Shelf Appeal

I spotted the girl from a mile away. She was crossing the street, wearing a mustard color, printed, 60s-cut suit, with heavy flared pants and a matching long sleeve tunic. It was as if some ruthless higher force had collided our paths and decided to mobilize my dormant fashion radar. It became a matter of seconds. Is that vintage? It looks like vintage. But on the off-chance that it wasn’t and this gloriously constructed piece of clothing was actually for sale in a store, I had to find out what or who she was wearing. Like, now! I abandoned my friends (and my common sense) mid-conversation and bolted, only to see her suited foot disappear inside the door of a taxi. Poof! said my bright, new future. Or so I thought. When I arrived at that night’s event uptown an hour later, there stood the girl, in the middle of the room, in my suit, that I could now touch and examine and to my greatest joy and relief, buy at Barney’s. That was the fall of 2011. And the suit was Giulietta.

Fast forward to June 2014. Sofia Sizzi is standing in the kitchen of her new home/office in the South Street Seaport, wrapping up a heated, but semi-friendly discussion with an old man. She’s wearing nude slingblacks and a brown and yellow floral 50s vintage dress. It’s about noon and the sun is pouring in. On the streets below trinkets of sweaty tourists are braving the cobble stones. This is the oldest block in the city. “I am a nostalgic person,” she tells me when the man leaves. “I love the idea of living where it all begun in New York, but the disadvantage is that this building is so freaking old that my really old neighbor downstairs complains every day that he can hear my heels!!” She promised him to lay down carpet and wear flats. When it’s appropriate.

Ever since that fateful suit day I have grown more and more fond of Giulietta and its beautiful creator. First from a distance, now as friends. It’s a case of mutual admiration and respect. Sofia has carved out a rare niche for herself, because she understood early on how important it is for a designer to deliver a unique and consistent message. When she launched Giulietta in 2011 she had already worked at Donna Karan, Gucci and Calvin Klein and consulted for Michael Kors, Jason Wu and Marc Jacobs. “I understood exactly the importance of the initial inprinting you give to a brand,” she explains in her soft Italian accent, “because it stays with you forever, no matter what the fashion of the moment is.” During her fine art studies in Florence and through months of research she discovered that she was drawn to one particular year: 1968. And this simply because “towards the end of that decade the youth generation started a true revolution. You would get the chicness of the 60s with women like Catherine Deneuve in Belle Du Jour and Romy Schneider in La Piscine who dressed in YSL and Dior but also 40s influences so the fabrics got more fluid and feminine. A new youthful and androgynous silhouette appeared; think Jane Birkin, Charlotte Rampling, Penelope Tree…” At the same time there is also a personal side to Giulietta: “It’s the nickname of my mother,” she smiles, “who in that year was a gorgeous Italian teenager who moved from the South of Italy where women wore black, full skirts, cardigans and heavy lace and started to dress like the modern girls in Florence. The result was the ultimate Giulietta icon.”

The essence of Sofia’s brand is femininity. She makes you feel like a woman. Not a girl. Her collections are inspired by vintage pieces, old movies and photographs but the real secret lies in the cut: “Follow the silhouette of the woman’s body and use fluid fabrics and cuts that move beautifully. Everyone tells me that Giulietta has a good shelf appeal but it’s when you wear it that it really comes to life… I’m still trying to understand if it’s a good or a bad thing because ready-to-wear is sold on a hanger!” So far so good, I would say. There was the CFDA nomination in 2012, a growing fan base, and an understanding husband who gave up his flourishing restaurant business to focus on his wife’s future. He had little choice in the matter, she laughs: “I don’t know how I convinced him two years ago it was time to sell it all and invest in Giulietta… To this date he is not very convinced it was the best move but he married an Italian woman and knows he needs to make me happy! We’ve been married for seven years, engaged since three months after we met! It was love at first sight except that when I met him I weighed a hundred pounds and one year later almost double…!”

It’s no surprise, being married to a star chef… But she’s not embarrassed to talk about her weight. On the contrary. She admits she’s had to donate half her closet because her clothes did not fit anymore. And she’s on a perpetual diet. Before she got married, she did intensive pilates training – “it’s like magic!” And at the beginning of this summer she started a rigorous, but reasonable plan to shed pounds. “On a daily basis I eat a lot of  raw vegetables, soy protein and Kind bars,” she says. “No more sweets, bread and pasta but I do indulge. If I want pizza once a week I’ll have it! And I stay away from my husband!” I can already see the difference. And I compliment her. She’s not sure whether she will fit in all the old vintage she selected for our shoot but I encourage her to try. A few minutes later she triumphantly returns from the bedroom: “It all fits!! This is amazing!”

July 3, 2014

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3 Responses to “Shelf Appeal”

  1. avatar
    sarafina - Reply

    Sofia is exquisite. Curvacious and sexy in a not so ‘look at me’ way. Her quiet beauty is reminiscent of a Rembrandt. I live so far removed from finding her gorgeous creations, but I will do my best to visit Barneys on Rush Street in December. Thank you, Joos, for having a keen eye for all that is fabulous!

  2. avatar
    Amanda - Reply

    Sofia is the most chic. So beautiful, so talented, so graceful.

  3. avatar
    Kathryn Fisher - Reply

    Beautiful, intelligent, spiritual, talented, thoughtful Sophia…I am so happy and grateful that I know you!

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