Inspired by the simplicity of natural textures, collage, travels and exploration… Giu Giu is a knitwear-focused label conveying the playful humor and offbeat freedom that life should embody despite one’s age or gender… A balance of being unfiltered and honest, yet sensitive… Giuliana Leila Raggiani only started designing her label Giu Giu in 2012, but her signature piece was created back in 1967. Giuliana’s effortless rib-knit “Nonna Turtleneck” is a homage to a coveted design originally masterminded by her Sicilian grandmother, Palmira Giglia, the owner of Settebello boutique in Boston. While nostalgic, is hardly stuck in the past. We chat with Giuliana Leila Raggiani about her timeless fashion sense.
What’s your earliest memory in fashion?
Being about 5 and whirling through Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, hand-in-hand with Nonna (my grandmother), her Ferragamo heels clicking against the shiny floors. Always in a rush, on the hunt for something, but simultaneously teaching me all the masters of fashion touching all the fabrics,inspecting the stitching. Smelling the rich fragrances. All senses feeling alive.
Explaining to a person who doesn’t know what you do with 3 words you would use to describe your vision on designing?Spreading good Giu Giu.
How did your story begin with your brand ”Giu Giu”?
After studying dance my whole life, things took an unexpected turn. I ended up in fashion school at Parsons School of Design in NYC, and after learning knitwear at Central Saint Martins
in London, I returned to the states to finish my thesis. The “Giu Giu” seed was definitely planted then a desire to create a genderless & ageless collection but it came into full fruition after a solid foundation working with other big labels in fashion. I was exposed to so much knowledge, but most importantly I learned what I wanted to change about this industry. In 2013, in a super unplanned way, I decided to launch a little universe of my own.
From your website to you IG feed from that to your design;
we can understand the DNA of your brand. You present it with a whole package. Can you tell the image that describes the vision of the brand?
I wish it was easy to describe, but Giu Giu is more of a feeling than an image. A certain sensitivity.Strength in softness. A quiet confidence. A deep nostalgia.
What kind of experience was it, living in the US and being Italian?
To be honest, I had a difficult time embracing it when I was younger, since I went to a pretty ‘normal’ American school. Kids would make fun of things like my ‘weird’ (non-American) name, and showing up to lunch with carciofi ripieni alla siciliana leftovers, instead of the typical peanut-butter & jelly sandwich. Once I started to mature and my career as a designer evolved, I really began to appreciate the cultural influence on my aesthetic, and my family lineage in the fashion industry. To this day, giu giu would not have been possible without the blessing of my Nonna, and the Vaccaro turtleneck label she started in the 60s with her brother (my Godfather) Gino, when they immigrated to Boston from Italy.
Do you have a uniform you tend to wear daily?
My beloved NONNA Pants. Comfort is rule #1 ! When you’re not comfy it’s difficult to stay centered.
How does your approach changed for fashion since now that you have a successful brand and there is so much interest for it?
My approach has stayed the same since day one to create beautiful clothing that helps heal people through the senses. Yes, quality, construction, & attention to detail are all so important to me, but overall, the exploration of the unseen is everything. Sense can take you back in time, whether it’s a smell, a sound, a texture against your skin. I’m fascinated by the body, the mind and memory, so I try to explore this idea of nostalgia when I create. I love asking people about their favorite outfit as a child. Hearing them talking about it with joy, falling back in love with the way it felt on their body. That’s the feeling I try to replicate in my designs. It brings a certain familiarity. It makes you feel safe.
Can explain your creative process when you start designing a collection. What is usually the starting point?
Traveling is what makes me feel most alive, so my inspirations usually stem from a trip. Expanding my environment gives me a fresh perspective. I love combining color and texture to evoke the unique energy of each city I visit.
Simplicity is divinity. Color evokes emotion, one of the most powerful tools we have in this world ”
What are your aspirations for your brand?
For giu giu to be a platform for more love in the world.
Minimalism is a key element of yours, as well as colors and textures, why is these features important in your design process?
Simplicity is divinity. Color evokes emotion one of the most powerful tools we have in this world.
Sustainability is a huge topic in the industry now. Why do you think it is particularly important to apply this to the fashion industry?
Overconsumption, overproduction, and excess has become an epidemic in fashion in so many ways it’s considered waste. Energy management is so key in the topic of sustainability. In the perspective of production, it’s why I choose to focus on knitwear a zero-waste technique, creating fully-fashioned garments that will last lifetimes.As consumers, what we choose to wear can also preserve our energy, by being mindful of the hands that have created the clothing we wear. Our bodies are so precious. Wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to cover yours with care?
What’s next for you?
We’re launching our first capsule collection “GIU GIU Sport”
for Pre-SS20 / Mens this June, showcasing in Paris. It focuses deeper on the movement aspect of the brand, in a more functional and athletic way, through new technical fibers & silhouettes. Also, the history of the Nonna Turtleneck is still unfolding, and we’re developing volume 2 of the NONNA Book (volume 1 launched in 2018), expected to release this year. I’d love to eventually open our first giu giu shop, maybe in Japan where I feel so connected it would be a dream to create a fresh retail experience and really make our world come to life in 3D.