articles fashion rachel kolarik
March 17, 2016
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Though every new age brings with it a new aesthetic, some things remain timeless. This is exactly what the fifteen boutique fashion brands presented below bring to the table: Their innovative eco-ethical commitment to excellence, artistry, and creativity.

The world’s fascination with Italian design is nothing new thanks to the enduring style of notable men and women from “Lo Stivale”, or “The Boot” ­­- from the venerable houses of Gucci and Ferragamo, to more recently formed brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Moschino. In fact, for as long as there have been trade routes, Italian names have been etched into the Pantheon of high design

At this year’s “White” Fashion Expo in Milan, the Italian Trade Commission presented a selection of fifteen emerging fashion designers, specifically from the country’s southern regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia, and Sicily. It was a unique opportunity for these young brands to present their collections on one of the most prestigious platforms highly recognized by international fashion players.

Beginning in Sicily, designer Loredana Roccasalva embodies the warm heart of the Mediterranean through her vibrant, whimsical designs. Even with their bold and innovative look, the pieces are made with strictly natural fibers. “I was born in Sicily, and for me, the sounds, smells and colors of this beautiful place give me endless resources for creativity and inspiration.” Roccosalva has built the brand hand in hand with her humanitarian efforts to provide employment/economic autonomy to her region’s newest residents: its female refugees. This cooperative of women that she works with, her “Workshop of Angels” use traditional materials to hand-make each piece in the Hellenistic and Byzantine tradition of Sicilian design.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Giuliano Galiano of Napoli, a third generation shoemaker with a deeply rooted interest in the hip hop aesthetic. “As I child I often asked my grandfather to take me to his factory to meet the artisans. I was fascinated by their craft and passion and I dreamt that one day I would be able to create my own unique product.” These days his exclusive footwear has been worn by the likes of American hip hop stars such as Rick Ross, French Montana, and O.T. Genasis, and is Italy’s handmade, elevated answer to mainstream footwear brands which also frequent hip hop culture. “I believe there will be more and more requests for products made in Italy, for their priceless quality and heritage,” says Giuliano.

On the softer side of things, we have the knitwear aficionados of the label, 20.52.  This label features ready-to-wear knits made with the finest quality Italian yarns that express lightness and creativity.  The spirit of 20.52 struts confidently over the fine line between modernity and the eternal search for beauty, and knows that you can, too.

Vitussi (of Palermo) embodies an “anything is possible” approach toward creating not only handbags, but also works of art that beg the question, “Where did you get that bag?” This designer wore many different hats before becoming the artist that he is today.  Hailing from Palermo, Sicily, founder Vito Petrotto Reyes had originally been on the path to a career in diplomacy. “I believe the most important role in my training were the years spent playing and getting my hands dirty in my grandmother’s ceramics workshop and in my mother’s painting studio.” Upon his return to Palermo, he found himself inspired to breathe life into the old silversmiths’ workshops, where the metallic framework for each unique Vitussi bag is created. Each of Vitussi’s bags is unique, with high-end craftsmanship apparent in the range of details. A few examples of materials used are eel, painted/pierced pony skin, Plexiglas, feathers, resin, and woody fibers collected from Sicilian prickly pear plants (symbolic of Sicily’s wilderness and ancient traditions) which are colored and resined to create something altogether otherworldly looking.

Other notable handbag designers in this show are Federica and Roberta Garafalo –creators of Bakara and young Sicilian sisters who have bravely approached the world of design together and are finding success through the proven style and quality of their work. “The integral vision of our brand is focused on innovation. We are new to the market and so are our products and we want to spread this both eco-friendly and hi-tech approach to fashion.” “It’s Time to South” has afforded the sisters an opportunity to reach international buyers, for whom they are currently handling follow-up agreements to more widely distribute their chic, eco-friendly wares.

