Above the Fold

The Next Big Name: Meet Avant-Garde Designer Charles Youssef

Fashion editor Heather Dunhill interviews emerging designer Charles Youssef, whose architectural collections are winning him accolades.

By Heather Dunhill October 13, 2016

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The possibility exists that you've not heard the name Charles Youssef--and if not, it's time. Especially because in May 2016, Vogue named him one of "The Next Wave of Young American Designers." And his collections are stocked at Barney's New York, the luxe retailer with a history of discovering fashion's talent. Not to mention Lady Gaga purchased his graduate collection--from the prestigious Central Saint Martin's College of Arts and Design--during London Fashion Week in February 2010 for her concert tour that same year.

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Charles Youssef

But  here's the thing about this clearly talented designer who, justifiably, could've launched a label after that name-making support: He didn't.  Youssef went for the wise and calculated strategy to put experience on his side. And, now his résumé lists senior design positions at Calvin Klein in New York, Gareth Pugh in London, Cerruti in Paris and Ralph Lauren in New York.

Instead, four years after the Gaga-effect, Youssef launched his eponymous label. And now his distinctive architectural designs, which often play with proportion, are propelling him forward. You'll fall for the luxe, perfect fit, but it'll likely be one of the super-charged, inspired details that will make you a true follower.

By the way, no need to go so far as Barney's to add a piece or three to your wardrobe. Sarasota's fashionphile Natalie Rue Morgan has this must-have brand in-store at her boutique Rue on Main Street. 

And until then, here's Charles Youssef on Charles Youssef.

What is the overall inspiration for your eponymous brand?
It's about creating wearable, optimistic, polished, and geometric-inspired clothes that uplift strong women so they can take charge.

 How does being NY-based influence your creative style?

It means that we pay attention to our local New York clientele who tend to lean toward a clean, minimal look. We like to bring fun to their wardrobe by adding interesting textures, colors, and embellishments; I believe these elements give the clothes a wide appeal. 

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Well, we have to discuss Lady Gaga purchasing your first collection for her 2010 tour. Was that exhilarating? Intimidating? Surreal?!

It was both exhilarating and surreal! I actually didn’t know whether she was going to wear the clothes, until I saw it all over the news! 

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What did that do for your brand?

It put us on the fashion map very early on and a pretty big way. At the time, I was just finishing my master's degree at Central Saint Martin's and preparing to work for another brand in the industry. It made me start thinking about having my own brand. 

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Who is your design icon? And, what is it that speaks to you about her/his style?

Yves Saint Laurent. His collections were always so intelligent, well-tailored and sophisticated while referencing travel and modern art. I love the black turtlenecks and thick-rimmed glasses he used to wear.

Sarasota is an event-centric city--women take their look from the boardroom to the bar nearly every day of the week. What are your thoughts on elevating a look at the end of a day?

I think it’s the reality of how people dress today; I really love the speed of modern life. No one has the interest in spending hours after work getting ready to go out; women just want to touch up their look with cool heels and lipstick and get the evening started. I think clothes have to support our fast lifestyle today, and I’m a big advocate of that. 

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And for the lightening round….

 What kind of music defines you?

Up-tempo, playful music.

 What’s your culture fix of the moment?

The zen quality of the Japanese countryside.

What’s the last thing you scribbled on a paper napkin?

A cartoon of my friend Lisa.

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