There is a universal sense of wonder and awe associated with the arrival of spring. Mother Nature brings back a kaleidoscope of colour to the fertile, fallow ground — an ingenious orchestra of extraordinary visuals. Read more
Well, here we are at the start of another New Year! Perhaps some of us have made a few new year resolutions, while others decided that to make them is an exercise in futility.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to take a leisurely stroll along the streets of Rome, Milan, or Florence?
If so, then you likely peeked inside small boutiques showing beautiful accessories, like bags, bijoux, or elegant cashmere capes.
Perhaps, at the time, you did not, or could not, indulge. Or maybe you have yet to experience, first hand, the wonder of an Italian boutique.
It is often said that Italy is a fabled land, and as her natives, Cristina and I have to agree! It is also where the art of making-by-hand still enchants all who come to appreciate its importance. In fact, from the Far East, to the Middle East, and on to the New World, those who specialise in the crafts have enriched cultures for centuries.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary states that an “artisan” is a noun; it stems from the Latin verb “artire.”
“To instruct in the arts, a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.”
History tells us that artisans came to prominence in medieval times when Merchant Guilds or trade associations sprung up throughout the region to protect them and their skills.
Centuries later markets changed, and the power of the Guilds dwindled, but artisans proved to be a resilient group. They have successfully defied the arrival of the machine, and industrialisation on a massive scale, and have, of late, begun to flourish.
There appears to be a resurgence of interest in hand-tooled goods, thanks in large part to inspired individuals who seek to harness the uniqueness of wares made by time-honoured methods. At one end of the spectrum there are philanthropic, noble ventures, like the Afghanistan-based Turquoise Mountain Foundation launched by Rory Stewart in 2006 whose mission is to restore hope in a worn torn country by reviving centuries-old crafts that include carving, pottery, glass and furniture making. Ambitious as this project may be, it has received tremendous support; the Foundation’s first UK commission came from the luxury Connaught Hotel in London.
Rory Stewart at the Turquoise Mountain Foundation
Artisan at the Turquoise Mountain Foundation
Meanwhile, in the for-profit arena, adventurous, entrepreneurial types aspire to do good too by ensuring that the multi-generational workshops filled with tailors and seamstresses, cobblers and the like, stay open for decades to come. So be it a goodwill enterprise, an ambassador for peace, or one whose by-product is profit, the message seems to be the same.
In a world so driven by technology, there is still room for a beautiful cashmere wrap spun on an ancient loom, or a piece of jewellery lovingly and meticulously assembled by expert hands. Yet another catching idea is that modern living, gently buttressed by artisanal traditions refines cultural sensibility; and such a respect for the old, while embracing the new, helps to make a country like Italy one of the most seductive on earth.
Lucilla hand-sculpting her jewellery using a method called “cera persa”
The Italian Collection is an entity that, not unlike Rory Stewart’s Foundation, has a noble pursuit; to be another voice for the real artisan. Artisans bring more than tradition to us; they also bring a dash of romance to the mix. Small ateliers, hubs of creativity, evoke warmer images, than those of an impersonal factory producing limitless numbers of this or that. Perhaps, this is one of the many reasons why the demand for non-ubiquitous products, those that stir our soul, is growing.
So why do artisans matter? Because they are a conduit to traditions that have endured; they give us heartfelt pleasure for we love to hold and model their wares, and they represent hope for the future in their timeless designs.
With pride we aver the tag line “il bello e ben fatto”, the beautiful and well-made and the iconic label “Made in Italy”. And, we invite you to take a peek at our unique e-emporium theitaliancollection.com that with a mere click visually transports you to our fabled land.
With the end of year tapping on our shoulders something begins to change. Certainly the days are shorter, and the temperatures continue to plummet, but aside the climatic conditions, symbols that evoke a time of renewal begin to appear.
The festive season is generally a time for celebration, for gathering and for beauty. In Italy where The Italian Collection resides, Christmas is an extremely important date on the annual calendar.
Up and down the peninsula cities, towns and villages transform into lively colourful oases, nativity scenes adorn entrances, piazzas turn into twinkling artisan markets, and food courts become gathering hubs as families and friends come to buy the many fresh ingredients to make the timeless dishes handed down from one generation to the next.
It is a time filled with joy, a time to share meaningful gifts with loved ones, a time of solidarity, a time to heal, and a time to laugh. It is when families come together to bond, to talk about old times and new, to recognise those no longer with us and a time to be grateful for all the blessings in our lives.
