If you follow fashion, you will definitely know and, no doubt, love Paolo Sebastian.
words by anna vlach
The cutting-edge couture label by Adelaide designer Paul Vasileff has been worn by everyone who’s anyone: Kim Kardashian in a Vogue Australia shoot styled by another South Australian-born global name, Christine Centenera, and a number of other stars.
They include two of the best-dressed at this year’s Logies – media personality Carrie Bickmore, who is also from Adelaide, who wore an edgy design featuring laser-cut leather panels, and Delta Goodrem in an ethereal gown from The Snow Maiden collection.
Then there are the red carpet moments overseas: In 2014, Giuliana Rancic wore SA- made Paolo Sebastian to the Academy Awards, making Vasileff the first Australian designer to have a gown featured on the Oscars red carpet. Earlier this year, he dressed Miss Golden Globe Corinne Foxx, wowing that awards ceremony’s global audience of more than 200 million.
Vasileff made history again in July when he became the first South Australian to show in Paris with his Gilded Wings collection launched in La Maison Champs Élysées.
Founded by a teenage Vasileff in 2007, the brand has skyrocketed both in Australia and abroad to the delight and amazement of the 26-year-old, who says that international success has come far faster than he could ever have hoped for.
“It’s been a lot of hard work… a progression of the right steps,” he says, adding the decision to remain in Adelaide was most definitely a good move. And Vasileff – who at age 20 received a Landerer Scholarship to study at Milan’s world-renowned Istituto Europeo Di Design – intends to stay.
“I think that’s why Paolo Sebastian has been successful, because I have had a really good base in Adelaide and the label has been able to grow,” Vasileff says. “I have structure and security that I don’t think I would have had anywhere else in the world.”
Just last year, Vasileff cemented his place in Adelaide by setting up shop in Gouger St in the city. The elegant two-storey showroom and studio are where he and his team of 13 create custom-made wedding and special occasion dresses and seasonal collections.
“Everything is still handmade in Adelaide, which we are really proud of,” Vasileff says. Innovative use of smart technology has also helped launch Paolo Sebastian as far away as Saudi Arabia and Germany, where many fans have discovered the label through its strong presence and following on social media.
While some overseas and most interstate clients travel to Adelaide, Vasileff also offers a personalised, made-to-measure experience using Skype. “There’s a lot of trust in the brand and where we are really makes no difference,” he says of the process. “I come up with a sketch and fabrics and send those through, and from there we take measurements.
“I go through all the steps with the client on how to take them and then we’ll make up a calico toile (mock-up of the dress for a fitting). In some cases we will send that for them to try on and they may come for a fitting but, if not, the dress will be made and sent to them.” But while he’s savvy in business, Vasileff is also all about challenging himself creatively. “I guess I’ve taken a lot of risks… it’s just lucky that they’ve paid off,” he says.
He adds that operating his studio out of Adelaide, where he has not been burdened with “astronomical rent” has made it possible for him to do so.
One more risky venture was his The Snow Maiden collection with its breath-taking attention to detail, showcased as the finale at last year’s Adelaide Fashion Festival. “Doing something like birds, nightingales and snowflakes… it’s not something that you are 100 per cent sure is going to sell,” Vasileff says of the collection’s intricate crystal beading. “I’ve been able to play and experiment… We are the only brand in Australia doing crystals like this, and producing crystal collections, so I guess that makes us stand out.”
Vasileff has again been invited to close this year’s Adelaide Fashion Festival, which he describes as a “fantastic platform” for SA’s established and emerging talent. “Having a runway raises the bar,” he says, adding the national and international exposure of the festival has already benefited his business, with inquiries and orders flowing in. “I’m so grateful for the amount of love and support I have had on the journey… I think it’s why I have gotten so far because I have had that constantly,” he says.