October 24, 2015

Passionate about texture and construction Norisol Ferrari speaks to Spirit & Flesh about personal challenges, victories and the importance of dressing for the life you want.

Andrew Basile: How did you get drawn into a life of fashion?

Norisol Ferrari: My older sister was trying to keep me out of trouble. She worked in a showroom and so I began my long journey of fashion internships.

AB: What motivated your pursuit of a design career?

NF: I didn’t pursue it, but always felt that you dress for the life you want, not for the life you have. I grew up in New York City and always had to look triple-dipped when I walked out the door. Vintage stores saved my life and gave me an education. I would buy, re-cut, sew, safety-pin and glue; if a piece was worth it, I would take it to a great tailor to have it fitted and restyled. I would turn old sweaters into skirts and re-engineer children’s clothes. It was always about the fabric and still is.

AB: How did your modeling begin?

NF: I didn’t begin as a model; I had been working in fashion since I was 14. At 18, while on vacation in Miami, I somehow picked up a modeling contract that did not last long. A Dolce & Gabbana campaign by Mario Sorrenti got us both in trouble. I had a snake wrapped around my topless torso – pretty tame by today’s standards! I knew it was not the right industry for me, though it hasn’t stopped my love of photography.

AB: Your clothes are constructed to near-couture quality using your own fabrics. Are you a perfectionist?

NF: I have always been very tactile, with a lust for understanding how things work. This drives my search for materials that are beautiful to the touch but stand the test of time. I might be a perfectionist. That’s why I’m never 100 percent happy with anything I do and always strive to do better.

AB: You have showed clothes in Paris during Couture Week; do you see yourself producing a couture collection?

NF: Tough question. I had a difficult time finding my tribe in the states. Though Maxfield welcomed me with open arms, in the beginning the rest of the country did not understand where I was comingfrom. From the day I landed in Paris, I felt welcomed like a long-lost friend. The work is all they seem to focus on. This keeps me going back. It is unimportant what I say or who I am – the work must speak. And as for the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, I can only hope to one day earn the right even to be considered.

AB: Your clothes would be at home in film noir.

NF: My love of film noir goes back longer than I can remember. Growing up, the films of the golden age of cinema were my best friends.

AB: Why are your collections largely black and white?

NF: Depending on where you live, color takes on meaning and necessity. I’ve always lived in cities and am a slob, factors which make black and white my favorite starting point. But color always seeps into the details. That’s the way I enjoy color – for now.

AB: What’s been the biggest obstacle to establishing your company and brand?

NF: Me. Putting work out there and finding like-minded artisans is a task I barely believed I could accomplish. But I love to learn, because listening to my team and the women who try on my clothing is the most important part of my job. The hurdle is that you cannot appreciate the craftsmanship or fit in a photo or runway show or tweet. So building a brand like ours is no small task today; it happens piece by piece.

AB: How does your new work space better prepare you for projects?

NF: I love that I’m in an old, industrial, truly New York building. It’s amazing to have my complete organization and my new concept store in one space. We created this space to house the collection and the things I love.

AB: What gives you the most pleasure?

NF: Watching a woman light up and love her body when she tries on pieces from our collections.

AB: What is your guilty pleasure?

NF: Smoking! Pork rinds. I would kill for them, especially the spicy ones.

AB: What is your prized possession?

NF: Though I don’t feel comfortable calling him a possession, the first thing that pops into my mind is my six-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Jones Caramello Ferrari-Lenihan. He was my first Valentine’s gift from my fiancé. His heart is so kind and pure that he can feel when I’m stressed, scared or upset. I don’t know how I would make it through this business and life without him.

AB: You give the impression of having purposeful, hard edges, but those who know you say you’re quite the opposite.

NF: It might be because you can choose who you show up to be in the world, but you can’t choose the body you’ve been given. I may look hard but I fight to keep my heart soft and open.

AB: What’s been your greatest joy?

NF: Getting to show in Paris and not passing out from fear.

AB: What’s been most challenging about your journey?

NF: I don’t like this question, but our journeys make us who we are: I have dyslexia and partial blindness in one eye and spent half my life functionally illiterate, which made me a pretty angry and frustrated young person. I had no choice but to learn, hands-on. My curious nature forced me to understand how things are made. The challenge was letting go of the anger over not being able to pursue a traditional education.

AB: What has enabled you to rise where others might crumble?

NF: Hope. And love. The highest achievement is being loved and able to love in return. I extend this senti­ment silently in my work. Or at least I hope I do.