At Theitaliancollection.com, Cristina and I adore the Christmas season and its spirit. Our mission to represent our artisans, in harmony, in gratitude, and with heart, blends so well with this genuinely beautiful season. Is there any better time really to enrich people’s lives with “il bello e ben fatto”, the beautiful and well-made?
So as the gift giving time nears, we would like to extend our invitation to visit the e-gallery and consider our wares for your loved ones. TIC is overflowing with a bounty of Italian elegance and style, each item imbued with the soul of their maker.
We have a gift for the beautiful ones in your life that will soften hearts and bring glee — perhaps by bearing a bag from Milan by Valentina Nuzzi or a cashmere cape all the way from Bologna by Nicola Luccarini.
Or maybe they would treasure a bauble by our venerable Maria Vittoria Albani who resides in Milan too, a fine belt by San Giorgio Factory, or a bespoke umbrella by Piedmont-based Colette della Vedova.
No matter how you bring exquisite charm and loveliness to your Holiday, we wish you the very best from our family at The Italian Collection to your own.
Peace to you in the New Year,
Myriam and Cristina
What do Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Tilda Swinton have in common? Let us take you back to the 16th century to explain how the Italians came to define and know that special something, which the French call, Bon-Ton.
Galeazzo Florimonte, a bishop, was the first to write a tome on the subject of proper civility and etiquette. After him came, Father Giovanni della Casa, another member of the clergy, who was so inspired by the work of the bishop that he penned his own literary work in 1558, roughly translated as, “Customs and Manners by Galateo.”
Father Giovanni della Casa defined Galateo and Bon-Ton in 1558
This piece greatly influenced behaviour in the palaces and courts throughout Europe. Today, the Italian term “Galateo”, like its French counterpart, “Bon-Ton” refers to a code of politeness, and gracious living.
Bon-Ton: A fashion style born in the 1940s and 1950s respectful of two guiding principles, high-class and femininity. Just think of Audrey Hepburn donned in Givenchy!
We at The Italian Collection are deeply committed to the principle of Galateo (or Bon-Ton) as we represent, in our collection, a style rich in graciousness, refinement and femininity. Our Nicola Luccarini is an artist and designer who instinctively understands colour, design and material, which shows in his ultra-feminine cashmere line.
Nicola’s capes and coats perfectly capture the Galateo paradigm. Why not wear them with another Bon-Ton classic, the impeccable leather bags by Valentina Nuzzi. Her designs satisfy our client’s innate desire to be stylish and modern, but in a classic manner.
Pair this with the labour-intensive, top-notch leather belts by Roberto Pansa for San Giorgio, and you will add true elegance to your multilayered look this season and the ones that follow.
In all our products, high-class and femininity prevail, but what distinguishes them is an extraordinary, simple-seeming beauty that is achieved by a rigorous, hands-on craftsmanship and well-thought-out-detailing. It is in this elegant, simple beauty, that we find the hallmark style inherent in the works of our distinguished group of designers.
Truly great design seems effortless; but actually, it evolves from painstaking effort and a lifetime of skill.
Discerning consumers who know a product’s provenance are our best clients. At The Italian Collection, we strive to satisfy our customers’ urge for artisanal, one-of-a-kind wearables.
Myriam and Cristina
We are honoured by editors at home and abroad who celebrate “il bello e ben fatto” – the beautiful and well made. They are becoming our protagonists in this soulful narrative of artisans staying true to all that is Italian and sharing their sublime expressions of timeless style, elegance and charm.
Greenwich Girl Magazine
Our deepest gratitude goes out to all that have featured The Italian Collection artisans and their long tradition of craftsmanship brushed with an unmistakable spirit of style which makes the essence of – “il bello e ben fatto” – the beautiful and well-made possible.
Myriam and Cristina
Celebrating self in our daily rituals
The daily ritual, to look inside our closets in search of something to wear, is a deeper search for self-hood than we often realise. What does it mean then when nothing in a closet appeals? Is it a reflection on the contents or a harsh critique of the self?
“For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet clothes matter whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. How we look and what we wear tells a story.”
– Linda Grant, British author of The Thoughtful Dresser
Meditate for a moment on this elegantly said truth about our relationship with our wardrobes, and the significant role our clothes play in the public expression of our identity.
