By Nadia Mostafa
Photography by Alex Mouganis
After attending one of the best fashion schools in his native Italy, working for various top designers there, and moving to New York to serve as senior designer for Nautica, Ghurka, Simply Vera Wang, Club Monaco and Anne Klein, designer Danilo Gabrielli is only ‘emerging’ in the sense that most recently, he has created his own collections.
Gabrielli has spent the last 18 years working for other designers, designing with their personalities and styles in mind, but knew in his heart that creating a line that represented his own personality and who he was as a designer was a goal.
“Fashion is an expression of the art – you’re telling something to the world. When working for another designer, there is only so much you can say,” he explains. “For me, it’s not the money or the fame: I express myself, and I want to move people emotionally, the same way a movie can.”
Indeed, movies, Hollywood especially, have played a major part in Gabrielli’s life and fashion inspiration, and he recalls his childhood in Italy, when he would wake up in the middle of the night to watch the Academy Awards with his mother. Later, Gabrielli graduated with two degrees from the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome: one in fashion, and one in costume design. “I would love to eventually do costume design for a blockbuster one day,” he says excitedly. “The beauty of the industry is that what’s fashion today will be costume tomorrow.”
Gabrielli’s latest collection takes inspiration from the 1940s Hollywood starlets, such as Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, blending the line seamlessly with the era of women who joined the workforce. Creating high-end practical workwear, the collection is characterized by a mix of masculine lines and feminine bows, as well as silks that would suit women of all body types – a rare feat in the fashion world today. “I also wanted each piece to be sexy – without being trashy,” adds Gabrielli.
Combining masculine and feminine qualities is something Gabrielli has been doing for a long time, and this was especially exemplified during his work on accessories at Simply Vera Wang. “We had a great working relationship, because I think we both liked unisex styles deep down – of course, not including the wedding dress collections.”
Pieces from Gabrielli’s current collection have been picked up by Look Los Angeles, and the prestigious Mayfair House in Beverly Hills where noted celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, Alex Trebek and Julia Stiles often stop by.
He is no newcomer to dressing celebrities either. Gabrielli has dressed country superstar Lisa Matassa for the 2011 Country Music Awards. He has had not one, not two, but five of his pieces selected by Carrie Ann Inaba, judge on Dancing With The Stars, to be worn on the show. He will also be featured with Countess LuAnn de Lesseps in behind-the-scenes clips from his show at Nolcha Fashion Week: New York , which airs during The Real Housewives of New York City finale in May.
Gabrielli has worked behind the scenes for years, but his own breakout collections are on everyone’s radar. More than the typical designer dreams, he wants to set an example in the industry: “You can be a celebrity, work with top designers, and be successful in fashion, but you still need to treat everyone with respect and kindness.”
He believes that creating a good fashion environment is as important as designing beautiful clothing. Acting as a mentor and donating to charities, among many things, Gabrielli strongly believes that “when you’re given something, you have to give back too.”
“I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for every opportunity – little or big – that has been presented to me in my life,” he says, crediting his family, education, the designers he has worked for and the Nolcha Fashion Week: New York.
“It is a truly beautiful feeling to be embraced by the industry in the way I have been.”
At Danilo Gabrielli’s studio