The marriage of technology and fashion continues to evolve as the next gen of informed high-tech life and style-focused creatives explore the zeitgeist. An emerging new force blazing their own trail in this growing arena is Italian luxury accessories brand Gianoi – the brainchild of design duo, Enrico and Raffaele Caroli. Their aesthetically alluring and innovative range of handbags – all handmade in Italy – combine traditional craftsmanship with innovative and fashionably forward-thinking design – technology exists secretly within the product. With a brand DNA rooted in their rich Italian heritage, both their name and trademark logo have been inspired by Janus, the ancient Roman God of transitions, referenced in history with two faces – looking to the past and the future. Gianoi embodies this iconic mythos, fusing a timeless heritage with a modern vision.
“Everything started about three years ago, although my brother and I were living in opposite continents at the time, we started to notice the same social behaviors developing around us, people becoming more and more dependent on carrying and using technology for social interactions and work. We were working in different industries at the time, but we realized that while both the fashion and technology industries are driven by innovation, the innovation they bring to market is limited to their field. We set-out to combine the emotion and beauty of fashion with the functionality and convenience of technology in a new, unfamiliar way. Our objective was to create a better way to interact with technology, a more balanced way: a way that is not intrusive to our social interactions but also never leaves us totally disconnected.
This is how the Gianoi brand was born, from the desire to create an innovative luxury brand that blends fashion and technology together. The inspiration and name of the brand comes from Janus, the ancient Roman God of the Past and the Future, always depicted with two faces, one looking backwards, one forwards”
I think women will be thankful to you but still, who is your final customer? Who is the woman who wears your bag?
Our final customers are women that are always on the move: stylish business women or busy fashionistas that always need to be connected for work or pleasure. At the same time they want to choose when to disconnect and be in control of their technology, not be controlled by it. Our range of handbags allows them to filter just the notifications that are important to them, cutting out the digital noise when needed. At the same time it also allows them to be always connected, by eliminating the issue of running out of battery.
Tell us a little bit of a story underneath your bag creation!
Being a designer I am naturally influenced by what surrounds me and the fact I grew up in Italy has played a key part throughout my career. The Italian ancient architectural beauty and surroundings have been a great inspiration during the Nadia collection creation. This had to flawlessly blend with the innovative concept we were bringing to life. I went through different design’s stages to create a classic but contemporary handbag that would become a timeless accessory desired by any woman. Paying attention to the finest details is an intrinsic part of our signature aesthetic and this is why we use only highly skilled Italian artisans to create our unique pieces.
How can you possibly marry such opposite things as modern technology and old school aesthetics?
This has been the most challenging and exciting part. Marrying two opposite worlds like fashion and technology takes time and perseverance. Technology companies are very focused on developing functional products and they rarely think about aesthetics, while fashion brands do the opposite. The creative and manufacturing processes are also very different: technology is a hard and measurable science driven by our experienced engineers, while fashion creation is emotive and passionate, it is an art driven by the life-long skills of our artisans.
We have dedicated over two years in research and development marrying these two contrasting worlds, bringing the art, beauty and passion of high-end fashion together with the functionality and convenience of technology. We have focused our efforts to make the technology functional but also invisible, creating products that women want to wear and look good with, rather than wearing an item that just serves a technology purpose.
Are you not afraid that time plays against you? That this is not a perfect time to start a new luxury goods venture when all the buyers have cut their budgets and the markets are not stable?
We strongly believe this is the perfect time to launch a new exciting brand like Gianoi. We know the economy has slowed down in Europe in the last few years and buyers have less money to spend, but being able to offer something unique sets us apart from everyone else. Due to the economic slowdown, brands tend to play it safe because they are worried about the response of the market. Instead we strongly believe you have to be brave and propose something different to stand out in a saturated market that lacks innovation.
The fashion industry will change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100, and technology will play a big part in that. In the same way iPods changed the way we think about music and consume music in the last 10 years, the way we think about fashion and interact with fashion items will change dramatically. Gianoi is ushering-in this innovative transition and like Janus is looking both at the past but also at the future at the same time.
Why actually, a bag? I know you have been drawing for Gautier e McQueen. Why the leather accessory instead of a perfect outfit?
I have always been very fascinated by anything that is handmade, and the process of craftsmanship behind it. The clothing industry has changed dramatically in recent years and unfortunately it is very hard to create those unique pieces unless you work for a very high-end/haute-couture brand. I decided to challenge myself and started working with accessories about 6 years ago. Since then I fell in love with the Italian passion and skill that goes into creating a handbag, and also realized that accessories can become the essence of the perfect outfit.
Do you think family business still works? How do you find a balance with your brother?
We grew up in a family business, our parents had their own fashion company in Italy in the 80s and the 90s. My brother and I grew-up between fabrics and sewing machines, leathers and yarns and worked in our parents company during school holidays from a very young age.
Our father started training as a master leather maker in 1963 at the age of 13, and at the age of 21 he had mastered the skill well enough to make a beautiful handmade handbag as a first gift to our mother, Nadia. Our signature Nadia collection takes the name from that moment in our parent’s life.
Certainly building a business with a close family member is never easy, it takes a lot of patience and goodwill, but if you find a way to make it successful I think it is more satisfying in the long run. I find the balance with my business partner and brother very easily. Our skills complement each other and we drive different areas of the business at Gianoi. We would have never been able to create this company without the opportunity to combine each other’s expertise in the fashion and technology industries.
Would you please explain how your bag works? Is it complicated to master your handy technology?
No, not at all, it is very easy. We focused a lot during research and development to make the experience as easy and elegant as possible.
For example, the first functionality of the handbag is to charge your phone while you are on the move: there is a standard USB plug inside the handbag pocket. You can plug your phone charging cable like you do when you are at home, but it is always with you, ready when you need it!
The bag also connects wirelessly to your iPhone. This is to notify you of calls, messages or social updates when your iPhone is tucked away inside your bag. The bag notifies you by gently pulsating the light on the logo when you receive a new notification. You can choose what notifications you want to receive on your bag, and choose the light colour for different types of notifications like Phone calls, Whats App, Instagram, etc.
You can also choose to switch-off some notifications that are not relevant for you at that moment: in this way the handbag becomes a filter between you and all the notifications you receive on your iPhone, alerting you only of the important ones. You can simply download our App to personalize to your liking how the bag works.
During research and development we also realized we had to invent new ways to interact with technology that did not exist before, because this technology has never been embedded in a handbag before.
For example, there are no buttons or touchscreens on a handbag! If you want to check the charge level of your bag, we devised an elegant solution where you can interact directly with the bag itself, by tapping the logo: a light lights-up and indicates the charge level in different colours.
Also, we realized that in a beautiful handbag you can’t really have a hole with a cable coming out to connect your handbag to the wall to charge it! To make this simple and seamless we devised a new solution: we created a small wireless charging plate, you can simply place your bag on it when you get home and it fully charges itself overnight, ready to go the next day.
The bag will soon also have another feature that we believe will be very useful based on what women have asked us to implement, but we can not tell you yet… it is still a secret being patented!
What would you advise to a new designer?
Never loose sight of your passion, this is what makes you wake up in the morning. It is a very competitive industry, there is a lot of talent out there, but if you can stay motivated you will make it. You need to be driven to get what you want. Never loose the will and focus to keep chasing your dream.
Photo credit: Olesya Okuneva