The first wraparound stole is made of wool and cashmere with mink fur inserts. This is a very warm item which can take the place of a fur jacket.
Chiara Pizzinato - trained as a botanist, transformed herself into a fashion designer.
Chiara Pizzinato (born 1962) initially studied botany, but over the years she has moved from the plant world to the world of fashion. She graduated in natural sciences at the University of Padua at the age of 26, with a major in botany, and moved to Belgium in the same year. There she spent three years at the Fondation Luxembourgeoise in Arlon, where she gained a Master's in Environmental Sciences. During these studies, she worked on environmental issues for a Swiss company in the Belgian province of Luxembourg. She then returned to Italy, where se worked as a botanist for the engineering consultancy company Technical. This company deals with a variety of energy issues and environmental hydraulics. One of the company's major projects concerns the problems facing Venice due to rising water levels and all the risks these entail, the holes in the dunes and the need to protect the sand against erosion by the wind. Chiara Pizzinato was given the task of improving the ecosystem of the dunes around Venice, and strengthening the vegetation there. Technical is working on a large-scale hydraulic project to improve the situation on the coast near Venice - a job that will take years to complete. Chiara greatly enjoyed her work. "Since I had studied environmental sciences, I joined the team working on restoration of the ecosystem in a 50-kilometre stretch of dunes along the coast near Venice. Working as a field botanist, I had to devise measures to repair the dunes, which had been broken down in places by the sea. We also had to counter the effects of erosion by the wind. I worked out ways of strengthening the vegetation, introducing new plants, among other things. I worked there with great pleasure for 12 years. And then I gave up my job from one day to the next, because I had three children and my employer was being difficult about that. He claimed I couldn't do my job properly, because of my family responsibilities. So I quit. I was a housewife for two years after that, but that really got on my nerves: I'm not a natural housewife! Eventually I decided to become a fashion designer. I set up my own atelier, which has become very successful and gives me a lot of satisfaction."
From housewife to fashion designer: her own atelier in an old granary
|Chiara Pizzinato, owner of the Chiara Pizzinato Atelier in Treviso.|
When Chiara Pizzinato left her job as an environmental scientist to become a housewife, it took her some time to decide how she wanted to spend her time. She started off doing some sewing. "I got hold of some scraps of material, and used them to make patchwork for my children and friends. It was a bit of a hobby to begin with. But that got a bit boring after a while, always making the same sort of thing. I wanted something more creative, so I started designing my own clothes. I had never done anything like that before, I just made it up as I went along. And now, 10 years later, I have set up my own little fashion atelier in Treviso, just outside the city gates, in the granary of an old Venetian villa dating from 1830, where my father used to stack the hay. I started off with one dressmaker, and later I went into partnership with Isabelle Bandiera, who had worked for Benetton. I grew up with my whole family in this neighbourhood; my father, who was an engineer, has since died, but my mother still lives near the atelier." Chiara inherited her feeling for fashion from her family; "My mother used to be a sewer as well as a housewife. She had been trained for it, and used to give sewing lessons too, and teach other women how to make tailor-made clothing. She still does some sewing work for me from time to time. My grandmother used to make hats and fur coats. And my 21-year-old-daughter Nicole is a part-time model. She has often modelled clothing from our collection, but now she is studying modern literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. It is clear that our family has clothing and fashion in its genes, even though I have not always been aware of this. My atelier currently employs four seamstresses; the other member of our team, apart from Isabelle and myself, is Nicola Giugliato, our photographer, webmaster and communications manager."
Isabelle Bandiera: from apprentice to business partner
|Chiara Pizzinato and Isabelle Bandiera, business partners of the Chiara Pizzinato Atelier, in Treviso, Italy|
Isabelle Bandiera (47), Chiara's business partner, was born in Villorba in the province of Treviso. She worked for Benetton for 25 years. "My job was making garment prototypes," Isabelle explains. "That involved using textile samples a lot, and checking garment quality. It was interesting, demanding work, but in the long run I felt I needed a change. After a long search, I ended up with Chiara as a seamstress. Her style of work was quite different from what I had been used to at Benetton, but I learned a lot from her and managed to adapt to my new working conditions. It was a huge difference. Of course, Benetton is an enormous company. Chiara's atelier is far smaller, but the small scale suited me better. I had to learn everything: a bit of patchwork, bespoke tailoring. Benetton mainly depends on industrial production processes, while Chiara's clothes are much more often hand-made. And a lot of inlay work. These were all new techniques for me; I had to learn them all from Chiara. When I had mastered the work, we decided to join forces and become business partners. We work closely together, and Chiara has taught me a lot, especially about colour combinations, making sure we had the right size ranges and learning from observation how to deal with materials. I slowly but surely learned the details of the business in this way. When we make a new collection, we work as a teram: ideas grow as we search for attractive, high-quality fabrics. My role is to create accessories and to help Chiara to develop distinctive products by concentrating on the quality of the material and working together to add a creative touch. Chiara has fantastic powers of imagination. When she sees a piece of material, she already has a picture in her head of the dress she can make from it. And she can combine colours and materials at lightning speed."
