The Punk Prince-Paulo Aggugini aka Kinder - the Fashion Spot
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Join Date: Jul 2005
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The Punk Prince-Paulo Aggugini aka Kinder
The Punk Prince
He was the world's most feted 'ghost designer', tutored by Vivienne Westwood, indispensable to Donatella Versace and loved by Vogue. But now Kinder is making a name for himself

Interview by Alice Fisher
Sunday July 6, 2008
The Observer

Fashion can be damned hard work. Sometimes it feels like designers intentionally make the pursuit of style difficult. You expect to feel vaguely humiliated in a changing room, but I'm leant against a carved wooden banister in the gloomy hallway of a 19th-century apartment building on the rue des Petits Champs during Paris Fashion Week, panting. I'm only halfway up the steep and winding staircase that leads to the vertiginous showroom for new and, to the world at large, unknown label Aggugini and my thighs are complaining. I haven't even made it to the clothes and I feel a failure. Who would choose such a difficult location, high above the hectic streets of Paris, when exhausted fashion editors are shuttling between catwalk show locations on a tight schedule? The answer is Paolo Aggugini - Kinder to his many, many friends - and he knows exactly what he's doing.

When I reach the faded grandeur of the apartment that's been converted into the Aggugini showroom for the duration of Fashion Week, Team Kinder - a flurry of PR and sales representatives and a model dressed in little more than a well-fitted jacket - are amused. The stairs - ha, ha - yes, it's a bit of a climb, isn't it? One British fashion editor staggered through the door shoes in hand this morning, her heels defeated by the climb, apparently. A red-faced envoy from British Marie Claire puffs in behind me to prove the point. Pant, pant. The fashion editor of the Financial Times is hot on her heels.

