My recent trip to Southern Italy was a journey of discovery from both a fashion and a cultural standpoint. When style meets traditional heritage, the two become immersed in a fairground of synergistic creativity which I experienced during an event dedicated to the promotion of “Fashion In Sicily”, held in Catania from the 10th-11th April. Before visiting Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, I envisaged a fashion journey enriched with heritage and culture which was a foregone conclusion. The fashion industry in Italy is renowned for its cultivation of skilled artisans whose craftsmanship is rooted in Italian soil, hence the patriotism shown towards all things “Made in Italy”. I joined eighty international buyers and journalists as part of the trip, which was organised by The Italian Trade Agency (ITA) who help to promote emerging fashion companies in Southern Italy. Sixty fashion and accessory brands showcased their collections at the “Fashion In Sicily” event in association with the Office of the Mayor of Catania and Southern Export Plan 2 (PES2). The latter was initiated by Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) which, along with the ITA, acts as a launchpad for companies in less developed regions such as Basilicata, Calabria, Apulia, and Sicily, to promote themselves.
All delegates met one another on the first night. The following two days involved meeting the exhibitors at “Monastero dei Benedettini” combined with a guided tour to a menswear and jewellery company, cultural tours which included a roof-top view of Mount Etna and a visit to the historic Teatro Massimo Bellini Opera House. As part of the programme, we had dinner with the Italian companies in the stunning palace of Palazzo Biscari for a “Sicily Fashion Night Out” followed by a fashion show organised by Catania’s Academia Delle Belle Arti. The latter took place at Piazza del Duomo, which was an innovative showcase of young talent in Sicily. I have included footage of the tours, the networking dinner and the fashion show in a vlog on my YouTube channel.
Twelve companies out of sixty caught my attention, forming a collective of wearable art, patriotic values and heritage embedded in their design aesthetic; all of which prominently mark their “territory,” otherwise known as the culture of Sicily.
Based in Benevento, Naples, Carlotta Di Cerbo is a jewellery designer whose design concept is minimalistic in style yet multi-functional. Every piece is a statement in itself and transforms into several shapes or forms of jewellery, i.e. a necklace can be worn as a belt thus a versatile travel accessory. All items are hand-made in Benevento. Additionally, the designer has incorporated industrial elements into her designs by combining “nautical ropes” with metal cylinders; a concept inspired by the style of a modern-day woman which is adaptable to change depending on her lifestyle needs. Carlotta’s bespoke craftsmanship conveys boisterous energy that would embrace the personality of a confident individual. “The accessories change in their shape to reflect the personality of the wearer. Flexibility allows a daily choice and re-combination of shape, length, colours and functions through simple movements”, says Carlotta.
Filly Cusenza has established a name for herself after dedicating 25 years of creative innovation to the industry as an artist and architect. Biennale of London, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, and Teatro Massimo have showcased the artist’s work, to name but a few. Subsequently, Filly Cusenza consolidated her skills to produce fashion brand Filly Biz, which combines eclectic art and contemporary fashion. Whether intentional or not, Filly Cusenza’s design aesthetic plays on the paradoxical nature of life by connecting attractive opposites. The collection is classic in style yet childlike in design; it portrays an ageless sense of style, with a mature understanding of what a woman looks for in a garment, such as comfortable fabric. Everything from the collection is 100% linen, which suits the climate in Sicily. The statement hallmarks are made from natural materials and remind me of animated characters from a children’s book. It’s refreshing to discover a fashion collection that identifies with the child in all of us that needs nurturing from time to time. Filly Cusenza’s artistry brings her collection to life.
The beauty of the Le4uadre collection is portrayed through the manipulation of vivid colours and geometric shapes. Every piece is hand-crafted by skilled artisans in Southern Sicily and inspired by the natural environment, architecture and the dynamism of city life. The combination of such inspirational elements gives the brand a somewhat raw identity which reflects the emotional connection we have with our natural surroundings. The FW18/19 “Gea collection” of Le4uadre features the soft printed “thermoformed velvet 3D effect and Exagon line in 100% Italian leather”.
Gioelli Di Karma’s collection speaks to those who appreciate Sicilian tradition. All pieces from the collection are hand-made in Catania, exclusively. Their signature styles feature ceramic and lava stone jewels. I was blown away by the attention to detail and pom bags which are a prominent feature of Sicilian traditional attire. “All products are exclusive and original that every woman can wear for any occasion”, says Gioielli Di Kiara. Their small ceramic accessories are hand-painted then placed into a special oven for 24 hours at 1000 degrees Celsius – a process that embeds the hand-painted design into the clay, permanently. The work of Gioelli Di Kiara vividly showcases the application of skilful techniques and traditional practices to create one of a kind pieces.
Gioielli Di Kiara
Gioielli Di Kiara
Inspired by the Latin phrase “Just A Moment Ago”, Antura (founded nine years ago) is a jewellery brand hand-crafted in Sicily – on which they pride themselves. The influence Arabic traditions have on Sicilian culture, dating back to a time when Sicily was under Arab rule, is evident in Antura’s logo design. Overall, the collection is colourful, bold and adventurous as it pays attention to intricate detail. What stands out particularly is the brand’s use of earthy colours such as blue and green, inspired by the Mediterranean Sea. Antura, in essence, is an artistic expression of colour and shape; thus, the wearer is merely a blank canvas on which the story of Antura comes to life. The brand prefers to tone down statement styles with subdued colours to enhance the style and shape of a particular piece. Key items of jewellery feature laser-cut detail and geometric shapes and volumes. The best-selling style is the resin ring featuring a pearl. According to Antura, “We love the short necklace which makes the design stand out. You can see more detail. Our long necklaces are simple in design”.
