Vanesa Krongold is a girl with style. You can see from the second she walks into the Recoleta teashop that she stands out from other girls sitting at their tables. This is one of the most exciting up-and coming designers who also styles for the most fashion-forward magazines in the country.
After presenting her collection at Ciudad Emergente last year, the fashion world has been opening up to this young woman from Buenos Aires. Her designs are colourful, floaty and dreamlike, and despite being incredibly contemporary, retain a certain timeless style.
Tell us a little bit about how you envisage your designs and what kind of woman do you design for?
I design to be girly, playful and risky, but still elegant all at the same time. Sometimes I think of it as though I’m cooking with ingredients – you need a pinch of elegance, but not too much, a little bit of rebel, but not so much. It’s like mixing everything together and creating a balance.
How did you get to where you are now?
I started off studying fashion design and styling at Palermo University. I’ve always worked as a stylist and a photographer for the university, so my designs have always been more of a visual job, rather than sewing.
Then, a year after I graduated I travelled to London to take a short course in print at Central St. Martins (one of the top fashion universities in the world). So, when I came back to Argentina, Ciudad Emergente called and asked me to present my collection as an emerging designer. Inspired by the course, in my first collection I covered everything in print!
I design and make all the prints but I don’t personally sew the designs. Still, all the clothes are homemade as I have two women working with me.
Now I’m selling clothes in London – a store on the Kingsland Road called No One, and also online on Far Fetch, and Asos websites. In Buenos Aires my clothes are sold in Kabinett and Fire Walk With Me in Palermo, as well as a shop in Rosario called Gris Topo.
What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by childhood and memories from my childhood. I’m also inspired by walking around the city and taking pictures of things I like. I like taking pictures of old people, old stores, things that are forbidden, and kitsch elements. I like the things others find horrible – something that’s so old we don’t use it anymore. I like finding these things and finding the beauty in them because they’re so horrible.
This inspiration then goes into my clothes. I’ve printed lots of kitsch screen savers from the 90s – ones that I’ve just found on Google and I love the colour so I’ll print it onto my designs. I’m also inspired by Chinese and Japanese culture.
What’s the fashion community like here in Buenos Aires?
We’re a small community and so, as a designer, you know everyone. We are about five or six new designers right now. In Buenos Aires, the “new designers” are around 40 years old, so they’re not that new anymore – they were new designers around 10 years ago. So we’re trying to push though a new generation of designers.
Fashion here is not an industry yet, it’s just something that is starting to take off. We’re still looking for our identity, because we don’t have it yet – everything is just copying from what is going on outside Argentina.
Is it easy for someone who is still so young to break into an industry that is already dominated by established designers?
If you’re doing something different, then it’s a lot easier. But, if you aren’t, then it’s very difficult. The industry likes people that take risks.
For me I think it was easy because I started working when I was really young. When I was studying I used to work as a stylist intern in a magazine called Catalogue, so I learnt art direction there. It’s very important to understand that side of fashion in order to effectively design your range, and also to know how to construct a good photograph.
Do you find your styling and designing feed into each other?
Yes, definitely, they’re twins. My designs need to be with my styling, and that’s the way I create. Like, when you paint a portrait, you see colours and textures coming together and by the way they combine, you begin to see more colours and more textures.
What do you think of Buenos Aires in comparison to other fashion capitals?
I think the main point is that here in Buenos Aires, people need to feel safe. There are also underground cultures, where people dress differently, but it’s not as common here. If you wear something weird or racy, people are going to look at you, and maybe even shout things at you. For example, if you have colour in your hair, or if you’re wearing something a little bit different, people might shout, “Hey! It’s not Halloween” – this happened to me once!
Do you think people have to change their attitude?
No, I think the designers need to change. I think if we change and we offer different clothes – if we show people that they can dress differently – then they will dress like that. So it starts from the designers. It’s our responsibility.
I think it’s important to understand that in different cultures people appreciate beauty in different ways – men appreciate beauty in different ways, and that influences the way women dress. So here in Argentina, women feel they are appreciated by their sensuality, and they feel like they need to dress like a woman and be very feminine. But when you travel to Europe, for example, when I was in Berlin, women dressed more androgynously, and that is what men appreciated as beautiful. It’s a different perception of beauty.
Do you feel you have to design for this attitude?
I don’t design for it, but at the same time you know this is what will be popular. You know how men see clothes on a woman. And as a designer, you also know that women want to feel beautiful, and know that someone is thinking you’re beautiful.