Well, I was born in Los Angeles. My father is from Rome and my mother from Barcelona, and around 10 years old I returned to Rome where I lived until I was 25. At 25, after I graduated from university, I returned to Los Angeles. So I’ve only been here for 5 years now.
So you only spent your early childhood here?
Yes, only my early childhood, but the most important years in Italy.
And now you’re…?
30, well I still am 29. I’ve started saying 30 already so that later I don’t get upset.
Why Rome – because your father is Roman?
Because my father is from Rome and so…
What was it like growing up in Rome?
I went from private Catholic schools in Beverly Hills- Good Shepherd- to Virgilietto, a public middle school in Rome where everyone wrote graffiti on the walls. In other words, it was a bit of a cultural clash. Right away I lived a little bit of Roman street life in comparison to a much more protected life in Los Angeles
What do you mean by Roman street life? How was it?
Well, you know what Rome is like. At 11 you’re already smoking cigarettes, playing spin the bottle but in a way that is much more aggressive than in Los Angeles
In Rome it’s two hands and three bottles. You know, we like it, its a good game.
But I didn’t speak Italian very well at that point and I had a really strong American accent. At 14 I went to high school and by then I was already Roman. Then my dad said, “I’m going to live in Los Angeles. Do you want to stay with mom in Rome or with me in Los Angeles?” – this was because they separated – and I said “well obviously I want to stay in Rome.”
And what are your mom and dad called?
My dad is Dario and my mom is Beatrice
Ah, so they’re both Italian…
He’s Italian, but the truth is that she’s named Beatriz, which is Spanish.
And why did they come to Los Angeles? I mean one day my daughter asked me, “why are you here and not in Italy?”
Well, because dad always had this dream of the West. In Rome in the 60s he had a Lamborghini and he always had Harleys, cool cars etc… and then there was a moment when he decided he really wanted to go on an adventure and completely change the course of his life.
So like Marco Polo, he just picked up and left?
Alone or with you mom? How long had he known her at that point?
With mom, and she said “yes. I want to have a life like that – a life that is exciting and reckless.”
And when did they arrive here?
And what did they do?
Well, my father worked in construction.
My mother was a wife, then after a while she worked in a bank for a little bit.
So they came here – did they come to Los Angeles right away or go to other cities first?
Los Angeles right away. The first house was on Larrabee.
Shit, right on Sunset.
Then to Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills.
And so you grew up here…What were the first difficulties you experienced as an American in Italy?
Zero difficulties, really. I was considered the most popular girl in middle school. I spoke English. Everyone asked me “What does this song mean? How do you pronounce this?” At lunch we all watched Beverly Hills 90210 on TV.
I came from Beverly Hills so you can imagine what my classmates thought… and what’s more I had a touch of style. You know, I had all this clothing with Adidas tags and things like that
Well, style is innate. You’re born with it or you’re not.
Italians are very welcoming. All my friends- right away i had a group of friends, close friends who are still my friends today..
Do you feel that you’re more American or Italian?
Because there’s a certain Italian lifestyle or…
Well Italian because when I speak English I have a slight accent
A roman accent?
Yes, a bit. Instead, when I speak Italian, I speak very little Roman. I really am Italian- I think in Italian. That way I can write in Italian. The only thing is that in Italy I feel a little bit frustrated. I didn’t leave because I didn’t love Italy, but because it seems to me that there are more opportunities here.
Yes, to get where you want to go you…
But I miss a sense of belonging.
Well yes, it’s the best of both worlds but it’s also a bit of a curse
So… high school.
Roman high school. Already by that point I was officially Roman, at least I think so. I had a scooter.
What type did you have?
Listen, i had so many…
Well, one of them.
I had a Scarabeo for many years.
But I had an older brother and my father said what do you two want to do. Do you want stay in Rome or go back to LA with me? And my brother said “i want to go back to LA right away” and I said “no, i want to stay with mom.” That was the proof that I liked being in Rome, being Italian.
So how many years were you apart from… what’s your brother’s name?
His name was Dario. He’s dead. It was a motorcycle accident here on Sunset.
And so you stayed and…
Look, this is how it happened: I had just graduated in foreign languages and literature, I was 25 and 2 weeks after graduation my brother died in a motorcycle accident. it was something that changed my life so much, above all on a spiritual level, that I decided to live here. I thought, ‘oh well, I’ll stay a couple of months in order to grieve,’ but instead I found a job right away in film production. Also, I worked for a year for a large company called Morgan Creek, but I was the receptionist. I worked at the front desk and more than anything I transferred calls. Then they promoted me to assistant to the CFO and after a while I was fired because I was a horrible assistant. But you know, I had an experience in corporate america and to be honest they treated me really well. After a year there I met Cristiano who is the head of Vivienne Westwood. He said, “why don’t you work for me?” and I started to work in fashion.
What’s his last name?
Cristiano Minchio, unfortunately.
So he’s a Minchio in fashion doing what exactly?
He’s the owner of Scatola Sartoriale a large showroom downtown with many designer labels. So at that point, after a year and a half in Los Angeles, I said, “okay, I’ll start working in fashion.” I worked for him for two years… no three years, after which they opened Vivienne Westwood and offered me a job here as Vice President. But when I compared the salary to what I could make on my own, and considered the freedom I would have working on my own, it wasn’t worth it, so I opened my own business about a year and a half ago
And so this you do for Cristian?
