Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Meet Andrés Alsina ... Life after fashion

Andrés Alsina is a gentleman who has found that there is indeed life after fashion and that reinvention is the key to longevity and success if one can find the correct path to travel. He is an equestrian, a sportsman, a bon vivant, an international interior designer, a clothes horse, an ex-model, an author of 3 books, a teacher and most of all he is quite genuine with little to no artifice about him.
art by Marc Antoine Coulon

Andrés Alsina took his love of fashion and redirected it to another area of fashion but this time it was in the home, so to speak, and not on the runways of Europe. He is proof positive that good taste is genetic and that life does create divergent yet overlapping paths but it is up to us to choose the right one. After several conversations with this unique man, it occurred to me that he is without pretense and very open and forthcoming about himself, his life and his career. Within the world of fashion and any creative endeavor, those are qualities that have become increasingly rarefied as so many opt to throw up walls of pretense to conceal their shortcomings.
It is my opinion that all of his sterling qualities and particular talents are communicated via his own words:
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Jeffrey Felner: How did you arrive at the decision to become an interior designer and why?
Andrés Alsina: I am a very pragmatic person. The first time a magazine published where I lived, it was a small flat full of stripes and soon people began to call me asking prices of the furniture. When I realized that the profit of a Chesterfield sofa was three times that of a runway walk or a written article, I became an interior designer. No mysterious secret, I was not gifted or touched by the aura of aesthetics. It’s kinda weird, because I don’t define myself as only being an interior designer. I feel I'm much more of a writer or a teacher than a decorator. Fame and notoriety came in this decision besides it’s never late to reinvent ourselves. Take for example Andreé Putman, the French mogul of contemporary interiors, who was a piano teacher until her 50th anniversary. I like the idea of being unclassified even if that’s not very commercial, but it’s attractive. I mean, look at me, finally what is Alsina all about; a decorator, a writer, a teacher, a travel guy, all of that together, or nothing specifically?
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JF: Can you describe your personal style and your interior design style?
AA: My personal style is a mix between the preppy American east coast and certain Italian codes of sartoriale, nothing exceptional, but it works for me. When I was twenty many international designers such as Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana wanted  to dress me very over the top. It was good publicity for them and there was that sense neo romantic of the eighties that we were part of fashion evolution. Amazing when you are young, but as you get older you search for simplicity and being more anonymous yet stylish while you walk the street.
 As for the seal (signature) that defines my work as interior designer, that is far more complicated. Part of me works as a revisionist, updating classic French or Gustavian styles. But since I mixed those periods with strong and pure colors and some art deco lines, I feel I recreate a whole new label on interiors. I'm very eclectic, in the tradition of David Hicks, for me the ultimate designer of modern glamour. You can love or hate my work, too fresh for the conservatives, too maximalist for modern architects. But I have a seal, and I feel proud of that.
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JF: How and why did you select your current home?
AA: I really believe in luck. I was doing internet researches, with only one idea on my mind and that was I will like to live surrounded by French classic architecture and golden grids but I say Andrés, forget Paris, is too expensive. I tried with the city of Nancy, which had one of the most spectacular squares in Europe, but no answer to my inquiries. One day I woke up and I had an email saying “Do you want to live at Versailles?” As much I adore Versailles I prefer to decline the idea, knowing the little bit too bourgeois society of the area, but when they said to me it was in a building, Le Hotel du Garde Meuble, which is part of the palace, I was like “WHAT? Is it possible to live in a sort of building overlooking the gardens of the most famous palace in the world?” Well, actually was just in front of the fountains of the Dragon and Neptune?
So yes, I wanted and three months later, here I am.
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JF: What is the most exciting project you have worked on and why?
AA: In 1998, with a luggage of hopes but no money, I established myself at the Loire Valley. Passion and dedication took care of the rest. For almost five years the restaurant and Tea room Le Jardin Secret, first in Tours and then a franchise in a luxury hotel in South America, gave me both international recognition and reputation. I remember one day having lunch with an absolutely convinced Carolina Herrera who said "Andrés, you have to open that concept in New York, it will be so successful" .She even gave me her cell number to reach set up) for me some appointments at the Big Apple, but after 9/11 the moment was not propitious.
Besides Le Jardin Secret I always had said I will build my empire within only 30 meters. I'm sure there are hundreds of interior designers that earn much more money, but I'm not sure they will transcend. I feel I'm much more a taste maker than a rock star in the tradition of Starck, Wearstler or Marino.
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JF: if you could invite any 5 people to dinner, who would they be and why?
AA: Well that’s quite a smart question. I've always believed that guests are an extension of our personality and depths of excellence and talent.
 As a new Frenchie, one must be Inés de la Fressange, of course. No woman in this country exhales more than her, the truly allure and panache of the real Parisienne. She is so Left Bank, so elegant in a non-structure sense. With Inés, elegance is certainly a matter of bones.
 Stephen Daldridge definitely as I'm sure that a man who directs Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader, is kind of extraterrestrial. I would have so many questions to ask him, oh my God, I'm sure he would hate me, but how he has accomplished his career is something overwhelming.

Any real influential New Yorker. I just adore New York, but in absence of friends and relatives there (ex-lovers, no offense, Hahaha) there is always that very upper crust, Upper Eastside, that I barely think reflects the real spirit of the city. I would love to hear people from the Village, Brooklyn Heights or The Bowery.

For past beauty and nostalgia, I would be fascinated with the presence of Faye Dunaway. She ruled the 70s being part of a very important American new wave of writers and directors (Tennessee Williams, William Alfred, Kazan, Lumet, Penn, and Pollack). You know, Jeffrey, I met Dunaway when I was twelve in Barcelona, and I never recovered of that first impression of seeing her. She was stunning, with the beauty, class and elegance of the old ladies (Dietrich or Garbo). We don’t see women like her anymore. For me she is the epitome of intelligent beauty.

Last but not least, I will like to have on my table Tom Ford as he, most of all, could be the moderator of the night. That man is a real know-it-all. I love his legacy on fashion, his directorial debut on A Single Man, the way he sophisticates everything he touches. From Julianne Moore to trashy icons, he does miracles and so with Tom on my table I would be happy being just a waiter, serving good meal and wines, while I listen mouth open.
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 Indeed, that will be my dream table!!! Absolutely.

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