Couture designer Paul Vasileff took a deep breath before delivering a short speech after being announced Young Australian of the Year on Wednesday night, saying the award was a “huge shock”.
The Instagram feed for his fashion label Paolo Sebastian is a fairytale dream of sequins, but the 26-year-old has been praised this week for his commitment to local manufacturing and fostering the fashion industry in South Australia.
Here’s five things to know about his path to growing his internationally renowned business.
1. He started young
Vasileff has spent more than a third of his life so far building a brand, and at 26, has a couture label that’s about to celebrate its 10th birthday. Having stitched his first piece of clothing at age 11, he graduated to designing school formal dresses before focusing on getting his work onto red carpets and catwalks in the big fashion capitals.
2. He chose Adelaide over Paris or Milan
A graduate of Milan’s Europeo Istituto di Design, Vasileff chose to return to Adelaide to continue to grow his business and the label’s items are hand-stitched in Australia—a move he says only helped cement Paolo Sebastian’s place in the global market.
“In doing so, I was able to give Paolo Sebastian a point of difference,” Vasileff said on Wednesday night.
3. A “zip incident” added to his fame
You might be hearing of Paolo Sebastian for the first time this week, but a quick scour of celebrity news sites and fashion blogs show the label has made plenty of headlines over the past few years—including for wardrobe malfunctions.
In 2014, E! host Giuliana Rancic wore a Paolo Sebastian dress for an Oscars broadcast, but the zip broke live on air, leaving co-host Ryan Seacrest to help stick it back together with tape while the television channel continued its coverage of the awards.
The host still raved about the designs and Vasileff later apologised and met Rancic on one of her trips to Australia, with the whole saga eventually boosting awareness of the Paolo Sebastian brand.
4. It’s all about the who’s who
Vasileff has spent the past 10 years building up an audience for Paolo Sebastian by dressing stars both here and overseas, with the brand using social media to showcase the designs on offer. At home, his designs have been worn by the likes of Delta Goodrem, Jessica Mauboy, Carrie Bickmore, Rebecca Judd and Michelle Bridges.
5. He believes innovation is key to grow Australian jobs
When accepting the award on Wednesday evening, Vasileff said there was more to his success than his natural creativity.
“I was and still am in competition with myself, to learn more, to be better and work harder,” he said.
Reflecting on his place in South Australia’s business scene, he spoke of the importance for Australians to be equipped with the skills to build their own companies and grow these with the help of the local community.
“Australia’s future is dependent on innovation and people to follow their dreams and skills,” he said, so “our local businesses are supported and given the chance to grow”.