After a stellar career at Ralph Lauren, Alfredo Paredes – the visionary behind New York’s iconic Polo Bar – is forging a new path under his own name
New York-based designer Alfredo Paredes has been creating extraordinary cinematic experiences for over three decades. The Miami native and former chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren was responsible for overseeing every visual manifestation of the iconic brand, from retail design and product developments to events and visual merchandising. “A lot happened for me at Ralph Lauren,’ he says. “It’s where I really developed and refined my skills across every level and genre of the company. I was immersed in my role to such a degree that I can look at any campaign, product or space from that period, and I can remember the minutiae of every aspect of its development and execution.”
So much so that after 33 years, the designer felt burnt out, electing to pave a new creative path outside of the company. “It was a tough decision as I was so happy at Ralph Lauren, but I just didn’t want to produce work for such a large corporation anymore.” After a sabbatical year and some soul-searching, Paredes launched his eponymous interior design studio. “I designed homes for Ralph and had learned a lot from him,” he says. “I just love creating spaces, yet I don’t think of myself as a classic interior designer, but rather a creative director who conceives of and visualises spaces in their entirety. I really understand how to deliver a layered space, from the furniture all the way through to the flatware. I don’t know many people who do that.”
Armed with an innate confidence, an unmistakable eye and his distinctive repertoire of experience, Paredes launched his studio mere months before the onset of the pandemic. Remarkably, the designer has already managed to complete a number of projects that span the residential, retail and hospitality genres, proving his versatility not only in type but in style. “I really see each project as different, as having no discernible style,” he says. “I don’t like self-conscious interiors. Spaces should feel relatable and should always have something new.”
The designer is quick to point out that his desire for newness does not preclude the inclusion of vintage items. On the contrary, Paredes is known for his expertise in sourcing vintage treasures, antiques and art. “I love patina and architectural character. It appeals to me intrinsically,” he adds. “But just because a piece is older, it doesn’t need to feel old-fashioned in a space.” His own East Village duplex apartment (recently sold), is a case in point. A smorgasbord of bespoke, antique and vintage pieces (and an enviable collection of photographs which includes the work of Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber), the space still reads fresh and relevant. So too does his Cape Cod fisherman’s cabin, which brings a weathered and industrial aesthetic into perfect harmony.
Paredes applies to same philosophy to all his projects, imbuing them with a layered aesthetic that brings a personality and completeness to the spaces. “I often have to work harder with clients who don’t understand that personal layering really makes a space,” he adds. “I always flush out the entire vision in my head. My biggest job at Ralph Lauren was designing the store windows. You had to pull the whole look together before you moved on anything. You couldn’t keep changing it. That experience plays into how I express an idea to a client. I present inspiration boards that give them a sense of what the space really needs to feel like in its entirety.”
When asked about other key lessons he has learned in his career thus far, Paredes says: “I am a huge believer in using a lighting designer. I have been in the most beautiful homes that look terrible because they had awful lighting, and I’ve seen underwhelming spaces look really good under the right lighting conditions. It is critical to get that right.” Paredes also dislikes putting together a space in phases: “I’ve done this work for 30 years. It’s theatre. Everything in an interior has to be installed together.” It’s clear that Paredes’ path is a distinct one, worlds away from what her refers to as ‘help-desk’ furniture showroom design. “That is not what I do,” he says. “If you want that, then you don’t need me. I think my clients are looking for something different and I can offer that – from modern in Miami to traditional Ralph Lauren to a Colorado Ranch.” Indeed, the designer is currently working on a diversity of projects, including homes in Miami Beach, Palm Springs, and Colorado. “I learned to be innovative at Ralph Lauren,” he concludes. “And I want to continually shift gears in my own practice. It’s what inspires me to keep producing meaningful work.”
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