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Cavalli’s surfing artist

Roberto Cavalli creative director Paul Surridge talks to Debonair as he releases his first AW collection at Milan Fashion Week

Growing up, I looked up to the Australian musician Michael Hutchence of INXS. He was my icon — confident, strong and quite flamboyant with his wardrobe.

Riding on the backstage chatter wave, we washed up having a natter with the totally rad surfer dude turned radical fashion designer, Paul Surridge.

My earliest fashion memory is… spending my weekends watching fashion shows Sundays on The Clothes Show, a weekly TV programme in the UK that covered the latest news and updates in the fashion industry.

The most stylish item I own is… a made-to-measure tailored tuxedo that I had designed during my time at Zegna. It’s a double-breasted peak lapel jacket and slim leg trouser in dark blue mohair. I love how timeless and eternally elegant it is, and how perfectly it fits any occasion.

My most valuable item is… a bonded shearling coat that I had purchased while I was working at Jil Sander. It is beautifully designed with stellar craftsmanship and is extremely special to me — it was a lot of money for me at that time and I had originally picked it up as an archive sample.

Growing up, I looked up to the Australian musician Michael Hutchence of INXS. He was my icon — confident, strong and quite flamboyant with his wardrobe.

Paul Surridge says he would love to have dinner with Yves Saint Lauren, Coco Chanel and Calvin Klein.

The one look I wish I could pull off is… the rock star look. Growing up, I looked up to the Australian musician Michael Hutchence of INXS. He was my icon — confident, strong and quite flamboyant with his wardrobe. Ever since, his signature style has always inspired me.

The one item nobody should wear is… leggings. They’re totally acceptable while working out and for sports. However, I find it a little odd when men wear them out on the street. I find such clingy silhouettes very unflattering and vulgar.

What are your thoughts on accessories? Fundamentally, they should personalise a look. A simple piece of statement jewellery, or the right bag and shoes has the power to instantly transform your look. I also think that finger rings have a very impactful effect on your outfit.

When I shop I… look for quality and specialist items. As a designer, I tend to see even the smallest errors or faults while shopping. We have a very sharp eye for detail and I look for unique items — beautifully crafted, with its own unique detail. I love my existing wardrobe and for me to make any additions, it needs to be something really special that catches my eye.

Do you prefer bricks or clicks? Brick-and-mortar stores, hands down. I like to feel the complete brand experience that one has upon entering the shop. I frequently visit and shop from the physical stores of luxury brands, as I love the level of service they offer. I like to see the item I’m buying in the total contract of the collection. It connects me to the piece and the brand. I’m not against the idea of online shopping, though. But I limit that to the basics rather than investment pieces.

Get Inspired

Emmett London

Blue Baby Twill
AED 450.00

Peckham Rye

3 stripe tie - burgandy
AED 290.00

Code of London

Soho light grey single breasted two-piece suit
AED 2,650.00


Burton Box Calf Black Leather M
AED 1,100.00

Who would you say is the most stylish man to have ever lived? Paul Newman. He radiates elegance and masculinity. He looked impeccable in a suit or T-shirt and jeans. He was extremely kind and always had a look in his eyes that projected confidence.

If you could invite three designers to a dinner party, who would you invite and what would you serve? Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel and Calvin Klein. YSL had the most impact on modern fashion, and I know he would have many stories to tell. Coco, because I would like to get into her mind and understand what made her tick and what drove her. And Calvin, because that was my first proper job after I graduated from college and I would like to go back and thank him. I would love to serve them an English roast made with love!

The one item I can’t live without is… my electric toothbrush. I have been in constant motion for the past five years and there is nothing more frustrating than arriving at a hotel and realising that I’ve forgotten my toothbrush. I CANNOT sleep without brushing my teeth at night.

What I like best about my job is… that no two days are ever the same. I’m constantly learning here. The designers in my team at Roberto Cavalli stimulate me every day, and we have such an amazing creative exchange daily. My position makes me very visible, but there is such a strong network of people behind me that contribute to the success of the maison.

How do you feel about the industry? It is confused and in the process of transforming itself. We work at an extremely challenging pace and there is very little time to research and create new products. The market is increasingly overcrowded with new brands, and existing houses are constantly rebranding to meet the millennial mindset. It is really hard to work on something unique and special when you’re constantly referencing the past and analysing sales. But, all brands will have to return to their core values to survive the next 10 years.

If I weren’t in the fashion industry, I would… become an artist, live by the sea and surf as much as possible. The sea is a magnet to me; its power is mesmerising. When I’m by or in the sea, I can completely unwind and disconnect, and I’ve always enjoyed making art — since childhood. I look at it as another outlet to de-stress. I surf at least twice a year, depending on time. It’s the rock star thing again… I see a pattern, haha! I tend to find a lot of references from my childhood. 

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