Well, I still work with him because he told me that I could represent his collection as an external agent… I was very Italian in my mentality because when Cristiano asked me to take this job of VP, I still had this desire to open my own company. Here it was possible. It was really easy. I opened a business account, I created a business name I made a card. Then, you know, people trust each other here. In Rome if you’re a nobody you’re a nobody because you don’t know anyone. It’s bit like Hollywood to be honest. But here in Los Angeles they are so ———— You can really create your own business. People will support you and help you.
They’re very much, “you can do it!” There is at least a chance.
Yes, now I’m in my fourth season as an independent and I keep adding more and more collections and I’m making more and more money. So if you look at it like this, if I work like this for another 10 years I’m going to get somewhere and it will be all mine. In Rome, in Italy, it’s a little bit more difficult.
When you started working with Vivienne Westwood what was your spiel? What did they tell you to do and say, not so much in terms of words, more in terms of how you act with someone you’re selling to. How do you sell to a client?
Look it’s really funny because in the beginning Cristiano thought I was really cute, but he told me that I dressed badly and that I didn’t know how to present the collections to clients. I had never done it before in my life. Within 5 months I became high fashion. I was always dressed according to the trends.
Not like a business bitch…
I was always dressed very well. And I had it in my blood. My grandfather was in commercial sales, my father is in commercial sales, so I caught on right away because we have an innate style. So, what did I need to do? I needed to spoil the clients, give them coffee and espresso, talk to them. You know how we Italians are- we’re always able to make any conversation interesting- and after the clients talk about themselves you talk about the collection
What do you think your first business lesson was? One from when you made your own business…
Well, to be honest, when I opened my company, I had the opportunity to work here at Vivienne Westwood, and it would have been very convenient to work here. I went to Rome for two months on vacation: cappuccinos, dinners out. I told everyone I was the Vice President of Vivienne Westwood before it was even true. But then when I came back and when I started talking with people at work, it didn’t seem as big a deal. That was my first life lesson in which I said “okay, you can’t trust something just based on what someone else has said. You can only depend on yourself.” In that moment when I saw I wasn’t the only one, that there were other people involved, etc… I said that I want the entire pie for myself. I know that I can do this job, I’m good at it, I want to do it independently. That was the first big lesson – when I realized that my destiny was in the hands of other people.
It makes sense. Can we say that you are on your own now?
Well, the interesting thing is that Cristiano was very helpful in the beginning because I said, “listen, the truth is I want to start my own company and I need your help because you are my teacher.” He said, “you can stay with us for as long as you want to.” So the fact that I was with Vivienne Westwood helped me build more connections. I contacted other vendors and they gave me their collections without knowing me.
What is fashion for you?
I never say that I work in the fashion business. I work in the clothing industry, which is different.
Because “fashion business” means the part that I believe is really creative. They’re so involved in moda that they more or less lose themselves. Instead, the clothing industry is a business. You’re selling clothes. Of course you still need to have a sense of style.You need to be a Fashionista, but if you’re not earning money you’re really not going to give a damn about fashion. In fact, designers often consider representatives and distributions to be really irritating.
Yes, because sometimes you shoot them down.
Yes, exactly. Maybe you put them in a store that they don’t like, but you tell them, “look, if you want to make money you need to be in this store, so it’s already a different way of thinking. Now, since I’ve become established I’ve wanted to become a designer as well, so I’ve created a jewelry collection that’s called Pinky Panthers.
Pinky Panthers – fantastic!
They’re little tigers, panthers and leopards and they’re already in 10 stores in Los Angeles … So this is more or less my passion project.
Well, you need to have one.
Doing many things at once. It’s funny because Americans are known for doing it, but I think that the Italians are the best at doing it.
Of course because we are extremely creative and improving things is instinctive for us.
But it’s also the ability to multitask. Italian university, for those who have done it, is one where they leave you to fend for yourself. Here however, it is much more structured…
So you said you’re a Fashionista. What is a Fashionista?
For me, the way you dress is a way of communicating, a language you use with the people around you. When I see someone who is dressed badly it bothers me – it doesn’t mean the person has to be dressed with brands … I don’t think I’ve ever worn the same outfit – the same combination of things - twice. It’s a way to change it up and make oneself interesting. It’s addicting because when I started this work I wasn’t one who dressed up all the time. I worked in an office full time. I had to wear a suit – I was the assistant to the CFO. So when I started working in the showrooms I didn’t have very many outfits. When I started making myself wear things from the showroom it became a kind of addiction. At the beginning I thought, “okay, well I guess I’ll do it.” When I started trying to sell things in the showroom it became a type of addiction. Now I have this huge closet.
All of the clothing from the lines I represent, because at the end of the season they give them to me.
That’s not bad. That’s a plus.
And another plus of this business is that you meet tons of Italians and Europeans when you go to the trade shows in Las Vegas and New York… It’s a job that’s not rocket science. It’s based on social relations, which is what we Italians are good at.
Here in America, which is more important, the brand or the product?
Well I think the interest in brands is a global aspect of fashion. I think Italians are much more about logos- on a t-shirt, on a hat. Here the logo is more hidden, although there is cheese here as well.
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