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Talking inspiration with Arthur Arbesser

We traveled with the Milan-based fashion designer to his hometown of Vienna — a place that heavily influences his work — as he roamed the streets and explained the inspiration behind our new Vienna Throw.

Author: Monika Mroz Photographer: Julian Mullan

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Tell us about growing up in Vienna.

My family is intellectuals, so I was taken to the theatre, opera, galleries and exhibitions and indulged in all things cultural as a child. My parents also live a bit in the past and as the youngest of three children, I was the most reactive to all of their cultural temptations.

When did Vienna begin to influence your work?

When I turned 18, I escaped to London to study fashion at Central St. Martins. Those years were a great and rebellious time but then I got a job at Armani in Milan which I still call home after 12 years. And then strangely after a long time away from home, my love for Vienna became much stronger compared to when I was living there because you simply focus more on the beautiful things, the culture, and the good stuff from afar.

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How does Vienna find its way into your designs?

I like to reference the Wiener Werkstätte movement — Josef Hoffman, Koloman Moser, the designers who changed the face of the city with the details we still use such as the Metro stations. I am much more careful when I go home because you see things with different eyes when you don’t see them every day.

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How has the crossover from fashion to interiors been?

I was always interested in interiors, in the way people live, and what they surround themselves with. It has been a smooth transition from fashion to interiors because I like it. It’s a cooler, more relaxed feel; the people and the rhythm are a bit more human, and everybody seems a bit calmer. It makes a nice change.

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Tell us about your collaboration with Hem.

I wanted to make it as personal as possible. I love it when you look at old stairways, bathroom tiles and details in Vienna like you see here, and there is a certain geometry but also a bit of madness boiling under the surface. I tried to make it look sharp, clean, and geometric but also with a touch of irony and quirkiness in the color combinations. I wanted to make something that adds to a sofa that you don’t just want to put away after a few months because you’re sick of the pattern. There needed to be a balance between creativity and color but also something that you can live with. The throw will also coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Koloman Moser, and Otto Wagner who all died in 1918.

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Those guys were always ahead of their time, what does innovation mean to you?

The older I get, the more I work with shoe manufacturers and knitwear factories that have been relatively untouched for 100 years and that kind of expertise is more relevant and inspiring than a lot of newer innovations. You can always have a great idea, but it is never really only you that produces it. There are so many steps and hands in between, and each hand must know what it is doing to make a really good product. And that’s why I am so happy with the Hem collaboration because everyone involved is on the same page.

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