No matter our thoughts on our lovely brocade skirt, fun espadrilles or smashing knit cashmere top; the time consuming effort of choosing the day’s ensemble is worth every moment. After all, what better canvas is there to present ourselves to the world than our fashion – an aesthetic vision that reflects our unique personality?
Cristina and I, as our website would attest, are telling our own story of thoughtful dressing. Simply named The Italian Collection we spend countless hours in search of accessories, far removed from the norm, each one ingrained with what we hold dear – style, elegance and charm.
The protagonists in this soulful narrative are like-minded artisans whose sublime expressions often find their way from mother to daughter, aunt to niece. Timeless heritage pieces imbued with their maker’s fingerprints heightening their personal value and preciousness.
Of note there is Maria Vittoria Albani – she makes sparkling baubles informed by the splendours of Mother Nature with a keen eye for beauty.
For the sophisticated woman on the go, Valentina Nuzzi offers highly functional chic clutches, small bags and totes that accommodate their stylish demands.
Our maestro of cashmere, Nicola Luccarini, sculpts exquisite capes, coats and scarves that add a splendid layer of warmth during the cooler months.
In all, each one of our artisan partners speaks up for Italy’s tradition of craftsmanship and creative kudos.
And so, just like Linda Grant, whose eloquent essay espousing the importance of looking ones best touched our hearts, TheItalianCollection too celebrates the murmurings of style and elegance through beguiling accessories that make dressing up a thoughtful, joyful event. Pop in often – we have lots to show you and many stories to share as time unfolds!
Myriam and Cristina
Insight from our resident cashmere expert — Nicola Luccarini.
Highlands of Kashmir where the indigenous goats provide us the finest cashmere fibres.
The fine quality cashmere offered by the Italian Collection comes from a very limited supply and its processing is labour intensive. In our quest for knowledge about why the wool is so elite and difficult to manufacture, we gathered details from our resident cashmere expert — Nicola Luccarini, the founder, artisan-designer and divine inspiration behind the cashmere-rich label that bears his name.
The journey of this glorious yarn begins in the highlands of Kashmir, an area sandwiched between India, Pakistan and China where indigenous goats roam year round. Up on high, the plummeting temperatures, harsh winds and downright brutal conditions do not bother these hardy goats. This is because they have two coats; a very soft, thick undercoat and a tough, coarse outer one. It is the undercoat, also known as duvet, that is the source of sought after cashmere fibre. This soft undercoat ranges in colour from pristine white (most valuable) to black.
Pashmina goats; their duvet is the much sought after cashmere fibre.
It was during the 1700s that the fibre’s unique thermal qualities came to the attention of the East India Trading Company. With the help of artisans who spun the yarn into gorgeous shawls and scarves, the company took a gamble launching these new accessories in France and then throughout Western Europe. Soon buyers outstripped supply, not only because of the small number of goats in a small region, but also because the wool can only be harvested once a year and through a time-consuming process.
Cashmere fibres are manually sorted, cleaned & hand spun before the weaving begins.
With the advent of spring, when the goats begin to shed, the shepherds carefully comb each animal to harvest the duvet undercoat. Then these skilled workers sort by hand the good fibre from the bad, the black from the white, and once the sorting is complete, they hand spin the single fibres into thread. Before weaving can begin, however, shepherds manually clean the thread, treating it with paraffin, a process designed to make weaving easier.
After the looms have done their magic, highly trained weavers place the raw materials on luminescent tables where they check them for flaws or other anomalies. If deemed flawless, a technique known as “re-knit” occurs ultimately giving us the final knit. And to rid the new knit of any traces of paraffin or the natural oiliness of the goat skin known as lanolin, a final cleaning ensues.
Strange as it may seem, there appears to be a difference of opinion between the two leading producers of cashmere, the Italians and the Scots, on how cashmere should feel to the touch. While the Italians, and of course we include ourselves in this camp, prefer that cashmere be soft, letting the handler know immediately that it is cashmere, the Scots prefer the fibre be dry and hard. They believe that with time and cleaning, the cashmere softens by itself, thus extending the life of the garment.
Our own Nicola Luccarini says the softer version of cashmere can be preserved easily enough with proper care. His first tip, “Do not wear cashmere two days in a row. Let it rest a while as cashmere is a natural, living fiber!”
