Interview With Anna Coroneo - "Drama With Legs"

by ANISA HASANI · April 28, 2009

I had previously met Anna Coroneo, the dark-glossy haired Australian beauty through a mutual friend. But, it was on a rainy day during Fashion Week, where I had the chance to collect a few insights about this multi-dimensional up-and-coming designer and artist.  Anna Coroneo currently calls the magical New York City her home. But her upbringings take her back to the shores of Australia where she grew up in Sydney, and first acquired a taste for design while closely observing her stellar designer grandmother. The former Harper's Bazaar and Henri Bendel intern, is one among the many faces entering the golden gates of fashion...

You are a one woman show. Labeled as a writer, artist and a designer--which one came first? How did you find your way into designing? In Sydney, I started a Bachelors degree in Commerce. I knew after the first accounting lecture, that this was not one of my brightest ideas, and quickly switched to studying Design at the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts (COFA) in Sydney. I learned how to sew from my grandmother, and I have always been awestruck by my mother’s creative flair. Even today, I still wear many dresses which my grandmother and mother designed and made years ago. My grandmother gets so excited when I tell her how people comment on how lovely her designs are when I wear them around NYC!

COFA holds an annual spring fair, where the students are able to set up a market stall to sell their creations. I remember having one of the best selling stalls, as I had a variety of wares including cotton tank tops (mostly designed with naughty little printed sentences in French), to painted canvases and silk beaded necklaces. From there, I also had a stall at the Bondi Beach markets. I would get down to Bondi at around 5am on a Sunday morning, to secure a good position for my market table. From there, lots of buyers from across Australia bought my designs and that’s where it all really kicked off.

When was the first time you felt like a true designer? The first time I really felt like a designer, was when I saw a complete stranger wearing a little printed cotton tank top I’d designed with a bright print and thin ribbon straps. It was the best feeling seeing her walk straight past me, looking great! Another unforgettable moment, was when I saw a girl at a little café in Paddington (Sydney) wearing a Sass & Bide tank that I’d worked on. It must’ve been one of the first samples, as it wasn’t for another month or so, that I saw it in lots of different colours at David Jones (big Aussie department store).

What is one main philosophy you follow when coming up with style/design ideas? I am always collecting lots of inspirational images, such as photos I’ve taken, old photos, postcards and vintage fabrics I’ve found. I am big on bright, loud colours, patterns and textures. I put the key things all on a big mood board. I usually deduce a theme from all of this, give it a title and stick to one main concept throughout designing a new collection. I am a huge fan of street art and graffiti, so often I’ll just walk around parts of NYC with my camera in hand, snapping away at whatever I find on the streets.

And your art work? I love everything about those paintings. The black and white and how the brush lines look like they are dancing around each other. With my artworks, I often experiment with abstract shapes, inspired by nature. I love splashing bright inks and paints to accentuate a mostly black and white brashly painted canvas. I also enjoy painting in a more controlled manner with inks on card, and getting very involved with intricate patterns and details. I like morphing strange creature-like figures into surreal looking plants and animal forms. The details are often so intricate, that each time you look at the same painting, you can find something that you may not have

The writing, the designing, the paintings-- these are still very few projects for you. How else are you squeezing every juice out of the day? I’ve also been busy writing a book of short stories, which are based on my first year of living in New York. You just never know what’s going to happen to you in one day in this city- it can all change in a split second! I often find myself laughing about things with friends, saying “… that could only really ever happen in New York!”

Growing up, what was one piece of clothing that you remember first adoring and wearing everywhere sort of like a safety blanket? When I was about five years old, my mother used to wear a gorgeous white and yellow long cotton summer dress. The fabric was so floaty and delicate, I would love lifting it up and hiding under her skirt. Till this day, I still remember annoying her at the grocery store as I’d lift up her dress in front of everyone, and she’d scream! I was also obsessed with a pair of mum’s aqua blue stilettos, with a big pasta-like bow on the front. I can barely squish my feet into those shoes today, sadly!

Being raised in Sydney, Australia how has this origin molded the aesthetic of the clothes? My fashion designs often convey a sense of the environments I experience and enjoy. The designs usually convey relaxed vibes of a resort chic Sydney-sider lifestyle, mixed with the energy and flirtatiousness of New York. I also enjoy designing my own bright and graphic-inspired prints - some of which have been inspired by the huge leafy park, just up the road from the beach where I grew up.

How do you describe yourself in a few words? Alive, switched on and always up for a laugh! One of my best friends describes me as ‘drama with legs’…

From the bold faces of Hollywood, who do you see wearing your designs? I am a huge fan of savvy, elegant yet mysterious women who have a vibrant energy. Rachel Weisz springs to mind. I also admire Penelope Cruz - I just love her as the saucy, hot headed temptress in Woody Allen’s movie Vicky, Cristina Barcelona. I like designing for a woman who is sassy and alluring, yet knows how to laugh at herself.

Woody is my hero and that movie is simply genius. Everyone has a story to tell. What do you want yours to be? One with a happy ending and an extensive archive of my designs – a memorable story that’s full of laughs and good surprises!!

One more thing: Are you still interested in having me model your clothes :)? I will definitely bring some rebel aspect to them. Absolutely – rebellious sparks are always welcome in my designs!

Her own label is Anna Coroneo Inc., in 2001. She is also an artist who exhibits with the Art Focus gallery in Sydney. Zink Magazine has published her writing contributions and to complete the puzzle, Anna is using life experiences and New York as a backdrop in writing a book depicting life through her eyes-- an insider-- while reaching for the stars!

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