His eyebrows are his trademark, he impresses with his cool and elegant style and his smile casts a spell over everyone – on Instagram, a virtual world filled with seemingly perfect pretty boys, but also in real life. Who is this young Italian, who fascinates thousands of people on Social Media and works for some of the most prominent fashion labels in the world? I wanted to meet the person behind the perfectly staged images. I didn’t care whether his physical appearance matched his Instagram account, or if his followers were bought or leased or even if he went through plastic surgery. I asked myself, whether Carlo would feel comfortable in Acne Studios clothing and what he wished to express. Acne stands for pure honesty, clear lines and has a high recognition value. Strikingly similar to Carlo Sestini.
“Each season is different, the fashion world changes and develops constantly. Two years ago, I had a different style than I do now. I was a prince and now I’m a hippie.” It’s this development that fascinated Carlo and has brought him into the world of fashion. Already as a teenager, he liked wearing nice clothes – very much like a prince. But he wanted to buy outfits that his mother would never have approved of. As a model and influencer, he doesn’t believe in those boundaries anymore. But how does one exactly become an “influencer”? This is a question that Instagram stars like Carlo Sestini get asked daily. A seemingly banal but also a justified question. Not everyone is able to build a network within a year with almost 200’000 people and serve as a “role model” and “inspiration” for young people all over the world. The abundance of influencers nowadays allows us to forget the hard work behind it.
Carlo sips his espresso, in a glass cup of course, and seems reflective. “I don’t have many true friends in the fashion industry. A lot of influencers and models get used to the life of luxury and quickly forget where they came from. This superficiality creates competition that is especially strong among women.” It doesn’t take long for Carlo to open up and find truthful words. His great head of hair, his baby-blue eyes and of course his statement eyebrows – that I find myself staring at constantly – are three reasons why Carlo is a successful model today. However, the 24-year-old doesn’t make a shallow impression on me. Although he walked for Dolce & Gabbana this past fashion week and works for brands such as Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo, Carlo seems very grounded. “Always approach people with kindness”, he says while revealing one of his recipes for success. It is no coincidence that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana chose him for the Millennial shows. “Let’s be honest: I’m actually too short to be a catwalk model. Walking for ‘Dolce’ was one of the best experiences in my life! It is unbelievably rewarding to work for this extremely talented duo, I especially will never forget the fitting with Domenico Dolce.” Carlo enthusiastically tells how the designer from the South of Italy checks every small detail before the show and lovingly fits the tailored clothing of the models. One could say that Carlo has acquired a taste for such a thing. “Of course, I dream about walking for other brands or even becoming the face of a campaign. This shooting with The Flow House for Acne Studios already is a big dream come true.” Nobody would doubt that. Carlo’s body and soul seem to be made for Acne clothing. “I love how the clothes are formed with dramaturgy and validity, the geometry is incredible.” Carlo refers to an outfit from the current Fall/Winter collection and further raves about the uniqueness of the Swedish brand. “One doesn’t need to see the Acne logo: the cuts and colors immediately reveal Acne’s identity.” Acne stands for “Ambition to Create Novel Expressions”, which Carlo is able to live up to.
When talking about style idols, Carlo doesn’t refer to Yves Saint Laurent or Karl Lagerfeld but his grandmother. He explains that she loved to play with colors and patterns. But he also mentions his father as a source of inspiration. “His style is classy but he always tries to add something special to an outfit.” When one takes a look at Carlo then one realizes that the same goes for him. An extremely style conscious man, who likes mixing classy with urban. No wonder he’s all for collaborations à la LV x Supreme. “It’s not only smart from an economic perspective but also offers many new style variations. It is especially good that people, who can’t afford high-end brands, get the chance to still be able to buy them.”
However, he does end up revealing which designer he really looks up to. “Dries Van Noten is incredible. I’m fascinated by the way he works with patterns and shapes men’s fashion. And of course, Alessandro Michele. That man is a Fashion God.” It would be unfair not to mention that Carlo also raves about Dolce & Gabbana. “I love how they both spread Italian fashion all over the world.” Sestini, who has a younger brother, seems to know the recipe for success for Italian fashion. “It’s the tradition and originality that makes Italian fashion so great and unique. Italian fashion dignifies the female and/or male body. Let’s not forget that Italians also work with the best materials.”
Carlo describes his current style as chic, yet playful and keeps it no secret that it is always evolving. There are certain trends that he finds horrible though. “I could never buy destroyed clothes – from ripped jeans to holey sweaters. Why should I spend a fortune on a shirt if it has holes in it? I could have the moths in my closet do all the work for me.” His resentment for “destroyed clothing” is justified, as it has practically disappeared from the runway. Carlo, who spent his high school years in Geneva, joyfully speaks about his current favorite trends. “Velvet and high-wasted pants – to die for!” He also adds a tip for sunglass lovers and mentions the Versace glasses that were presented in Milan this June. Carlo ensures us, “They are incredible and will be a huge success.” We can trust this trendsetter blindly.
Influencers like Carlo Sestini travel all over the world, work for the best brands and are paid well for it. It sounds like a dream job and very few would argue otherwise. That is precisely why influencers become the very targets for critics: let’s remember the famous Vogue article that stirred up hatred against bloggers. Carlo understands where this critique is coming from, however, he chooses not to take sides. “The problem is that people lose themselves. They forget to appreciate and rather get used to the luxury. Therefore, they adjust their attitude, which is what brings on all this attention. Many influencers overdo it, while some of the Vogue editors don’t understand the phenomenon since influencers are attracting a lot of attention at the moment. There should definitely be a balance on both sides.” And what if all of a sudden, Instagram disappears? “I don’t think I’ll really be using Instagram in five years the way I do now.”
Instagram is well-known as a medium that carries many positive effects. But the downside exists. Instagram promotes a beauty ideal and sends dangerous signals that Carlo is well aware of. “I can’t stand how certain female models on Instagram proudly claim how much they can eat when really we all know there’s a strict diet plan behind it – that is seriously dangerous.” Carlo is a realist. I also have to be on a diet for the body I have and would never pretend to be able to eat whatever I want.” Although Carlo earns his money with Instagram, he isn’t afraid to criticize the app and its impacts. During our talk, his look clearly tells that there is a certain issue that’s on his mind. Even if we’re talking about fashion themes, Carlo becomes serious. “It bothers me that many women decide to present themselves practically naked on the platform. Exactly these kinds of people have a role model function and are sending the wrong signals with their images.” Carlo goes on. “I would never allow my daughter to present herself so revealingly on Social Media.”
Carlo has some tips for people who doubt themselves and are unhappy. “You need to believe in yourself and push yourself. I love proving to people what I can do. Certain brands weren’t interested in working with me at the beginning of my career and today, they changed their minds. It’s good to be ambitious and to believe in oneself.” Carlo orders another espresso and rakes his fingers through his wild hair that’s gotten lighter due to his beach vacation.
Carlo had one of the most important experiences in his life in Africa this year. “After fashion week month, I needed a break and decided to go to Ethiopia, to teach English at an orphanage, to cook for the girls and given them the attention they deserve.” Carlo’s blue eyes sparkle. It’s obvious how much this trip meant to him. “I’m not trying to say that I came back a different person but this trip really showed me a lot.” Carlo is explicit. “It’s important to do good in life, but that doesn’t mean you have to travel to Africa. You can do plenty and get engaged in your own city – for example, to give older people a hand.” We should be grateful that people are doing good in the world, no matter what the setting.
Interviews can be planned through and quite boring. But Carlo is anything but boring. The Instagram sensation, who has a university degree in International Relations, is fluent and is ready to broach any subject – even political ones. “Fashion is an amazing possibility to express oneself, which is why fashion and politics go together for me.” From climate protection to migration, Brexit or marriage equality – if Carlo decided to get into politics, he’d definitely stand a chance. “There are so many things that we could change on this planet and that we should dedicate ourselves to.” Climate change for example. “People will only start doing something if they’re personally affected or afraid but that usually means that it’s already too late.” It’s also too late to undo Brexit. “I’m really sad about it but we can’t change it and need to accept the situation. Brexit could be an opportunity for Milan because London’s attractiveness will suffer many losses over the next few years.” However, racism is something that can’t be accepted. “Racism is very present in the fashion and art scene. I would like to change that but it’s very difficult. There are different forms of discrimination in this industry. Many people receive fewer jobs due to their age, gender or nationality, which is very upsetting.” Terror attacks are also very upsetting and to speak about them on his Instagram channel would be “dishonest”. “It doesn’t help anyone if I post sad stories on my profile.” Love, however, is honest and should run free. “We only have one life to live and should be able to marry the person we love. No matter if man or woman. Obviously, this discussion becomes more complex in Catholic countries such as Italy. But my motto is that we should do whatever makes us happy in life – as long as it doesn’t hurt others.”
Carlo Sestini has a lot planned – and it would be a huge mistake to underestimate this motivated guy. The in London living entrepreneur is traveling to Los Angeles this autumn to take acting classes. “Acting is another passion of mine that I would like to pursue.” Carlo definitely does not “just” want to be a model or actor. “Even when I’m in LA, I’ll continue doing the things I’ve been doing in Europe.” Then he reveals a small but sensational secret. “If all goes well I will be launching an eyewear/swimwear collection created by myself.” Will it turn out to be as grand as Versace’s? Carlo still has time to prove himself. Besides, Sestini just made a deal with Tom Ford and things couldn’t be going better for him.
Carlo Sestini is a world traveler and the best example for a young guy, who wants to explore the world, work hard to reach his goals, isn’t afraid of failing and wants to put his creative ideas to work. “I know that I can always come home and that is nice. But right now, I want to try out new things that make me curious.” He really is what makes Acne: pretty darn unique. Carlo knows that the world is more than just Instagram. One should try to emulate him, to explore and cherish the best moments on the way – whether on Instagram, a photo album or just for oneself. This conversation is something I will cherish as well. The interview time has long been exceeded, but the discussion is far from being over. People like Carlo inspire, even if they don’t always realize it themselves.
Creative Direction + Text: Karim Coppola
Photography: Reuben Selby
Photographic Assistant: Cristina Troisi
Hair & Make Up: Erika Calabrò
Brand: Acne Studios
Special Thanks: Hotel Milano Scala, Claire Oehninger