Perhaps knowing the harvesting and preparations behind the fibre now justify its seemingly daft cost! When it comes to the cashmere pieces offered by the Italian Collection and our designer, Nicola, consider not only the fibre, but the timeless design. The piece you buy today, will be loved in two, five and 10 years’ time. Admirers will have to ask where and when you found such a unique, high-quality wearable.
Is cashmere by Nicola Luccarini at theitaliancollection.com worth the investment? We believe it is…
Myriam and Cristina
200 pieces represent 75 years of Italian creativity
Since the 1940s, Maria Vittoria Albani, has been adding chapters to her story as the indisputable protagonist of Italian costume jewellery. Her Ornella Bijoux brand creations were presented at the prestigious trade show, Super, in Milan.
Now, 200 pieces from the splendid archive are on view at the Museo del Bijou (Museum for Costume Jewellery) at Casalmaggiore (Cremona).
Museo del Bijou in Casalmaggiore, Italy
200 pieces by Maria Vittoria Albani on exhibit at Museo del Bijou
We celebrated with Maria at her vernissage which opened on March 21st as guests gathered to honor her timeless works of art. This historic display will be on exhibit through May 17, 2015 at the Museo del Bijou, Casalmaggiore.
Maria Vittoria, whose humility is one of her many endearing qualities, shares that
on opening night she was “so moved her legs seemed to tremble.” Not being
accustomed to public speaking she feared making a gaffe; particularly in front
of so many journalists with probing questions. Nonetheless, Maria exhibited such poise and we watched in awe as she shared her creative inspiration for distinct pieces as she engaged with the guests.
The exhibition, curated by Bianca Cappello in collaboration with Maria Vittoria’s beloved daughter, Simona Scala, is dedicated to Italy’s greatest costume jewellers.
Maria Vittoria Albani’s original design sketches at Museo del Bijou
G. Moro calls them adornments “of dreamy refinement.” Vogue writes, “They are exclusive objects that help to convey and unleash the essence of being… They are objects of timeless beauty.”
Maria Vittoria Albani’s cuff designs at Museo del Bijou
Ornella Bijoux’s exclusive objects were first created in the 1940s by Maria Vittoria Albani’s mother. She was a pioneer in the era of costume jewelry, which had just begun as World War II made gold and precious metals scarce and expensive.
Ornella di Piera Albani’s original atelier placard at Museo del Bijou
Maria with her mother Piera in the historic Ornella Bijou atelier
Now counted as one of the few “Historic Ateliers of Milan,” Ornella Bijoux enjoys a revered status at the Museo del Bijou, given to very few deserving workshops in the epicentre of design.
Today, you will find the Ornella Bijoux brand has remained faithful to its roots. Every piece is made by hand in the workshop in Milan. In this small hub, mother and daughter work in unison and harmony.
Maria confided privately that she was so overwhelmed with emotion at the vernissage and her only regret was that she forgot to publicly express her infinite gratitude to her beloved daughter Simona, who “in fact, organised every intimate detail with the curator, and I am so proud of her.”
Maria’s daughter Simona Scala at Ornella’s vernissage at Museo del Bijou
Maria revels in her favourite things — shimmering faux pearls, Murano glass, shining metals, shells, hand-painted woods, ceramics and Swarovski crystals — the humble materials that become timeless stunning bijoux.
Meanwhile Simona uses her expertise in public relations and all matters commercial to create awareness of a family business that exists at a historical intersection of art and design.
Maria Vittoria Albani’s beaded cuff at the Museo del Bijou
Her palette of colours and designs will help you write your own script of romance and fantasy. So live creatively and share with the world your unique beauty and sartorial splendour by succumbing to “il bello e ben fatto” the beautiful and well-made, by Maria Vittoria Albani.
Maria Vittoria Albani’s dragonfly motif jewellery at the Museo del Bijou
Cristina and Myriam, co-founders of TheItalianCollection.com are extremely proud to be presenting Maria Vittoria Albani’s array of museum-worthy adornments that is a mix of moods both sensational and seductive.
Myriam and Cristina
The Italian Collection
P O BOX 1139
Bath, Ohio 44210
+1 330 233 1287
CUSTOMER SERVICE ... queries about a product, or the placement of an order ...
ARTISANS ... join our unique artisan family ...
PRESS ENQUIRIES ... always happy to speak to the press ...
WRITE US ...
The Italian Collection LLC
P O Box 1139
Bath, OH 44210