In a small street in the "centro storico" of Trani, Puglia is an elegant shop with an intriguing array of handcrafted clothes and bags. Made to perfection by stylist Marianna dell’Aquila using cashmere, silk, linen and cotton, Tamzin Hardy donned her best outfit and met Marianna in her shop to discover exactly how the stylist produces such appealing designs whilst juggling a busy family life.
The elegance of Marianna’s welcoming shop is apparent. It’s almost like entering a cavern with its small tiles on the floor that exude a stream of colours. In the centre of the shop is a table adorned with fabrics, and by the table stands a little fake dog wearing one of Marianna’s cashmere jumpers that she makes especially for pets, which has gold sequins down its middle. At the back of the shop is a comfortable chaise longue where I’m invited to sit and take in the surroundings. Marianna’s handmade designs decorate both walls; there’s anything from cardigans to bags to shawls with either silk trimmings or flowers, all ideas that Marianna herself thinks up.
Having always had a passion for clothes, Marianna declares that she’s a “fashion victim.” She began her career studying at the European Fashion School in Milan after winning a scholarship. It was here that she proudly says that she met designers such as Versace and Armani who dedicated time giving advice to the students. However, it was during her teenage years that her passion really took flight. As a school girl in Barletta, Marianna spent her free time watching her mother produce knitwear for the family shop. “I’m very creative so it was only a matter of time before I followed in my mother’s footsteps”, Marianna explains, “Although my mother never really had much time to teach me, I taught myself simply by copying her”.
Marianna laughs when talking about her first designs. “They were multicoloured pullovers with no stitching”. Once finishing her designs in a mere couple of weeks, now she doesn’t so much design as “translate” her ideas with the help of a small team of ladies who work alongside her to actually produce the items. “I’m not one to sit down and draw”, She explains, “I prefer to imagine something and then explain it to my team who manage to make it to perfection”.
Not only does Marianna enjoy coming up with ideas for clothing, she also produces a line of household items. In fact I can’t help but notice the lamp with a black and white cashmere lampshade on the floor to my left. “Cashmere is such a wonderful material to work with”, she says, “and using it means I can create a high quality product”. Buying the material twice a year from the Pitti Exhibition in Florence, Marianna is happy to declare that she’s a perfectionist which is why her clients, who come to her when they want something luxurious made, are always very happy with her method of working. “They explain what they want and I give them ideas and suggestions. The whole process usually takes a week from start to finish. It might take a little longer however if they want a particular colour that I don’t have in my storeroom”.
When asking Marianna how she manages to balance a busy working life with home life, she simply smiles. “It’s very difficult but somehow I manage to organise everything! I have three children from the ages of two to eleven so I’m always rushing around between the shop and my children’s commitments. It’s tiring but nevertheless I enjoy what I do and although I’ll never solve everyone’s problems, I basically just want to create a little fashion world”.
Before leaving the cashmere cavern of Marianna’s shop, I can’t resist touching some of her products and realise how her attention to detail is paramount to her success in this field, and who knows, perhaps one day I might also have to ask her create something for me.