Freddie Leiba (former Creative Director of Harper’s Bazaar). We also collaborated with Christofle for Wedding Weekend on Madison Avenue, where several of our bridal looks were featured for an in-store special event (other participating designers included Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera).
In which ways do you feel the fashion industry has evolved, particularly on couture?
Fashion seems to be at a fascinating juncture. While the majority of retail has moved online and fast fashion is near unavoidable, interest in the world of couture is at a high. With the proliferation of social media, access to seeing inside this once-exclusive world is available to almost anyone. Customers who were once unreachable now have the opportunity to see luxury collections from designers across the globe.
Furthermore, this is why I believe the niche business of Demi-couture is the future. Though it is easy for a woman to buy a simple ‘made in China’ dress from a mass retailer, the desire for fantasy and drama still lives on. Women always want to emulate what they see on the runways of Paris but perhaps do not have the budget to allocate $50,000 for a dress. Now they have the opportunity to access designers such as ourselves, who offer made-to-measure fashion for a fraction of the ‘haute couture’ price. Through social media, we have been connected with customers across the world, with clients from Paris to Bali. We offer couture fabrications and techniques but are as accessible as ready-to-wear. In a world where everyone is connected, and our lives are flooded with thousands of images a day, women want to feel valuable and unique, and it is through services like ours that luxury fashion advances.
What is a principal consistency or trademark found within your designs, the quality in which people can identify a “Michael Fausto piece?”
‘Michael Fausto’ pieces always offers a sense of drama. Our signature styles often play with dramatic drapes and folds, almost as if the fabric organically enveloped around the figure. Aside from this, all of our pieces are made in New York with the most excellent attention to detail. Each style is assigned a specific seamstress who has worked on the garment since inception and understands it inside and out. As many of our pieces require couture finishes, this is integral to keeping a high-quality standard. With each new sample and order, I am personally involved with the creation as well. Every garment passes through my hands, whether through perfecting the drape of a collar, or adjusting the beading, so it sits just right. I feel a personal connection with all of my work, and I want my clients to know that each garment has thought and care behind it.
Who would be a dream client or collaboration?
A dream collaboration would be with women in the political realm, whether that be a head of state, government official, or cultural attaché. I admire women who are intelligent, influential and are advancing our world for the better.
Who is your client? Who do you think your designs cater to most?
I design for the modern heroine. She is powerful and confident in herself and is unafraid to be seen and heard. Growing up surrounded by strong and determined women, I am inspired by the sheer power of femininity and all of its incarnations. My designs cater to women who want to celebrate their life and enjoy commanding attention. Delivering a refined sensibility coupled with a flair for drama, this clothing is made to exalt women.
Where do you see your brand five years from now?
Five years from now, I want to be regarded as the young designer who combined European aesthetic with American sensibility. As a young designer, it is difficult to find support, especially within the world of high fashion. Seeing a designer like Zac Posen have to shutter his business is disheartening, but I strive to fill the void left and expand on what women perceive occasion dressing as in this day and age.
There is a demographic of women who appreciate art in clothing, and are wanting to find something unique that transcends generations. My message to them is that I am here! It is my goal to inject life and vibrancy into the couture market, and I want to share my vision with women across the globe.
Do you prefer more classic or trendy? Is there a way to combine both?
I prefer to have a wardrobe that can last years. In a world where runway looks are recreated within days of premiering, trends are continually changing. To combine both classic and trendy, I find it best to look for refined pieces that have an astonishing detail, rather than the entire article being a trend statement whether you find a clean blazer with a beaded lapel, or blouse with a draped detail, its vital that you invest your money in lasting pieces that will bring you joy for seasons to come.
What’s your favorite thing to see a woman dressed in?
I love to see a woman in a gown. She is unrestrained by what the office dictates, what the weather is, or what current trend is in. Evening-wear exists on a different plane, where a woman can express herself in an uninhibited way. To me, there is nothing more exciting than seeing a woman walk into an event, glowing with confidence and individuality, who floats through the room swathed in a gorgeous gown.
This is why my creativity gravitates toward this type of dressing. Looking at the women attending events such as the UNICEF Dallas Gala or The Young Fellows Ball at the Frick, all of them emanate a palpable air of grace and distinction. This is what inspires me to design.
Your favorite piece of clothing?
My favorite piece of clothing is a tan basketweave laser-cut leather Armani blazer. Most recently, I wore it to the Opening Night Benefit Dinner of Shakespeare in the Park.
The craftsmanship is inspiring, from the lap seaming of the panels to the intricate artwork of embossing and laser cutting the leather. While I do not wear it often, it fits like a glove and makes you feel like all good fashion should; excited.
What does “being well-dressed means”?
Being well dressed means feeling confident in how you present yourself. That’s the magic of fashion. A fantastic outfit elevates how you hold yourself. It gives you the confidence to ace an interview, the nerve to speak to someone you have been enamored with, or even the gravitas to command respect.