Giuliana Di Franco is a jewellery brand based in the middle of Sicily, Leonforte. The brand produces unique pieces, stunning in design as well as picturesque of Sicilian culture and tradition. The design concept of Giuliana Di Franco emerged in 2004, inspired by the brand’s origins from 1989. The Mediterranean style is the primary influence on the creative vision of Giuliana Di Franco. “My jewels speak about life, beauty, art, Sicily and for open-minded women immersed in a diverse experience”, says Giuliana. We visited the showroom on 11th April, which is surrounded by breathtaking views of Leonforte. The showroom itself is open-plan, and production takes place in an eco-friendly environment. I have included footage of this tour in a vlog on my Youtube channel. Giuliana Di Franco showcases small sculptures and intricate creative design that echoes the magical energy of her homeland, combined with quality craftsmanship.
Giuliana Di Franco
Giuliana Di Franco
Everything about this brand epitomises eco-friendly values embedded in ‘slow’ fashion. Hand-made in Italy, Ziza Style Habits is a handbag collection made from “Pinatex” – vegan leather mixed with pineapple leaf fibre. Such natural materials are used to create timeless pieces that represent an innovative design concept. The brand cleverly combines tradition with contemporary fashion offering an alternative to leather. The signature colours of the collection are metallic gold and silver. Furthermore, the bags are extremely lightweight as I discovered while holding one. “The models are versatile. You can change their appearance through straps and interchangeable handles made of natural cords that allow you to customise each bag and create a unique style”, says Ziza Style Bags.
Ziza Style Habits
Ziza Style Habits
The collection of Gattacci represents everything I love about a unique sense of style – individuality, personality and creativity. Style carries a broader meaning than the word fashion in that style comes from a place of creative innovation hence my appreciation of accessory designer, Gattacci. The brand was established in 2011 by Sebastiano Tramontana and Valentina Bua through combining their passion for art and design. The latter instigated their creative vision of a lightweight accessory hence why Gattacci produces jewellery and accessories made from “plexiglass”. Their statement pieces include a monochrome clutch and “ceramic” bag with matching earrings. Other key motifs are laser-cut and carved by hand which adorn imagery of anchovies and the human eye. In 2017, Gattacci opened its first franchise in Catania and then a second franchise in Palermo in December. The brand’s meticulous approach to authentic design includes the use of innovative material such as plexiglass which enables them to play with shapes and volumes. “Our production process combines craftsmanship and technology, ranging from the laser-cutting of the plexiglass to the folds of bags and jewels made entirely by hand”, says Gattaci.
The Gisella Mandala collection consists of carefully hand-crafted jewellery and clothing. Every piece relates to the culture of Sicily through colourful imagery inspired by the Mediterranean sea, youth and culture. The brand pride themselves on authentic production in Sicily. Made from the tender leaves of palm trees which were used to transport food, such statement pieces define the brand’s identity. Other fashion items feature imagery of Sicilian knights, playing cards and stories inspired by the paintings of Giacomo Callari.EA Chiarello. The Gisella Mandala team kindly gave me a book by this extraordinary painter ‘Sicilia The Island of Treasures’ which features images of the natural, artistic and cultural heritage of Sicily.
Established five years ago, Bakara is a family-run business which specialises women’s handbags. The brand concept combines urban culture with contemporary fashion; a common theme that runs throughout the fashion culture of London. The design aesthetic has an industrial feel, a somewhat raw quality projected through the hydraulic straps of their limited edition “Kubie” bag. Bakara uses “three-dimensional polyester” to produce their bags as a result of which a younger market or those who appreciate high-quality casual wear may suit the brand. “These roots have allowed us to create a product that presents the competence of the production of workwear and a strong sense of fashion”, says Bakara.
Made from eco-friendly materials such as clay, marble and resin, the design concept of Nani & Co pays homage to the designer’s background in architecture combined with a contemporary outlook on fashion. All items of jewellery are hand-crafted in Bari, Italy and inspired by modern art; the latest collection epitomises “Mirrors by Moza” an installation by an artist from the city of Mexico. The unique selling point of Nina & Co is that her jewellery is extremely lightweight. Furthermore, the marble within the jewellery is one of the designer’s signature looks along with gold, silver plated and “gold luxury” items. “You can wear a pair of my earrings for 24hours without feeling the weight of the earrings”, says Nani & Co.
Nani & Co
Nani & Co
Made in Italy, Alto Livello is a menswear and accessories brand. The collection is classic and caters for men with a discerning style. The brand oozes sophistication through a variety of well-tailored suits, brogues, to bespoke shoes one of which adorns Swarovski crystal. What caught my eye initially was Alto Livello’s elegant display of walking umbrellas to compliment his men’s suits. “Our Made in Italy quality cannot be improvised: it is the result of the daily work of artisans and entrepreneurs, custodians of our centuries-old manufacturing tradition” It was refreshing to see a formal menswear collection amongst an array of eclectic fashion brands which created variety. Alto Livello stood out as an elegant brand for a distinguished gentleman.
Another successful trip once again. Overall, it was such an enriching experience and an excellent opportunity to meet new and undiscovered fashion brands in Southern Italy. I hope my fashion journey to Southern Italy continues.