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Sies Marjan SS18 MenswearPhotography Thomas McCarty

Roberto Rossellini on switching marine biology for modelling

Exclusive: The model, photographer and son of actress Isabella Rossellini is the face of Sies Marjan’s debut menswear collection

Today marks the release of Sies Marjan’s first ever menswear capsule collection, a new string to the bow of founder and creative director Sander Lak. That said, it represents a very natural progression for the New York-based designer. The 14-piece collection is a clear reinterpretation of the brand’s womenswear signatures – from its pastel polonecks and matching shirt and trouser combo in midnight-blue velvet to its shearling jackets and leather overcoats. It’s also an expansion upon the four menswear looks debuted at the eye-popping Sies Marjan SS18 show, sported by models Roberto Rossellini and Abdulaye Niang.

Rossellini is swiftly becoming a familiar fixture in the Sies Marjan universe – he first appeared, alongside his mother, Isabella Rossellini, in the Bruce Weber-lensed AW17 campaign, and now stars, alongside Niko Traubman, in a portrait series by Thomas McCarty to accompany the new collection’s launch. “Sander came to me after the campaign shoot said, ‘Hey, I would love to have you walk in my show,’” the striking, 24-year-old tells us during a fleeting trip to London from his native New York. “I was ecstatic, and since then Sander and I have been getting a lot closer; he’s an amazing designer, just so creative and fun.”

Despite the fact that modelling very much runs in the family – as well as Isabella’s own established career, his older sister is the model-turned-food writer Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann – Rossellini had always been hesitant to pursue that line of work. “I felt like it was a big industry and because two people in my family had already done it amazingly on a big scale, I kind of doubted myself.” But fate had other plans, and while out shopping in New York City in early 2016, Rossellini was approached by a photographer for L’Officiel Hommes Italia who asked if he’d be interested in modelling for an editorial. He said yes, and a just few months later was snapped up by Ford Models, where he’s been for the past year and a half, appearing for brands including Philipp PleinDolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta.

Here, alongside an exclusive look at the Sies Marjan photo series, we catch up with the model to hear more about working with Lak, the best advice he’s received from his mother and his own forays in fashion and photography.

What’s it been like collaborating with Sander? Do you talk much about the ideas behind the collections?

Roberto Rossellini: It’s been a totally awesome experience. He doesn’t tell me too much – just things like he wanted the SS18 collection to be really poppy and happy; something that would really stand out. I think that’s really important as a designer, to stand out with something that’s really your own. It’s so great that he’s starting to get into menswear as well, having made all this beautiful womenswear. For me it’s like luxury comfort clothing. You can wear it anywhere, to anything – it’s so comfortable, but it catches your eye, because he uses all these unusual colours that people never really use anymore.

How would you describe your own personal style?

Roberto Rossellini: I consider my style to be dark-elegant in a sense, but at the same time I like being a little standout-ish too; wearing things that are eye-appealing or weird. Recently I’ve been trying to get more colourful. One of my favourite stores in New York is Tokyo 7, a thrift store downtown, between Second and First Avenue. It’s super small but they have a lot of cool vintage clothes there: sometimes you’ll find an old Rick Owens shirt or Fred Perry jacket. And then I love Nike shoes, Evisu jeans and Yohji Yamamoto Y3. Apart from that though, a lot of the stuff that I wear is stuff I’ve made. I’m actually kind of working on my own brand right now. I’ve been focussing on it for the past few months – teaching myself how to sew, painting a lot on clothing.

Does it have a name yet? What’s the aesthetic?

Roberto Rossellini: It’s called Control + – like copy and paste. Control + c and control + v. It’s quite futuristic but in a simple way – for people who want to wear things that are simple but have power to them, a meaning. I really want to work on something connected with ocean death to show young people the rate that the oceans are dying; merging two worlds in a sense – to teach people but also make them some cool clothes for them to walk around in. I’ve got lots of little ideas!

Was it modelling that inspired you to try your own hand at designing?

Roberto Rossellini: Definitely. I’ve learnt so much about materials from Sander, for example. He works in so many cool, unusual fabrics, like tech fabrics, which I’m really into, and he really understands how things drape on the body. He also designs his brand based on what he wants to wear, which I think is really interesting. If you can design things that you want to wear yourself, and then other people want to wear them too, then that’s success. Every time I see him he’ll be in a new pair of pants, which he just made the other day.

What was the shoot like for the portrait series?

Roberto Rossellini: It was great. I had a lot of fun but it was freezing, I can tell you that much. We were outside in a park in Brooklyn and it was one of the coldest days in New York City. That was the only downside. Everyone was like, ‘You guys have gotta prepare for this – you’re wearing spring/summer clothes in the winter so get ready!’

“My mum is so openly creative; she’s not afraid to be who she is and she’s taught me to do that for myself” – Roberto Rossellini

You’re a photographer too, right?

Roberto Rossellini: Yes! Before I became a model, I was a photographer and I still do it a lot. I went to school for marine biology first and that’s how it started. I’ve always loved National Geographic. I watched all of their movies as a kid and decided I wanted to become an underwater cinematographer, to take pictures of the ocean – primarily sharks and whales. Then I ended up doing a college course in the Bahamas where I got to dive everyday and actually do that, which was amazing. Now I do a lot of music photography: going to shows and taking pictures of hip-hop and rap artists, primarily – up-and-coming ones from New York – so that’s what I’m trying to stay with right now.

So it must be nice seeing how other photographers work while you’re modelling too?

Roberto Rossellini: Yeah, whenever I’m on set I’m always looking at how the photographers do stuff – how they set up, what they focus on. That’s what I love most about being a model right now, and it’s actually one of the most important things my mum told me about it too – that it’s such a great way to meet people, to learn and grow.

Has your mum given you lots of advice along the way?

Roberto Rossellini: My mum and my sister have been amazing with my modelling – giving me tips and helping me out with how to stand, things like that. My mum is definitely the person who inspired me to be as creative as I am too, ever since I was little. I’ve helped her with her own personal films, like the Green Porno series she did. I helped her write some of those and helped create the sets; I even acted in some of them. I love that my mum is so openly creative; she’s not afraid to be who she is and she’s taught me to do that for myself. She always says, ‘Go do this, go do that, go see this, go see that,’ and I’ll do what she suggests because I know it’ll help me. It’s really nice to have someone who understands me in that way.