Santiago Artemis Is the Rising Designer from World's End

Santiago Artemis Is the Rising Designer from World's End

We talk to the up-and-coming Argentine designer about his big plans for the future.

We talk to the up-and-coming Argentine designer about his big plans for the future.

Text: E.R. Pulgar

Santiago Artemis is so much more than an enfant terrible, and to portray him as such simply doesn't do him justice. At just 25, the Argentine designer from Ushuaia, a city at the southernmost tip of the country, has already designed gowns for the likes of Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, and Britney Spears. Le Grande Mensonge, the latest collection from his eponymous haute couture brand, shows an evolved viewpoint of his obsession with decadence: furs, bright colors, and shoulder pads galore. Undeniably both retro and modern, Artemis's gowns have caught the eye of the Argentine public and the world.

In an exclusive interview with at his newly-opened store in Palermo, Buenos Aires' fashion district, Artemis opens up about coming from humble origins, setting his sights on the world, and his new ready-to-wear brand, Vurda.

So Vurda's your more accessible collection?

Vurda started out as a joke. I came up with the name from this magazine I adore from the the 1960s and 70s, a German magazine that was really kitschy and tacky, and you look at it now and it's so over-the-top, but so cute and campy at the same time. "Burdo" in Spanish means something that's wack, tacky, not quality; I love those contradictions. Vurda is Vurda by Artemis, so people would understand that every single piece in the collection is designed by me. We created the shop, did the whole scene and image of the brand inspired by the 1960s— the dusty pink and the black. Sharon Tate was one of the biggest muses for us, the late Roman Polanski's wife was really inspiring like whole late 60s era.

I hear you're also very inspired by pop culture in general.

Yes, a lot of pop culture, especially American pop culture. [Lady] Gaga I love, Xuxa the Brazilian singer. I am inspired by Alexis Colby from Dynasty, Cyndi Lauper, the 80s... most of the things I'm inspired by come from the United States. I was so inspired by TV and Hollywood growing up, especially E! and cheesy reality shows like that. Growing up with those platforms gave me the tools to start doing designs based on that. It's about being honest with your inspirations and being like "Okay, I'm based on that." I don't have any trouble saying that.

It's so interesting to me that you grew up in this small town literally at the end of the world and always had this global, metropolitan point of view.

When I think about it, I'm like, "How the hell did I even become this?" I get all nervous when I think about it. It's super weird, the fact that I came from a small town with just snow and mountains, no fashion at all.  People ask how the fashion is over there, and the thing is we have no fashion in Ushuaia, there's nothing. I'm so blessed, and I count my blessings. Every time I go there, which isn't that often really, people hug me at the airport; moms, grandmas, children... I was actually honored by the town's major with a distinction.  It's still so weird. Even here, from a few months to now, I've become really, really successful.

How do you feel about this influence you have, especially as a young designer inspiring others?

It's refreshing and so beautiful. I was the same kid as them now. I was the kid waiting for the bus to take me to my first class at fashion college when I was 18, insecure and not knowing what I wanted to do. I think it's about great timing and effort. It's so nice when I see kids that dress like me. With the hats and glasses and shoulder pads... in some way, I created my own image.

Having traveled the world, do you see Buenos Aires as a rising fashion capital?

Argentines are creative—we're very creative— but we're afraid of being different when it comes to fashion. I find it's very cautious here, and that doesn't happen in other countries; you go to Milan, Paris, Tokyo, and they celebrate that you're different. They actually celebrate each other's differences. Even me, when I dress how I dress in these places, people want to talk to me; "Bellisimo, how are you, where do you come from?"  You're curious, and people want to know you; here, you're curious and they talk shit about you. It's really difficult for people to change their mentality as far as what is being different. We're moving forward, hopefully, but it's a hard country to be in when it comes to fashion.

And as someone designing against the grain, what does it mean for this to be your base?

It means Argentine designers have to find a way to be modern and true to themselves while also being commercial. When I see brands that are really into themselves, that's beautiful, but I think about whether they're selling. It's a cold way of thinking, but the truth is this is a business. It'd be really sad if everything was going right for me but I wasn't selling. How do you pay the mortage, the rent? There's nothing better than working in a place where you feel comfortable, where you can be yourself, where you don't have to compromise the boots you're wearing, the shoulder pads you're wearing, and you get away with everything. After years of being this crazy character and working, people come to respect your work despite the norm, and it's pretty amazing.

Last question: what does 2018 have in store for you?

I'm showcasing my new collection in March for Artemis, and then I'm doing a pre-fall in Paris on January the 12th to the 23rd, I'll be in Paris. We're doing the photoshoot and campaign there. I'm also launching a book in March, and my TV show. We're shooting in Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, where I'll be in December. It's going to be about my life: waking up really early to look for pieces of fabric, the stress of getting a dress ready for a client last-minute, the parties, and the beautiful craziness of it all.

Take a look at Santiago Artemis' new collection for Vurda below.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

UP NEXT

Hillier Bartley, The It-Factor Line, Is Now Making Tees and Sweatshirts