The truth is, fashion insiders will climb, probably even crawl, to see Kinder's designs. They've admired his work as the Zelig of fashion for years - he's spent two decades as a ghost designer (the style equivalent of a ghostwriter) creating internationally lauded collections for Calvin Klein, Costume National and at Versace after Gianni's death in 1997 - so news that he's launched his own label has caused a stir. Comme des Garçons's Rei Kawakubo came in person to view his first solo collection in 2007 - and then stocked it at her fashion emporium, Dover Street Market. Madonna has already been seen wearing a dress from his spring/summer 08 debut Aggugini range, as has editor of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman. If you know and love fashion, you know and love Kinder.
Stylist Arianne Phillips, who's dressed the likes of Courtney Love, Madonna and Justin Timberlake as well as receiving an Oscar nomination for costume design, declares herself a massive Kinder fan: 'I find that his creativity, ingenuity and sophistication in fabrics set him apart. I appreciate his wit, style and irreverent classicism.'
'He's got an incredible track record,' says Harriet Quick, fashion features director at British Vogue, 'and he's well known at parties and events because he's fabulously opinionated and discursive. When he left the big fashion machine and set up on his own, people wanted to back that. And his clothes are lovely - they don't date, and the fit is perfect: they show off a woman's body. They don't scream or shout status, but they feel like the real deal.'
The man is fretting when I arrive. The slim, slight 42-year-old looks young for his age and has a quiet voice and an accent that hints at his Milanese childhood, even though he's lived in London since the Eighties. He wonders whether he should have staged a catwalk show rather than a static showroom presentation. 'Why would people say, "I'm going to buy a luxury brand from Mr Nobody"? What works in fashion at the moment is screaming. The louder you scream, the more people pay attention. I should have done a big show with dresses with big bows and things on the models' heads.'
But if he'd done that, he would have missed the chance to personally charm his customers. He watches the latest visitor, a rather tall, rather beautiful blonde called Serena as she peruses the rails.
'I'll send you the sketches for that - you can copy it,' he calls as she holds out a dress for a better look. She rolls her eyes.
Once she's chosen items to buy, he tells one of his team to order a size 38 - 'Hey, that's Serena's age as well.'
'Kin-der!' The various women - and they are all women - in the showroom tut and cluck over him.
When the room has quietened and there's no one here apart from a PR, the clothes and some tired-looking ormolu cherubs on the bookshelves that line the apartment's walls, he talks me through his collection. He explains that he always has a story in mind, as it helps him see designs clearly. 'Tell me a story and I see it. Since I was a child I made pictures in my head when I listened to music - I loved it when MTV came out... I've worked with Vivienne Westwood and she has the clearest visual ideas. At the beginning of the season she tells you her story: "There's this girl, she's got a 16th-century ball gown in taffeta. She's going to the toilet, but the dress got caught in her knickers..." she really visualises it, she can tell you the colour; it's perfect.' Kinder's spring/summer 08 collection was inspired by a Twenties wedding photo he found in a New York flea market, and considers what would have happened if Coco Chanel had married Sid Vicious. The story for autumn/winter 08 is more personal.
'My grandmother's grandmother was from a noble Italian family. When Garibaldi swept through Italy, she ran away with a revolutionary. Her family had no money, so she went with this guy who was cool and wanted to look after her. I imagined her sleeping in her ball gown and wearing his military jacket, the clothes getting more and more distressed as they travel. So her clothes get rough at the bottom...' he pulls out a skirt from the rail that fades from raw silk to a panel of chiffon at its hem for me to admire. 'It looks messed up, but feels nice when you touch it. I've taken these boiled tweed jackets that look scratchy and made them really casual, and I've found all these vintage glass buttons - dead stock from the turn of the last century.'
He fingers the buttons lovingly, beaming at his work - and so he should. Kinder is a master craftsman, blending ideas and imagination with exceptional technical skill in fit and detail. He names his clothes after his friends rather than celebrities, and is more interested in a woman's everyday needs than the red carpet. He's made tailored jackets with sleeves cut like a motorcycle jacket so you can drive in it and still look good. He considers how women move their legs while they sit and cuts trousers and skirts accordingly. 'I'm drawn to very expensive materials, dyeing them and distressing them with stone and enzyme washes. I am Mr Nobody, but I hope that when people see the details, they won't care. I want people to touch my clothes and feel the luxury.' He pinches the arm of my cardigan, rubbing the fabric to demonstrate. He's too much of a gentleman to mention that the cardigan is piled wool and from Zara.
'Looking at how people touch my clothes gives me an idea of if they care. I work so hard on finding the right thread for stitching, the right lining, and I used to think: "Why am I doing this? No one will notice." But they notice - and it feels good.'
His confidence takes a sudden dip.
'Well, everyone tells me that this looks great, but no one would say straight to my face that it's crap.'
But it is great, I reassure him. If it were crap a good friend would have told you.
He considers this. 'Crap's never too constructive, but I see what you mean. I think I'd have questioned that opinion if someone had said it. I might have pretended that I wanted it to be crap.'
Kinder's own life story would make good material for a collection. His mother taught him to sew when he was eight 'and she made sure I could cook so I would be independent'. He became a punk at 14. 'It was all DIY stuff, make it yourself. I was interested in social behaviour and I realised the clothes were important, that a tight-fitting jacket and good shoes change your posture.' He moved to London, the epicentre of punk, and eventually started working in the mid-Eighties at Kensington's clothes emporium Hyper Hyper for Leigh Bowery. 'He was an extremely sensible person,' says Kinder, 'very methodical even in his approach to his own body modification. If he'd pursued design seriously, he'd be massive today.' When his British friends started talking about studying at Central Saint Martins, he applied, too. 'They told me I had to draw designs and make clothes from them. Well, I already had clothes, so I got a friend who was good at art to draw over my ugly sketches. When I went to the interview, the tutors tried to make me do a fine art degree, so that was a mistake.' He sold clothes that were meant to be college course work at Hyper Hyper.

