Like every day on my way home from school, I stopped to greet my aunts in the family workshop.
For me, entering this laboratory was a magic moment, with its hats of all shapes and materials: felt, wool, cashmere, straw, fabric, leather. A festival of hats of all sizes and colors, headbands with veils, flowers and twigs in fabric and organza, trimmings, mirrors, veils and lace. A carousel of colors and fabrics in this environment where elegance dominated. I was like a child in a toy store.
My mother also worked in this laboratory transformed into headgear. It was the best known of Benevento.
My aunt Nina, a very small woman, with her tapered hands and long thin fingers, was carefully finishing a beautiful scarlet red felt hat with lightly dyed organza fabric.
– Come on Luca, she said to me. I heard you came in! Come on, I’ll give you a kiss she said, grabbing my head to kiss me on the forehead.
Nina, my mother’s aunt, was blind, but that handicap hadn’t stopped her from doing anything that required so much perfectionism.
– But Tata, this hat is very elegant, I said, satisfied.
– It was a commission for Countess Luciani who came us last week. It’s for a very important event, my mother said. She was packing 20 hats for a big customer in Florence.
On the other side of the table was my aunt Odilia who was waving her hand to make me understand that she too should be entitled to the welcoming ceremony. Although she did not hear our speech because she was deaf and mute, her eyes glowed with joy when she saw me.
After hugging me, she asked me, in her own way, if everything had gone well at school.
My mother and my aunts were an important reference for me, the expression of elegance, refinement and creativity in all their splendor.
At just 13 years old, Luca Giannola already had clear ideas about what he wanted to do when he was older. At the age of 10, he attended his aunts laboratory with his mother, well-known milliner entrepreneurs who had already started working as designers and stylists for women’s hats since the 1930s. They worked closely with the bourgeoisie of the time.
In Benevento, however, at that time, there were no fashion schools, so Luca decided to enroll in the School of Art in order to get closer to drawing and sculpture. It was 4 years of sacrifices dedicated to study and conception. After his studies, despite the doubts of his friends and family, he left for Milan, the heart of fashion.
So, he enrolled in an Austrian fashion school, which no longer exists. There, he began his career in fashion design. Moving into fashion circles, he volunteered as an assistant stylist in editorial offices for photo shoots, magazines and video advertising. During these 5 years in Milan, he alternated his studies with odd jobs to maintain himself. Tired of this very stressful and decidedly unprofitable situation, he decided to move to Bologna, while keeping a job as a fashion design teacher in a Milanese school.
In Bologna, the idea of leaving the path as a stylist led him, after the Milanese stress, to volunteer as a teacher in a Bolognese school, where he learned a lot about organizing events. The result was that Luca, for 13 years, coordinated three fashion creation centers in Milan, Verona and Bologna, designing for different stylists at the same time.
In Bologna, he collaborated with a strong and eclectic character, singer and songwriter and at the same time well known as a designer for wedding dresses. Thanks to him and Luca’s great dexterity, the first works of “molding” were born, that is to say that the dress is created and modeled directly on the body of the model: the sculpted dress. “The student sculptor had woken up, the one who was crushed by the Milanese frenzy,” Luca tells me.
Thus, was born his first line of clothing which, presented on the occasion of various fashion shows, was much admired.
After the death of the Bolognese artist, however, the collaboration continued with the lady who worked in the workshop and who now ran a shop in the center of Bologna. This allowed him to sell his first creations and unique pieces: dresses sculpted on mannequins previously prepared with padding to recreate the measurements of the clients.
From there, new market horizons opened up in Asia, France and Milan itself. He started to give himself precise rules. He was no longer the designer who had to follow a well-established prototype, he no longer had to create Haute Couture clothing at exorbitant prices, but “ready to saw”, elegant clothes but at more accessible prices that could pamper increasingly refined women. A return to the old fashion based on the stylistic models of Dior or the icons of American cinema like Grace Kelly, Audrey and Katharine Hepburn.
– And how do you look for fabrics?
– I am very demanding in the research of fabrics. I’m always looking for unusual materials such as coconut and other environmentally friendly materials with beautiful colors. These fabrics which can be sculptural and airy but at the same time supported and light allowing more volume and vacuum effects. My hero is Issey Miyake and for that, I work a lot with the pleated. I get help especially for big events in Paris and Milan from an 80-year-old woman who worked at Ferré for many years. The only problem is the purchase of fabrics because the suppliers often require large quantities, although things have changed in my favor lately.
– As you know, before each interview, I always document myself. I discovered that Japan has an important role in your professional career, do you want to talk about it? What does Japan represent for you?
– Japan makes me move. For two and a half years, I have been collaborating with a Japanese artist Yoko Hiratsuka. I started working with her husband because she was looking for a European stylist to revisit the imperial kimonos that she wanted to offer on the Kyoto market. After a first press conference, I presented the kimonos revisited with the technique of “moulage (molding)“. It was not easy because it was necessary to respect and enhance the spectacular hand-drawn scenes. With her husband, the project ended soon after, when the woman wanted me on her team. An incredible woman who allowed me to create fashion shows by making clothes with the technique of “moulage (molding)” on paper. I created the models and gave the assembly instructions. The last fashion show I did with her dates back to October. In May, she should have returned to Europe, but the lockdown did not allow it. Thanks to her, I was able to meet many people from the Japanese television, including Miss Universe for Japan, who participated in the final with my dress.
– We often hear that fashion has changed in recent years; do you agree? How has the profile of the designer changed in recent years?
– Unfortunately, in recent years, fashion has been dominated by the frenzy that persists, in defiance of quality. As the fashion icon Anna Wintour tells us, we must produce less, but maintain quality, and the made in Italy is the best. For this reason, it must not lose in quality. Since I was a student, I understood that I should not enter this frenzied system and for this reason, I tried to distinguish myself with sewing because it reflected more my way of being.
– How would you really define yourself?
– I feel like a small stylist, a small sculptor, a small creator and a small modeler. I do what I believe in. I feel free and the economic aspect is not the basis of my creations. I like to feel satisfied and to be able to choose the people I collaborate with. Fortunately, I managed to create a circuit that is growing more and more.
– Is there something you haven’t done yet that you miss in your career?
– Certainly, a part that I have not yet managed well is the entrepreneurial part. It is difficult for me to separate myself from the emotional part. I should develop more technology; I should apply myself more to present my creations on social networks.
– Any plans for the future?
– In addition to the fact that I would like to return to Japan to better learn sewing techniques and deepen the culture of this fantastic “Zen country”. I also have a family project. My brother and my nephew are musicians and I would like to present my creations in a show on their music.
– What advice would you give to a fifty years old man?
– I must say that many asked me to design clothes for men, but I do not feel worn. Today, people in their fifties are generally very classy and for this reason, they are required by fashion companies. The advice I would give to people in their fifties is to play with accessories, shoes and of course, also with a beard.
Here is Luca Giannola, born in 1972 who, fascinated by the elegance and the refinement which reigned in the family environment, nourishes his love of fashion since his adolescence. He knew how to give the good imprint his professional career, specializing in a technique of high fashion, the “molding”, and creating fantastic clothes by simply sculpting them on the mannequin with scissors, pins and stitching by hand.
Foto credits: Claudio Guaraldi, Marino Mergola, Massimo Ruvio, Riccardo Scardovelli, Thierry Torres.