Interview with Giancarlo Petriglia. The game of luxury made in Italy.
On the left, Giancarlo Petriglia in his Milanese atelier.

When considering the idea of Made in Italy you think of Excellence, centuries of tradition and a guarantee of the highest quality. There's no fooling around with Made in Italy, but you can play with it, and designer Giancarlo Petriglia proves it with his handbags, an emotional interpretation of a typically functional object that combines Italian craftsmanship with innovative use of materials and luxurious construction. After meeting at The Small – his restaurant but most of all a wunderkammer of the senses that shines like a beacon in the Milanese grayness – we once again sit down with Giancarlo as he welcomes us to his studio to discover fantastic inspirations that will surprise you with a touch of theatrical magic. 

What school prepared you for the world of fashion? 
My mother's fashion atelier. That's where I picked up the technical basics I use to this day. It might seem crazy but I learnt how to use a treadle sewing machine before I learnt how to ride a bike. 

Which of your experiences in the world of fashion stand out?
Shortly after graduating from NABA, I started working at Trussardi where I rose the ranks from assistant womenswear designer up to art director of the fashion house. With this company, based in Almè, near the city of Bergamo, where creative and manufacturing activities coexisted on the same floor, I learned how the fashion system works. We were in direct contact with the prototype office, the craftsmen and their know-how. This is also where I got acquainted with the world of leather, tanning techniques and the tools and effects applied to clothing, accessories and footwear for men and women. 

You debuted your brand of handbags and accessories in 2011. How does one launch a project such as yours?
In general you need a considerable amount of energy and ideas, a substantial budget, steel will, spirit of sacrifice and a lot, a lot of organization. First and foremost you need a strong idea to present and communicate, through a press office, internal or external. Secondly you need a dependable structure that can manufacture it and guarantee continuity and the quality of the product. You then need to participate in specialized fairs, sell your collection with the help of showrooms and through distributors. Production and delivery have to be impeccable.

What are the biggest obstacles?
Initially the largest obstacle is the minimum you need to manufacture. By "minimum" I mean the smallest amount of pieces (between 50 and 100) you have to produce to be able to sell them at a sustainable price. The risk is extremely high because you have no idea how they will sell when you are buying the materials to make them. You need to have the economic security that allows you to sustain the initial costs, you have to believe in your idea and invest in yourself. In my case working with leather and accessories meant investing in machinery to assemble to metal parts and in materials I could customize. So starting with accessories instead of a clothing line is no coincidence... With accessories initial investments are lower and the market's response times are more immediate, allowing you to reduce the risk. In the future though, I have in mind to launch a clothing line, which is certainly more demanding and expensive. 

A year after the launch of your brand you won the Who Is On Next competition in the accessories category. Did it help you?
Very much, especially with regards to directly meeting industry insiders, buyers, journalists and groups in the Fashion System. Could you explain the particular symbolism of your logo?It's two mirrored griffins with a lock in the middle. The griffin is a mythological creature that represents strength on land and in the air: it was the animal that pulled Apollo's chariot, a guardian of sun and gold. It's a strong symbol to guarantee a product and the excellence of my made in Italy. 

Where are your leather accessories made?
My pieces are of the highest craftsmanship, made entirely by hand by a leather goods manufacturer in Palermo. The handbags are produced the same way they were 60 years ago, but with exclusively eco-friendly glues, solvents and reinforcements. The cost increases but it's an enormous plus for the product. 

What was the concept of your latest collection?
It was dedicated to two great women of International fashion: Anna Piaggi and Diana Vreeland, similar in attitude and pure creativity, but very different in how they expressed it. Anna Piaggi was colorful and surreal, while Diana Vreeland was sophisticated and glamorous, she was the first fashion stylist. So a part of the collection is playful and intellectual, with various transformations of materials and colors. and another is glam for the evening with embroidery, sequins, pvc, gradients and golden plexiglass. 

As a whole, you apparently seem to overturn the concept of traditional leatherwear, a sign that characterizes all your collections. Can you explain how you achieve this?
My bags can transform thanks to their precise construction, so that they adapt to the user. In some models, for example, you can detach the external pouch so that it becomes a clutch, in some shopping bags there's a removable pocket that can be used as a handbag, or, when playing around with the handles, into a hobo bag. They're playful, transversal with respect to traditional contexts and uses. You never get tired of using them. 

What always emerges from your collections? 
The game of luxury.

What were the biggest challenges of the job?
Founder Marco Palmieri wanted the brand to get closer to the world of fashion and to everyday use. The challenge was to reinforce its combined qualities of practical and creative. 

You need a concept for a new collection, but the idea eludes you. What might be the problem?
I haven't approached the project with the necessary lightness, which is fundamental in the initial stages. It should be like a game, like going into your granny's attic and discovering a marvelous and unexpected world. Or like entering The Small, an atypical Milanese bistro you opened...The Small hosts the parts of my world that are not fashion: food, music, design, art, perfumes and objects. It all mixes and sparks fly. It's my way of playing, recharging and doing something different. When you come in you don't really know what it is: it's the antithesis of marketing that somehow works. Four times a year The Small turns into a showroom where I present my collections. 

What advice would you give to those moving their first steps in the world of fashion?
It takes determination, humility and curiosity. Fashion is culture, a highly complex system with a rich history. It is not the ephemeral. It takes ideas, because in fashion there are many professional figures and that of the designer is one of the most important. You have to remain humble, always challenge yourself, conscious that each time it's as if it were the first. It happens to me with every collection, even if the stylistic form is confirmed there's always a subtle evolution, because I'm learning something everyday. 

What's your idea of elegance?
The right measurements, in everything you do. 



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