In 1989 a great light went off. Jole Veneziani. She was like water, always finding a way out, seeping through cracks in the wall, shaping harsh rocks into velvet. Like a metamorphosis. Water solidifies, liquefies, evaporates, and flows seamlessly; glaciers into oceans, oceans into rivers, rivers into clouds, clouds into rain. Just like water circle there was no stopping Jole Veneziani not even the cold hands of world war.
“I was a mad woman who opened a workshop in Via Narone while the bombs were falling…I had inspiration, fancies, the will to do something. Was I to put it all off until after? I am obstinate; I never wait until after!” -Jole Veneziani.
Jole Veneziani was born Taranto , July 11, 1901,she was one of the founders of ‘Italian High Fashion, having participated, among the few chosen by Giovanni Battista Giorgini, the first fashion show at Villa Torrigiani in Florence, in 1951.She was on the driver’s seat of Italian Fashion in the fifties and sixties. Her professional contribution to Italian fashion exemplifies entrepreneurship and great drive.
Veneziani first started designing dresses keeping fur firmly in mind, this meant that she focused a lot on colours and surfaces, favouring skirt suits and evening gowns, and designing iconic outerwear pieces that often featured delicate fur inserts.Veneziani was dubbed by Italian journalist Maria Pezzi “zampa di velluto” (velvet paw) for her knowledge of furs, animal skins, fabrics and materials.A tweed connoisseur, she became known for dramatically reducing the weight of cumbersome luxurious furs.
For many years Veneziani’s luxury atelier in via Montenapoleone was hip meeting point for Milan’s high society, thanks to her famous clients and actresses, among them Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Maria Callas, Elsa Martinelli, Lucia Bosè, Wally Toscanini, Anna Proclemer, Giovanna Ralli, Paola Pitagora, Anna Bonomi Bolchini, Ljuba Rizzoli, Emanuela Castelbarco, Sandra Milo, Franca Rame and Ornella Vanoni.
She later expanded into launching a perfume, a millinery workshop, a knitwear and pret-a-porter line. Her authority in design and creativity expanded to the auto industry, one of her milestone was her collaboration with Alfa Romeo.
The designer worked consultant for Alfa Romeo, creating interior designs in bright and vivid colours, and was asked to decorate La Scala with flowers, a prestigious commission.
“If I were major of Milan … this might be because of my profession, but I will get right away to the transportation, to me they have always been sad and ugly. With Haute Couture colors I would change the resemblance of the trams, buses, making them a bit more fun. Then I would light up the city. I would make it possible for the Milanese to see each other at night, and maybe smile at each other.” -Jole Veneziani
Veneziani considered high fashion as the final expression of technical perfection, an art that consisted in researching proportions, materials, textiles, fibres and prints. There is no doubt she, Veneziani was an Icon, the foundation of the true value of the made in Italy brand.
Veneziano’s rebellious altitude towards fashion inspires and made me fall in love with her. She stated “I’ve always been stubborn and I’ve always thought with my mind. I never cared about fashion. When a client of mine would arrive asking ‘what’s fashionable at the moment?’ I would angrily reply: ‘You shouldn’t care about what’s fashionable. You must just try and wear a dress that fits your personality.’ Fashion is indeed something personal; I’ve always refused to consider it as a categorical imperative and an implacable tyrant.”
But where is the brand right nowadays. Federico Bano has been her closest assistant, and is the heir to her archive. He’s the President and CEO of Veneziani Luxury Handbags.
Spynewsmagazine: It is such a great joy with some sort of pride to be in a conversation about your brand,whose owner (founder) is responsible for building a foundation of the Italian Fashion industry.How does that make you feel?
Federico Bano: I am very proud to be part of this important heritage and at the same time I feel the responsibility of passing down Jole Veneziani’s values through a collection of bags which must first of all respect her lesson of style, irony, luxury and high quality.
Spynewsmagazine: What can you tell us about Jole Veneziani,the founder?
Federico Bano: Jole was a woman of great character and a pioneer in many ways. She arrived in Milan from the South of Italy at the age of six and she discovered her talent for fashion during the 30s. She opened a fur atelier in 1937 and she moved to Via Montenapoleone 8 in 1944, whileMilan was still being bombed.
She started her atelier of Haute Couture in a spirit of hope and enthusiasm. Jole was among the few designers selected to take part in the first Italian Haute Couture show in Florence and she was named among the 13 “Apostoles” of the Made in Italy together with Emilio Pucci and the Fontana sisters. During the 50s and 60s her success grew rapidly and her atelier was frequented by the most sophisticated ladies of the times, including actresses and international stars such as Maria Callas, Josephine Baker and Lucia Bosé. Jole Veneziani was one of the first designers to be successful in the United States and to be on the cover of the prestigious Life Magazine. During the Seventies, she gradually retired, continuing to work only for her most affectionate clients.
Spynewsmagazine: The story of Jole Veneziani and her accomplishments is one that needs to be told,one that every Italian needs to be proud of telling.How are you telling her story?
Federico Bano: We are telling her story and keeping her heritage alive in two different but deeply connected ways: through the Veneziani archive in Padua, where many of her creations, sketches and memorabilia are carefully preserved, and through a collection of luxury handbangs which is inspired by her work and her unique ability to create an idea of “modern luxury”.
Spynewsmagazine: Tell us about your latest collection?
Federico Bano: Our Spring/Summer 2016 Collection is made for a cosmopolitan and independent woman, with a touch of Jole Veneziani’s glamour and irony. The whole collection is based on the strong colours which Jole loved so much: deep pink, manganese violet and lime, along with the more classic black, nude and Veneziani green. The preciousness of the workmanship, which is a distinctive feature of the Veneziani handbags, is represented in this collection by the floral embroideries and the use of exotic skins such as python.
Spynewsmagazine: Where can the collection be shopped? Can we get it online?
Federico Bano: At the moment, our collection is sold by about 30 retailers in five continents, from small luxury boutiques to important department stores such as Cascella in Porto Cervo, Les Suites in Paris, Herwarth’s in Dusseldorf, Takashimaya in Tokyo, Glamour in Doha and Wynn in Las Vegas…. We don’t have an e-shop yet, but it’s one of our next steps.
Spynewsmagazine: What is next for the brand?
Federico Bano: Our main objective is to open a flagship store, starting from Milan. On an international level, we would like to strengthen our presence in the most important department stores in America, Asia and in the “new markets”. In the near future, we are also thinking of exploring other product categories.
Interview, photo by Anderson Azugbene