Foulard, I love this word and its sound. When I was a child, my mum kept her foulards in her bedroom, carefully folded in the fancy rococo chest of drawers. There was one of them that I cannot say I liked, but certainly was fun and made me curious. I watched the geometry of the design and found those colors very bold! But what I recall very well was that belt that was not a belt but was drawn as if it were a belt… rolling around forming the letter R. That was for sure how I got to know of Roberta di Camerino.
I learnt the story of this lady quite late. Her name was Giuliana Coen married Camerino. She loved the song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” written in 1933 for the musical Roberta and so adopted that name to found one of the most original fashion firms in Italy after the second world war.
Born in Venice in 1920 from an important Jewish family, she left Italy to move to Switzerland in 1943, escaping fascism and deportation. While in Switzerland she started designing her handbags. Back to Venice, in 1950 at the Zitelle on the Giudecca island, she started her Italian adventure and was able to influence the fashion world with her innovative artisan made velvet, with the outrageous trompe l’oeil printed fabrics and also with the organization of real theatrical shows to present her collections! Elephants and camels on a Venetian island in the lagoon… how does it sound to you?
Today, when you visit Venice with an eye for fashion, you can certainly find all you expect. The major haute couture designers from Italy, France and the world are present all around the area of St Mark’s square. But should you be the kind of person that goes beyond the “label” and needs some real touch with fashion and originality as Roberta di Camerino, fearless if the clothing you wear is not standard… what can you experience?
In the last years in Venice young fashion designers and makers have set their presence in the city.
Silvano Arnoldo and Massimiliano Battois started their own activity in 2001. The bag accessory is what attracts the attention when you pass by their showroom. The long collaboration with Roberta di Camerino however does not only emerge clearly in this cult object, but also in the wonderful colors of the unique clothing items you can admire there. Here are some of the names both designers have collaborated with before opening their own activity: Mila Schön, Laura Biagiotti, Marzotto, Cardin, Rene Caovilla and more. In their activity, there’s been also tutoring at the Design and Fashion course at the University IUAV of Venice in Treviso. Here are some photos of their atelier (bracelet and necklace by Raffaella Brunzin):
Not too far from the Arnoldo][Battois atelier, there’s one more corner where another fashion and accessories design tutor at the Fashion School of Venice and Treviso works: Godi Fiorenza. The boutique is run by two sisters, Patrizia and Samanta Fiorenza. When you enter, a first room welcomes you, enriched by furniture and mirrors with a view over a little green garden. Here you find their creations, clothing and accessories. In a second room behind, there opens their laboratory with sawing machines, all their work in progress in a creative chaos where also the teddy bear for the pins and needles has a story to tell. Again hand made and unique pieces, such as the necklace inspired by the Venetian sailing knots or the beads recalling a rainy winter.
Across the Grand Canal, opposite the Labia Palace, where once one of the wealthiest families in Venice lived (and made a fortune with gold and silk textile) you can visit the Luigi Bevilacqua company. Here, a few young women still work at the 300 year old looms with their over thousands bobbins in shining colorful silk yarn. And it is with their drapieres that Chiara Pizzinato has designed her oriental, floral patterned patchwork to wear, and again, of course, what else?, her velvet bags just as Roberta di Camerino had done many years ago with her Bagonghi bag:
Here is the famous pic of glamourous Grace Kelly with her Bagonghi bag:
When we visit the Museum of Textiles, Costumes and Perfume in Venice at Palazzo Mocenigo, we learn there was one major day for fashion in Venice at the time of the Doge’s Republic.
On Ascension Day the ceremony of the Marriage with the Sea was celebrated and ships left to reach the ports of the Mediterreanean Sea. They would bring back precious silk, Flamish wool, gold and silver, leather and more to Venice.
On that day the Piavola de Franza was placed at the Mercerie street. Here it stood, the “girl from France”, a puppet figurine dressed in the most recent Parisian fashion for all women to admire and to learn about the latest trends. Actually, I was told that Venetian tailors and fabrics weavers would change the figurine so to adapt it to what they could really offer 🙂
Today, as if that belt drawn by the imagination of Giuliana Coen was still running and twisting across the years and reaching out to the new generations of stylists, it feels to me it would be honest and just to promote and regularly arrange fashion shows of local designers in the city… no need for elephants and camels this time, just an unconventional eye and good taste.
by Luisella Romeo
registered tourist guide in Venice, Italy