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Exclusive interview with Nicoletta Spagnoli


Luisa Spagnoli has been creating beautiful Italian-made clothing for more than 85 years. CEO Nicoletta Spagnoli talks timeless style, the quest for innovation, and what it is like to dress the Duchess of Cambridge

Hannah Lewis / © Katie Wilson-Ells
Hannah Lewis,

If the name Luisa Spagnoli doesn’t instantly spark recognition, this influential woman’s inventions are sure to.

Her first enterprise was the creation of Baci Perugina sweets - chocolate ‘kisses’ with a hazelnut filling – which first went on sale in 1907 and are still loved around the world. She later turned her attention from confectionery to clothing, becoming the first person to create yarn from Angora rabbit fur. This new and luxurious fabric enjoyed immediate success when it was launched and, from 1928 onwards, Spagnoli and her family built a respected womenswear brand around it, based in Perugia, the capital of Umbria.

 

A history of fashion

The Luisa Spagnoli label has stayed within the Spagnoli family throughout its history, adapting to each decade. Luisa’s visionary grandson Lino took over the running of the business in 1960, modernising the company, greatly extending its reach and building on its reputation. The brand is now in the hands of the founder’s great-granddaughter Nicoletta Spagnoli who, as CEO, has been credited with attracting new and younger customers and with helping to make it one of Italy’s most prestigious fashion labels.

 

Worldwide success

Nicoletta Spagnoli has overseen great success for the firm, which has continued to grow in recent years despite the difficulties experienced by the clothing industry. Today, the brand has 151 boutiques in Italy, and a further 57 in other countries across the world. Nicoletta believes this is the result of a strong and timeless philosophy. ‘My family has run the company by making innovative and sometimes courageous choices, but always while maintaining respect for our roots, our traditions and the land in which our heritage stretches,’ she explains. ‘Luisa Spagnoli has a long history, almost a century, but the philosophy has remained the same … that to respect tradition is the best way to innovate without ever losing your identity.’

Throughout the decades, the brand has taken pride in using excellent yarns and fabrics, working with skilled craftspeople and making all its pieces in Italy, largely in its own factories. ‘We have always supported the guarantee of an intrinsically high- quality product,’ explains Nicoletta.

 

Signature style

Another element which has remained strong is the label’s signature style – a fine balance between classic, seasonless looks and fashion-forward elements. This was true throughout the 20th century when Luisa Spagnoli embraced new ideas, including relaxed silhouettes and trousers for women. Reflecting the label’s ethos, the spring/summer 2017 collection features beautiful nautical pieces, such as an off-the-shoulder ruffle top in a Breton stripe, which recall style icons such as Brigitte Bardot. Elsewhere, loose-fitting cropped jeans and a soft blue tweed jacket address the season’s trends more directly.

‘The Luisa Spagnoli customer is feminine and practical at the same time,’ says Nicoletta. ‘A professional traveller, she is always on the move, but still wants to look perfect for every occasion, whether formal or casual, and at every moment of the day.’ The latest collection could hardly fit this brief more perfectly, with a look to suit every occasion. The concept of the ‘total look’ is very important to the brand, and under Nicoletta the offering has expanded to accessories, jewellery and bags, allowing clients to complete their outfits.

 

Branching out

A perfume was introduced in 2013. Named Luisa – ‘it could not be otherwise,’ states Nicoletta – it is a strong example of the brand’s careful balance of heritage with modernity. ‘For a company to have an identity means something very simple: be what you have been without remaining prisoners in the past; change without ever abandoning your roots. Tradition and innovation, for me, are two sides of the same coin. Whenever I find myself making innovative choices, I try to incorporate our heritage.’

 

Royal approval

Nicoletta’s vision for Luisa Spagnoli has resulted in a number of industry accolades, such as the Leonardo Award for Italian Quality, for helping to develop and strengthen the image of Italian-made clothing. But when it comes to her proudest achievement, she is more focused on seeing her clothes worn and loved by women. And when one of those women is Kate Middleton – the Duchess of Cambridge – who is married to the UK’s Prince William, it’s clear that Nicoletta is driving the label in a positive direction: ‘Although awards fill me with pride, I think that one of the most gratifying results of my career has been to win the heart of Kate Middleton.’ The Duchess, who Nicoletta describes as ‘an icon of style and beauty’, has worn Luisa Spagnoli on a number of important official outings.

With this royal seal of approval, it’s clear the brand is still as influential as ever.

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