Retail therapy Gabrielle Cortese, the designer behind Antik Batik, which opens at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, next week, talks about her life in fashion.
'I'm directly a product of travelling'
Gabrielle Cortese, the designer behind Antik Batik, which opens at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, next week, talks about her life in fashion. Ever since I was a child, I made garments for my dolls - knitting, cross-stitching, cutting and sewing - so it's really something I have always liked. My family has more of a literary background and is international: my grandmother was Hungarian and we all grew up in Italy, so it was that mix that I think made us somehow different. All the embroideries and prints we had where from Hungary and the Italian influence.
Then, when I was 18, I moved to France. It's all this kind of melting pot. I had a lot of embroideries and textiles. My mother loved to dress up in clothes by designers like Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent, so she really taught me about what it was to have things handmade - the quality of the materials, the mixing of accessories and garments, having the bags and the shoes and the hat and the gloves in the same colour. My mother, at the end of the Sixties and beginning of the Seventies, was my model of fashion for me.
When I was young, my mother and I would choose clothes together. I had very particular taste and she would help me find clothes. The only frustration was jeans. I wasn't allowed to wear denim, so when everyone else had denim jeans I had kilt skirts. At 13, I started to have denim, so I was very happy. I also liked colours and I liked to mix things up even then. My first party dress was a sequinned dress when I was 14 or 15, at the start of the Eighties.
When I was young, I bought a mixture of what I could afford and the rest was from second-hand markets. I liked vintage very much. In 1990, I started to make handmade things and I discovered batik print in Bali when I was travelling. I found it very interesting to give them the designs and they made the stamps by hand. That's how everything started. The fashion at that time was very anti-print, more plain, minimalist, and it was really something new. In France they all loved to have pareos for summer and then, in the winter, they would put them around their necks as scarves.
After that I discovered the great world of embroidery in India and materials that were more wintry. I think I'm directly a product of travelling. Coming from Hungary, Italy and France, it's my intellectual journey and my physical journey. The journey can be through the ages, so the inspiration can come from Middle Europe, from Art Nouveau and also the silk route that comes from India and goes up to the Balkans. It's interesting to study all the populations, to see all the handicraft that can be done in different countries. You can find similarities from Mexico to India.
Wherever things are handmade and made with soul, I want to go there: Latin America, Syria, many places. I was 18 when I started travelling alone. I started travelling with my parents in Europe, but when I could fly by myself I went everywhere. I always liked the freedom of the hippies, but I found it was almost like a sect, closed freedom that is not a freedom. I always stay in a nice hotel - I never stay in dirty places. It's important when you travel: you have so much to see and so much to learn that you have to have the background that is in a nice place. Even when I stay in India for a month and a half, you have to recreate your life somewhere different, so you have to be in a nice place - the food is different, the way of being is different, so wherever you go you have to find something similar to yourself.
For shopping in Paris, I like L'Eclaireur, the boutique Merci, which has just opened on Boulevard Beaumarchais, and of course I like my store - it's in the Marais. The atmosphere is like a sort of apartment where you go in and feel the nice atmosphere of travelling. I like to eat organic at Rose Bakery, and I like very much to drink wheatgrass juice. I think health is important. Then you have the strength to go on. You have to sleep well, eat well, then everything is OK.