Carol Christian Poell
Born in Linz, Austria in 1966, Carol Christian Poell was raised to be a leather maker just like his grandfather, father and uncle before him. By the age of 15, Poell had learned the popular techniques of the trade and slowly began to create garments. Poell’s stepfather, who worked in a clothing factory, gave him the opportunity to develop his interest in tailoring. After graduating high school, Poell attended the Senior Academy of Commerce and the School of Fashion and Design in Graz, Austria. During his tenure, Poell was faced with an ultimatum: Go into the family trade as a leather-maker or sharpen the skills he began to develop at his stepfather’s factory and pursue tailoring. Poell realized he was already an experienced leather-maker and chose tailoring.
Making this choice would also mean a change of scenery for Poell, departing the School of Fashion and Design and heading to a tailoring school Vienna. Soon after his transfer, he realized that an education in tailoring was not required to pursue his career. Poell would finish his education at the Domus Academy in Milan, where he received a masters in fashion design. After meeting his partner Sergio Simone, the two established the brand Carol Christian Poell in 1995.
After creating what was to be his first full menswear collection, Poell had the epiphany that he had no desire to release one. Instead, Poell created a small capsule reflective of his upbringing and his background as garment producer and designer. The “Unintended Collection” as it came to be known, consisted of a jacket, shirt, T-shirt and a pair of trousers, and was released as his Fall/Winter 1995 collection. A small number of Japanese buyers found themselves captivated by his trousers, ultimately ordering his entire collection.
The following season, Spring/Summer 1995, Poell released his first full collection to critical acclaim. Poell was praised for his unique vision, nicknamed the most “researched” designer in fashion. Poell’s experimental and laborious process of manufacturing and garment dying has since inspired fashion houses to experiment with their own unique designs.
Throughout his career, Poell struggled with the concept of a collection, bending the rules by releasing compliments to garments from a previous show, as opposed to the full look. Poell was intent on keeping the focus on his individual pieces and providing a sense of ambiguity to his work. One of his most famous collections includes his Spring/Summer 2004 collection, “Mainstream-Downstream”. Set at Milan’s Naviglio Grande canal, models were sent floating downstream, corpse-like critiques of the flow of mainstream fashion.
Although his clothing was revered from the beginning, it’s Poell’s shoes that have become the highlights of work. His pre-distressed Derby Shoes, Tornado Zip Boots and Drip Sneakers are all recognizable standouts that have since gone on to spawn imitations. In recent years, Poell has become something of a recluse, only presenting new clothing designs at his own pace. Despite his physical absence from fashion events, his presence is felt in his clothing and those he’s influenced all over the world.