"The great thing about our partnership is that we complement one another," adds Chiara. "We each have our own specialities; after all, there's no point in the different members of a team doing the same things. Isabelle is a colour expert: she has a very good feeling for colours. I know she gets a lot of it through working side by side with me, but it's not a thing you can learn, you have to have a talent for it. I've tried to establish a working relationship with countless seamstresses, but it was never any good. Isabelle knows exactly what she has to do."
|This stole is made of silk with inlaid Japanese fabric panels. When worn with its Obi (sash) belt, the stole can be turned into an unusual top to be teamed with a skirt or trousers.|
"A personal, emotional process."
Chiara throws light on the work style in her atelier: "Every step involved in working the fabrics and in the hand crafting is highly personalised. In fact, the clothing and fashion accessories designed hardly ever derive from a predefined design, but originate from an artisanal attention resulting in a uniquely created fabric. It is the fabric that is the real basis of the creative art of our atelier." Chiara Pizzinato Atelier brings together fabrics from distant countries - Japan, India, Indonesia – as well as those closer to home - France and Italy itself – which, with an ' emotional' vision and touch, are combined and sewn together to create a new design, a new cloth. Chiara: "The design does not determine the choice of fabric, but it is the fabric, so to speak, that transforms itself into a design of different colours and materials. The result is the fruit of a special application of the art of tailoring and, more often, the creative ability to work textile products in order to make the most of their expressive potential. The combination of materials of different colours, fibres and origine, as well as that of shiny and opaque, soft and rough, lead to the creation of the fabric to be worked out, and it is exactly this, along with each fabric’s particular history, that determines its uniqueness. In this way, from an intuitive attraction to colours and shapes, our precious clothes and fashion accessories are brought to life."
|Pure instinct||Chiara Pizzinato|
"A dress is an experience. You have to feel it."
"My philosophy is that you have to trust your instinct a bit, you have to feel the clothes you are wearing: they are not just pieces of cloth covering your body, but much more than that. A dress is an experience, you have to feel it. Our aim in my atelier is always to make dresses that give people a sense of security, self-confidence and serenity. Every customer should feel good in one of our dresses, because in fact she is part of the team making it. Of course, attractive clothing makes the wearer look better and hides defects, but the main thing is to give each individual customer the right advice. There is no point recommending a flamboyant dress to a rather reserved woman: it would only make her feel ill at ease."
The young woman shown in this picture is draped elegantly over a couch, wearing a wool-silk dress with a highly original “veil” masking her face. The veil was created by Chiara Pizzinato from scrap felt sheeting, industrial waste left after the felt pads put under chair and table legs to protect wooden floors had been punched out. Chiara puts this reject material to good use in the service of modern fashion.
This dress is made from silk velvet. The fine velvets are sourced from the Bevilacqua weaving mill in Venice which still practices ancient weaving techniques (18th century looms). The skirt design takes its inspiration from the Renaissance. The dress is ideal for both day wear and evening events.
We make bespoke clothing, but that's only a small part of our work. We travel a lot, taking our collection to trade fairs and customers, especially in France and Germany. Isabelle and I take the whole collection in the car, and show the various pieces at each destination. Since we are dealing in a niche product, there is no point going to the big trade fairs that focus on the mass market, so I worked out a strategy for visting smaller trade fairs, specialising in artistic, hand-made clothing. We go to France four times a year. We don't visit big wholesale companies either, just private customers. One of the small trade fairs on our route is Resonance in Strasbourg, and another is Eunique in Karlsruhe. Customers who know us come there too and order our clothes, which we then send to them from Italy. The trade fairs we visit may be small, but they are all high-quality. We also go to trade fairs in Italy. We might go to a big trade fair in Paris next year, but it costs quite a lot to show one's wares at such big events.
Working with a special Bernina sewing machine
|The embroidery on the back of this dress was made with the aid of a Bernina sewing machine, presented to Chiara Pizzinato by the makers.|
"We were involved in an important demonstration project in collaboration with Bernina, the renowned Swiss sewing machine manufacturers based in Zürich whose products are very popular in the United States and Europe. Bernina produces a range of innovative sewing machines, which can create the most fantastic effects in sewing, quilting and embroidery. They set up a number of projects to show what their machines are capable of, and they gave us one of their advanced machines which we used to make 8 beautiful embroidered dresses (see example in the photo at the right). It's a very sophisticated sewing machine with smart software control that allows it to perform a wide range of functions. They sent two technicians to explain how everything works, and when we had made the 8 dresses they displayed them all over the world. It was a challenge to operate these state-of-the-art sewing machines, but once we had mastered the technique we enjoyed using them and we were very pleased with the results."
"As a former botanist, I derive great inspiration from nature in my design work."
The Chiara Pizzinato Atelier focuses mainly on women's fashion, making sashes, jackets, blouses, dresses, skirts, bridal wear, coats, pyjamas, trousers and shirts, and a striking range of accessories. The only article of menswear the atelier makes is scarves. Chiara speaks passionately of the way a love of nature shapes her fashion work. "Nature is my great source of inspiration: that comes from the many years I spend working as a botanist. Just being in the mountains, or by the sea, recharges my batteries and gives me new ideas. I read a lot too: books full of pictures of landscapes, and books showing the dresses women wore in past times. And we often use natural elements - twigs, leaves, roots or the like - to adorn our creations, inserting them in the cleavage of a dress or winding them round the legs of a model to bridge the gap between women's fashion and living nature."
|This cotton dress is printed in traditional Japanese kimono designs. The model is wearing an Indian silk stole with inlays of mixed Japanese fabrics on top of the dress.|