Speaking of partnerships, we cannot leave out the creative and graceful designs of Les Bohemiens, a young label formed in 2013 by Neapolitan friends Francesco de Falco and Pasquale Vittorio D’Avino. Les Bohemiens’ art-inspired cuts and prints are fueled by what seems like an endless fountain of inspiration, paired with a unique approach on ways to flatter the male and female form.  With not even a three-year track record and an exponentially increasing visibility, the growth and success of this brand seems inevitable.

Also hailing from Sicily,  Sergio Daricello’s pieces range from the undeniably soft and feminine to the architectural – a young designer who has already led a valuable career in positions with Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, as well as having been the creative director for Giuliano Fujiwara, Daricello also enjoyed increased exposure to his own brand thanks to this opportunity provided by the Italian Trade Commission’s with “It’s Time to South.”

Giorgia Fiore’s designs carry with them a timeless sweetness inspired by multiple levels of 20th century nostalgia, but also with a kick of experimentation that truly makes them one of a kind.  With that kind of individuality, It is no surprise that this designer, hailing from Naples, was a finalist in Project Runway Italia.

Giuliana di Franco is the one artist in this collection specializing solely in jewelry.  Her workshop, founded in 2004 creates jewelry of a higher design – miniature works of art inspired by the energy and the culture of the landscapes surrounding her in Sicily.            

Reiv Fashion is a family business started in Salento, Puglia by Rocco Nuzzaci.  Reiv’s tailors hand-make jeans sculpted to fit the female form at the highest level of style and comfort.  The jeans  are made with a new fabric  specially-formulated by the University of Bergamo so the wearer can enjoy a supremely soft and silky feel.

Inspired by minimalist pop but ever so forward thinking, Domenico Cioffi’s space age geometric designs are made in Italy using exclusively Italian fabrics and leathers.  Domenico’s precision and artful approach to blending colors with geometry and texture make his work a playful expression of sophistication.
“To build your own brand is not a simple task as it may seem from the outside. Even if there are only two presentations a year, there is no time for a vacation. As you grow, there is an increasing need to work with international players,” says Domenico. “Perhaps the most beautiful and easy thing is to find people who want to help you and believe in your project. I will just continue to work and grow from year to year.”

Far preceding the space age, the works of Anna Siciliano are centered on the ancient tradition of hand-weaving local materials.  For her brand, Siciliano has taken her family tradition (long abandoned by many due to its association with malaria, poverty, and the ‘bad old days’), and instead infused it with new life: contemporary lines and vivid color combinations give these ancient materials a new place among fashion. In order to pursue her dream she left a secure and successful job in Germany and returned to her small town in southern Italy. “I was brave and i faced it all with simplicity and passion. My project has given me the strength to keep looking forward,” says Anna. “I would like to create a dense network of collaborators, to give job opportunities here in the south, so that my dream will become the dream of many other professionals.“

Cangiaritoo, is a label centered around sustainable weaving practices.  In Calabrian dialect, the word Cangiari means “to change” – and this brand of ready to wear couture knits lends itself to positive change no only though its use of purely biological materials that are good for both the environment and the wearer, but also through its participation in the Gruppo Cooperative GOEL, which works towards improving areas in Italy that have been negatively affected by organized crime.

Price Ecodesign infuses superior Italian craftsmanship with vibrant, sustainably sourced fabrics such as African textile, silk kimono, and military remnants from the Cold War years.  These materials all come together with quality Italian leather and hardware to create these stunning, knock-out pieces.  Each unique bag contains the story of two worlds merging: high design and environmental conscience.

Last, but definitely not least is the exquisite collection of streetwear by design duo of Silvia Dongiovanni and Antonio Cavallo, who together form Ground Ground.  The prints are inspired by Silvia’s upbringings in Salento as daughter to promoting the importance of sustainability.

Though each of these brands are wildly unique, the fifteen all share a common thread in that they approach the ancient traditions and materials of their region with a fresh, modern mindset. “It’s Time to South” was received enthusiastically by key international buyers.

We are pleased to present our readers with a chance to get to know these brands as they gain further exposure and ascend to great heights.

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