In my previous post I argued about AltaRoma and its role as Italy’s fashion hub for emerging talents. Now let me tell you a little bit of what happened to me as I entered two of the best Roman haute couture ateliers, Gattinoni and Renato Balestra.
These two maisons have a long story: the first one was founded in 1946 by Fernanda Gattinoni and now is lead by the Artistic Director Guillermo Mariotto. The other was launched in 1958 by the designer who still runs the company today that he is 93 years old. Both Gattinoni and Balestra dressed some of the most important ladies of their times like Evita Peron, Anna Magnani, Audrey Hepburn, Farah Diba or the Queen Mother of Thailand, Sirikit. Times have changed though and, even if their business is still doing well especially in the Middle East, Roman ateliers these days do not have the same allure as Paris ones.
I bet it’s hard to see the focus shifting from those incredibly hand-crafted looks to experimental contemporary pret-à-porter. AltaRoma transition has surely been painful for them and I sometimes wondered about what pushed them forwards.
Renato Balestra meets the press the day of his show early in the morning. There is some kind of ritual happening then at his beautiful atelier, where some journalists act like pupils trying to attract the teacher’s attention and praise. He listens to all of them, then usually says something sharp and witty and “the classroom” gets quiet for a while. Balestra’s designs are reassuringly chic and bourgeois, still he is one of the first who understood the reason why AltaRoma should chance and openly supported it. I look at the way he checks even the smallest detail of each outfit (like the ones below), I see that gleam in his eyes and I can do nothing but admire his complete devotion to fashion.
The day of the Gattinoni show I had to go back to Milano, so I asked them if I could have a sneak peek of the collection in their head-quarter. There was excitement in the air, Mariotto was talking to the press about his inspiration for the S/S 2018 season, while the Head of Pr was taking me through a corridor where all the looks were carefully lined up and ready to be moved to the venue. Each time I can see the clothes so close I clearly perceive the the vital force running through them. It comes from the hands of the premières, the seamstresses working on them with all their passion and skills. I visited a few incredible ateliers before, I’ll never forget the day I entered Chanel one in Rue Cambon in Paris while the snow was calmly coming down, so I was quite prepared when I asked the guy to take me to Gattinoni’s premières. We entered the room you can see in the pictures above and there they were silently working on the last retouches. The respect they were showing to the garments and their complete focus on them overwhelmed me and I started to cry (Please note, I was not on PMS and I am currently living one of the happiest periods of my life).
I owe a lot to fashion, it gave me a job I love and many incredible opportunities to travel and to meet some very remarkable human beings. Most of all, I guess it taught me that there is a lot of dignity and perseverance and courage in each collection. To stand up and say: “This is how you should dress next year” requests guts and vision. And even if you don’t like the result, you should always remember how much hard work there’s behind it. Those women will never be famous, no one will know it’s them who cut, stitched, pleated, embroidered those dresses. But they do it and they do it at their very best. They’re my heroes and fashion is still my home when I think of them.