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After that, he worked with everyone who's anyone, John Galliano, Paul Smith... 'Savile Row was good for learning technical skills; at Westwood it was creative. At Calvin Klein I learnt to manage a team. I've worked at all the different stages of the process; there's very little I don't know.' Within the fashion industry, Kinder's probably best known for his work at Versace during the house's Nineties heyday.
'I signed a lot of contracts not to talk to you about my personal relationship with the Versace family,' Kinder says, and it's not clear if he's joking. 'I had a great time. They were amazing at looking after people they liked. If you worked late, you couldn't eat sandwiches. A chef would bring a tablecloth, silver plates. A sandwich would do, you know. The drawback was that because they're family, they act like family. There's screaming and shouting and you get sucked in. You act like them.' He says Donatella was catnip for his parents, though. Coming from an academic background, they had been unconvinced by his career choice, considering his assertion that he'd learnt to dress people at college to be something they managed for themselves most mornings. 'They came backstage and Donatella said to them, "Your son is so much trouble, but we can't do without him." They were impressed that someone they'd seen on TV said that!'
We retire to the couch, which is draped in a Union Jack flag, and Kinder solemnly passes me a satsuma to eat. He's still removing bits of pith from his when mine has been reduced to peel, which I try and hide in a tissue.
Despite his success at the fashion houses, it's now time for him to go it alone. 'I was tired of other people's things,' he says. 'When I was working for one designer, I watched the models coming down the catwalk, and thought, "If I went to a club and they were there, I'd leave." I want to do my own thing now. Even if nobody buys it, at least I've done something I like.'
He looks over at his rails of clothes again, considering this. It's time for me to leave for the Eurostar, and Kinder courteously asks if I'd like to stay the night and says that he's happy to take the couch.
The next time we meet, a few weeks later, it's in a flat that's even nicer that the rue des Petits Champs apartment. Kinder's place in London feels quite French with its dark-wood parquet tiles and floor-to-ceiling windows. The ornaments in the flat include cat and mouse skeletons posed in a glass case, a single ermine fur pinned to an antique table, two sets of Russian dolls, a print from Marilyn Monroe's last nude photo shoot and an autographed photo of Paul Simonon. He shows me round the glass-walled guest room at the top of an ornate spiral staircase where I can stay if 'I ever have a row with my husband' and the master bedroom, one wall of which is covered in mirrors, reflecting his large bed and the painting of two women kissing above his headboard. He explains that he nearly lost the flat when he asked the previous owner if she worked in the sex industry. In his defence, this area of west London is well known for prostitution.
Kinder likes sex. During his time at Versace, he also edited a magazine called DV in 2001-03 dedicated to 'fashion and sex, my two favourite subjects'. The glossy title was inspired by Sixties French magazine Lui, which was shot by Helmut Newton and featured the likes of Brigitte Bardot. Kinder's version had David LaChapelle, Rankin and Vincent Peters as photographic contributors; articles by Sophie Dahl and Oliver Peyton and images of Pamela Anderson. Kinder's editor's letters were very amusing, too. Showing he pays as much attention to a woman's pubic hair as to the way her arms move when she drives, the way she crosses her legs, the spring/summer 2002 issue editor's letter included the following direction for a model in one of the magazine's shoots: 'If she'll peel that's great. But keep it sophisticated... she's got an Adolf? Whatever happened to normal? Can we fill it with make-up? Then I'd rather see it clean than with a George W. Just remember, we gotta see those Manolos.'
He plans to relaunch DV soon. 'I'm doing it again because the distributors have had so many requests. I'm going to make it a big, chunky annual - like a Pirelli calendar. It's going to be dedicated to luxury.'
Before Kinder shows me out, we admire the view across the Georgian square outside his windows. He points out a building across the way which is obscured by scaffolding and covered in plastic sheeting.
'Do you see the holes cut in the sheeting?'
I do. 'The builders cut those so they can watch when I have models over for fittings,' he explains. 'Until the girls came, those builders over there, they thought I was just some fag designer.' That's a mistake that only a fool would make.

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very interesting thank you for posting

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aggugini, aka, kinder, princepaulo, punk
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