The Italian Job
By Alex Panisch
Photography by Jason Kim
With a résumé including positions at some of the top fashion houses in the world, Paul Surridge is hardly an industry novice. The 38-year-old British-born designer has worked his way up the ladder at well-known brands like Burberry, Calvin Klein, Prada, and most recently Jil Sander. Earlier this year, Surridge took the reins at Italian label Z Zegna and presented his first collection as creative director: a minimalist, versatile outing that piqued the interest of menswear aficionados. “It’s about creating an identity,” he says of his debut for fall. “I wanted it to be more about a complete wardrobe that could be worn any time between Monday and Sunday, rather than focused on any one specific type of man.”
When did you first realize you were interested in fashion?
Paul Surridge: I wasn’t one of those children who had a passion for it early on. I was around 16 when I became aware of image, but it was more about the marketing behind it. Then, when I was studying at Central Saint Martins, I took a one-year foundation course. Vivienne Westwood gave a seminar, and I was super interested in, and inspired by, her philosophy. That’s what led me to study fashion.
What was your first job?
It was with Neil Barrett at Prada, and it was tremendously educational. He instilled in me discipline and order. At college you learn technique, but when you go out into the real world, it’s very different. He showed me how to structure a collection.
Do you have a personal design philosophy? Do you adapt it to each label you design for?
Personally, I’m more about stripping things down, getting to the pure message. I’m not someone who adds elements as disguise or to make things look more interesting. I search for reduction and the essence of construction -- fabric, coloration. Those are the key ingredients to make a great collection.
Are there any definitive rules in fashion?
When I see people wearing combinations and they look great, it’s because they feel great. The rule for me is dress for yourself and dress to be comfortable. Don’t put something on just to make a statement. Today, there are no rules. Everything’s possible.