If you have been following this blog for a while you will remember previous posts about this fashion label, from visits to Giuliana's atelier in Venice to comparisons with modern fashion designs, necklaces inspired by her iconic trompe l'oeil prints and Roberta di Camerino vintage bags borrowed from family members.
Years before Giovanni Battista “Bista” Giorgini, “the father of Italian fashion”, invited the national and international press and buyers to a first legendary catwalk show in 1951, there were already a few Italian fashion designers who had become rather popular abroad thanks to their innovative designs.
One of them was Giuliana Coen Camerino founder of the successful Roberta di Camerino fashion house.
Born in Venice from a wealthy family, Giuliana spent a happy childhood in her hometown.
Her passion for fashion started with masked balls and, as a teenager, she favoured for the more important occasions such as parties and formal balls, designs bought in Paris from Christian Dior or Coco Chanel.
To escape the Fascist race laws Giuliana fled with her husband to Switzerland.
One day while having a walk around Lugano a woman stopped her and asked her if she could buy the bag she was carrying.
It was a bucket-shaped leather bag, one of the last things Giuliana had bought in Venice before leaving.
The woman bought the bag and Giuliana made a new one for her, using scraps of materials, leather and brass elements.
One day, while boarding a train, the police stopped and arrested her for smuggling accessories to Switzerland.
Apparently the woman who had bought the bag had seen her in the street carrying an identical bag to the one she had just bought and, assuming she smuggled bags into Switzerland, she reported her to the police.
The accident turned Giuliana into a sort of minor celebrity: leather goods designer Greco asked her to create new designs for him in exchange for tips on how to make bags; fashion designer Elsa Barberis offered her a job as a designer and model and even a chocolate factory asked her to come up with a new package for its sweets.
Giuliana even created a rather large leather bag for a high society lady called Cicci Leoni, who often travelled to Italy carrying in the false bottom of this very special bag documents from the US High Command to the Italian partisans.
After WWII, Giuliana returned to Venice and here she focused on developing her designs.
The time had come to change the role of a handbag and transform the latter into something special and unique.
Giuliana realised a bag didn't have to necessarily match a dress or a pair of shoes, it could even clash with them, turning in this way into the most important element of an outfit.
So Giuliana came up with a name for her fashion house - combining the title of William A. Seiter's 1935 film and her husband's surname (that is also the name of an Italian town) - and started creating designs produced
following the highest craftsmanship standards.
Venice-based brass artisans helped the designer forging the studs and locks for her bags and Venetian upholstery master and weaver Bevilacqua created a type of velvet (technically called in Italian “velluto soprarizzo”) woven on ancient looms and in the darkness to preserve the uniqueness and preciousness of this fabric.
The first bags were sold in a Venice-based leather accessory shop, Vogini, but, after appearing in seminal fashion magazines such as Bellezza, reviewed by its fashionable editor Elsa Robiola, Giuliana’s fame quickly spread to other cities and countries.
While in France even Coco Chanel showed great enthusiasm for the Italian designer's creations, in the early 50s Roberta di Camerino was already considered an established brand in America where it sold more scarves and bags than Hermès in department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
For many women - Grace Kelly included - a Roberta di Camerino bag was a status symbol: in 1952 American journalist Elsa Maxwell and Italian actress Eleonora Rossi Drago were spotted in Venice carrying a red and green velvet trunk-shaped “Bagonghi” bag, while Paola, Queen of Belgium, opted for its beige and black version.
“La dogaressa”, as Giuliana was dubbed in homage to her Venetian origins, received the Neiman Marcus Award in 1956, together with Cecil Beaton and Marie Louise Bousquet (Irene Brin and Diane Vreeland were in the audience!).
As the years passed, the brand diversified its production starting a clothing line characterised by three key points, high quality, simplicity and lightness.
Bold colours and simple and geometric lines with ironic trompe-l'oeil prints (developed with the help of gallery owner and textile print designer Romeo Toninelli) of buttons, shirt cuffs and pockets became Roberta di Camerino’s signature designs. Giuliana often conceived her dresses and tops as "illustrated" garments.
The label went through some ups and downs in more recent years and was re-launched in 2000.
In 2008 the Sixty Group bought the Roberta di Camerino brand revamping and re-launching it.
In the meantime the sale of vintage Roberta di Camerino creations continued in Giuliana’s atelier based in Palazzo Loredan Grifalconi in the Cannaregio area of Venice.
The atelier was conceived as a sort of art gallery where visitors could see the awards the designer received and admire original drawings and prototypes of Giuliana’s original designs like the iconic “Sbiego” (Sideways), “Gallo Frecciato” (Arrowed Cockerel) and “Turbine” (Vortex) prints, and discover the secrets behind the velvets and textiles used for her bags.Giuliana Coen’s funerals took place today at the synagogue of the Jewish ghetto in her beloved Venice. She will be buried in the Jewish cemetery on Venice’s Lido.
Giuliana Coen, fashion designer and Roberta di Camerino founder; born in 1920; died 11 May 2010. Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos Add to Technorati Favorites Lijit Search