From TAFE SA to the Top of the Fashion World
How does a young man from Adelaide, with a qualification in fashion from TAFE SA make it to the very top, working in mens fashion at Prada? Here’s how Adrian Costanzo did it!
Adrian Costanzo works at Prada in Milan. Officially, he is Prada’s World-Wide Made-to-Measure Specialist. That means between working on Prada’s twice yearly Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter events. Adrian takes charge of measurements and styling made-to-measure customers. The role involves producing custom made men’s clothes from scratch, from all the endless possibilities, styles and fabrics. Often meeting clients in the privacy of their own homes, his work involves frequent travel. Think Japan, China, New York, the Middle East and most of Europe.
Before landing this role with the famous fashion label, Adrian had worked for others, at Brioni, Armani, and Valentino.
Why mens fashion in the first place?
As a kid I used to close myself in my grandmother’s sunroom and draw clothes until I was allowed to start using the sewing machine that was there. I was about 10 years old. It was a way from escaping from the world and allowed me to develop my creativity and passion for handmade clothes.
Immediately following your course at TAFE SA, where did you start working?
I worked for Pierucci which was great in Australia at the time and in a fabric store in Adelaide that gave me a sensibility to all types of fabrics. Then I moved on to design women’s couture and wedding dresses at Rapsimo. Then I moved to George Gross and Harry Who before I decided to move to Milan to do my masters in Design in Italy.
How did you land your first job in Milan?
I had been accepted to study at the prestigious Istituto Marangoni. It was a tough course, all in Italian. Before leaving from Australia I worked three jobs to be able to afford the course.
I landed my first job with a Milan-based fashion house that liked my work for my final design projects. They gave me a placement along with another classmate and we are the only 2 left in the industry in Milan today from our class of 40.
What do you think is the secret for working in high end mens fashion?
The secret is to have an adaptable type of personality and to be flexible. Apart from building a professional portfolio or reputable CV it is essential to be able to manage the type of people who work at this level. You need to be really persistent when you get knock backs to rise up again and believe in yourself. Where you might be a dime a dozen in a smaller city you need to shine out in the fashion capitals. You also need to have a diplomatic way of presenting your talent.
What’s your favourite thing about working in mens fashion?
That every client I work with is different and has different needs and requests. My work is about listening and then being able to realize personal clothes that reflect each customer. I love the fact that when you gain the client’s respect and they trust you, you can change the way they look and feel. In the end we are not saving lives in fashion but giving people more confidence to look and feel the best they can. Making made to measure clothes becomes even more of an intimate process and trust is essential.
Is there anyone of your famous clients who you can name?
I can’t be so explicit, but they have been numerous, from Hollywood actors, to men in political power to artists, architects, film producers and gallery owners.
Your most nerve-wracking moment?
Carrying a cashmere coat lined in fur in my personal luggage (which is absolutely not allowed without a special certificate for fur and exotic goods) and the suitcase never made it on to the connecting flight. And then I got stopped in customs the next day. The coat was worth around Eur 60,000 ($90,260) and I could not speak the language where I was…I was freaking out!!
Not nerve-wracking but embarrassing…I was at the home of famous sports celebrity in LA for a fitting and asked to use the bathroom. It was on the other side of his enormous home and on the way back to where he was waiting to be fitted, I lost my way. I had to call his secretary who was in the house somewhere to come and find me!
Can you describe a couple of “pinch me, is this for real” moments?
. Meeting Valentino for the first time
. Attending important fashion shows
. Having lunch with Anna Wintour seated on a table across from me
. Being backstage with Mr Armani adjusting the models before they walked out
. After my first fashion show for Prada with Mrs Miuccia Prada backstage surrounded by press and photographers
. Various dinners and parties with fashion and the celebrity crowd
. Flying in business class for one appointment on the other side of the world
. Even to this day, every now and then walking past the Duomo in Milan and then it clicks…my gosh…this has been your home for twelve years!
Fashion images including featured image are from Prada’s ready-to-wear collections: via @prada
To see others who have excelled in their careers in fashion after starting with TAFE SA, take a look at: