Art-preneur Behind CFDA Designs Says Collaboration 'Is Where it's At'

For award-winning artist Aerosyn-Lex Mestrovic, collaboration is not just a way to spark creativity -- it’s how you establish your own brand.

Mestrovic has worked with some of today’s top cultural icons, from Kanye West to Jeff Koons, and brands like Kenzo, LVMH and Nike. Most recently, he designed the 2014 CFDA Awards.

“Collaboration,” Mestrovic says, “is where it’s at.”

When CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) President Diane von Furstenberg approached him about designing this year’s June awards, he says he didn’t have to think twice. The Pratt Institute graduate says the CFDA Awards represent “the penultimate achievement” for today’s designers.

“I’ve had a familiarity with the awards show for quite some time; I’ve had great friends of mine who have won the award and for me,” Mestrovic says, “to be able to close that loop and create all of the artwork for this year, it was just such a great honor.”

From an early age, Mestrovic says he was intrigued by the communicative power and visual aesthetics of language. After graduating from Pratt in fashion, communications and design, Mestrovic spent time in Japan studying the Eastern tradition of calligraphy. (When he was a kid, his father signed him up for a calligraphy class. He says he had no idea what he was in for, but for some reason it really stuck.)

Much of Mestrovic’s work revolves around the written word. For example, the invitations he designed for the CFDA Awards have a painted letter “F” (the fashion council’s signature logo) as their focal point.

“It wasn’t so much about literally writing out something, as it was about sort of creating a movement or a feeling or a gesture,” he says. “And it really took many, many people all working together to bring all this artwork to life.”

On a tour of his Tribeca studio -- a loft he shares with several artists including a guitarist named Sebastian -- the things, persons and places that inspire him most pop out instantly. Lex, as he’s known to his friends, prefers to use makeshift paintbrushes that he fashions with duct tape. He’s most proud of projects he’s worked on with others, displaying those most prominently among his pieces. And the part-Argentinian, part-Croatian calligrapher is simultaneously right- and left-brained, involved in the creative process as much as the business components.

“Art is a business,” Mestrovic says. “To work as a creative and to be successful as a creative … takes a real understanding of the business behind” the industry.

He believes obtaining success in art -- or in any profession -- means being able to break down the walls between the art you make and the business you run.

In order to function and create high-end art, working with large companies and getting exhibitions in renown galleries, he says, requires dedication, discipline and a willingness to work hard to make your own way. Mestrovic credits his success both in the fine art scene as well as with the fashion crowd to his entrepreneurial spirit.

“It’s really about communication in many different ways,” Mestrovic says. “And I think establishing yourself as your own brand, essentially telling your own story and doing it in a way that resonates with a good amount of people … takes a real sense of entrepreneurship and individuality.”