Exclusive Interview with Tony Ward on his Dragonfly Collection
In the middle of Haute Couture fashion week, IRK Magazine sat down with renowned fashion designer Tony Ward. We had just seen his new Spring Summer 2019 collection inspired by the dragonfly. Tony Ward had captured the elegant anatomy and movement of Dragonflies and the robes floated on the runway in graceful movements.
We were able to ask him about the inspiration of the collection but also get to know the fashion designer and as he calls himself a businessman who has dressed so many glamorous women with his ready to wear, bridal and haute couture lines.
What drew you to fashion and how did you become a designer?
Tony Ward: I fell in the Marmite as the French say. My father was a known tailor in Beirut so I grew up in an atelier surrounded by fashion. However, there was a war and my parents wanted me to go in another direction and to study medicine. My goal was to go into fashion so I ended up going to Paris and I got my first job at Lanvin. I was only 19 but Claude Montana liked my designs. They were just sketches but I was offered a four-year contract and they put me through school. I worked with them until I finished my contract when I left to work Gianfranco Ferré at Christian Dior couture then with Karl Lagerfeld at Chloé. Then I went to Milan to learn from Italian fashion designers and about ready to wear. I started my line in 1996 and 17 years ago I showed my first collections in Rome where I was very successful for 13 years. Four years ago I came back to Paris and a year ago I opened up a private showroom.
Do you now live in Paris?
Tony Ward: I have a house in Paris I travel all the time. I am between Beirut, Moscow, Riyadh and I have family in London. I work most of the time in the USA. This couture collection is only one of nine clothing lines a year. We have three bridal collections; high end, commercial, ready to wear, capsule collections for department stores and private clients around the world. So we are very busy.
Yes very busy and successful, congratulations! Do you consider yourself to be an artist or an artisan?
Tony Ward: I am a businessman. I am a creative businessman. I kept my head on my shoulders and I went from scratch with 200 dollars in my pocket as my family did not want to sustain my project because they wanted me to do something else. Today my family is very happy to have seen my business grow. I am an artist because I breath what I do. After every show I get "the baby blues" and I am already in the next three collections so I am always in the creative process but I also have a healthy company with no debt and it allows me to sustain my employees which is important to me.
We love the new collection and the Dragonfly inspiration. Why did you choose the dragonfly?
Tony Ward: I like people and being around them but I also need time alone to think. I love the beach and I go there whenever I can. I sketch there, read, listen to music, and I smoke my cigars. There are a lot of dragonflies around the pool and on the beach and I have always been fascinated by them. One day I saw one that was hurt so I picked it up not knowing dragonflies die when one touches them. It was beautiful and I got to see how intricate its wings were. I looked around and noticed that every dragonfly is unique. They are so transparent, rich in color, quick, music they make as they move gives you a different feeling. So I liked the idea of exploring this insect and creating a lady with this beauty, transparency of very thin materials standing up, mixing their colors and iridescence.
Did you only concentrate on the anatomy of the dragonfly or did you turn to Art Nouveau as there has been so much done with the dragonfly?
Tony Ward: I love Art nouveau and I have done a lot of collections inspired by Art Nouveau. I also have a lot of art nouveau pieces. There is definitely inspiration from art nouveau in this collection. Such as the left not looking like the right. Art nouveau has been in fashion for a very long time. I remember Claude Montana in the 89 when he would make jackets that were different from left to right. He would laser cut materials and was criticized for bringing edgy ideas to couture because it was supposed to be "classical" and I do like this touch of art nouveau.
What is your creative process?
Tony Ward: I choose a team, the music the hairstylist for the show. B.....I have to be completely taken by the show and I surround myself with the best creative people.
Do you draw your designs or do you draping?
Tony Ward: I do drawings, draping, modify drawings and change a dress the day of a show. My team hates me for this. (Tony laughs) I hope they don't really hate me but I am happy they don't prepare my lunch.
Who is the Tony Ward women?
Tony Ward: She is very sure of herself. She does not need to put on a Halloween dress and pretend she is someone else. She needs to wear something that is made for her. When she goes edgy it is because she is edgy and she brings the inside out. She is a businesswoman and loves life.
As we were finishing up our interview Tony Ward's close friend Beppe d'Elia... walked in. Beppe is one of the most famous hair stylists in the world as he does at least 100 shows a year in New York, Paris, and Italy with his team and he does the hair for many Hollywood celebrities. He had just done the hair for Tilda Swinton the day before for a magazine editorial. We could not resist asking this amazing hair artist a quick question about his inspiration for the show.
Can you tell me about your inspiration for Tony Ward's SS19 Couture show?
Beppe d'Elia: For Tony Ward I stay true to classic Haute Couture. As the gowns have volume I made came up with a small modern shinion. An updo that is close to the head with a feather-like hair at the top. The shape is classic haute couture but the texture is glossy.
I noticed you used intricate headpieces in the show as well.
Beppe d'Elia: Yes, the hats were a wonderful addition to the show. Yana Markova created beautifully crafted headpieces that married perfectly with the gowns and the hairstyles I created.