Why did you decide to create Monnalisa?
Barbara Bertocci: The Monnalisa brand was born in 1968 as an entrepreneurial initiative of my husband Piero Lacomoni. The company was then a small artisanal entity. I joined the business quite casually, and have only recently started to deal with style. I was very young at the beginning and had two children who were still very small. On my side, I had the kind of enthusiasm you only really have at the age of 20 coupled with a vague sense of creativity conveyed by my mother. A real bet which has nevertheless lead to a real turn in products and, hence, in business.
How did you feel about children's fashion when you started Monnalisa?
My stylistic debut involved breaking away with the past. In the seventies, children's fashion was flat and monotonous. I have reinterpreted it with a very romantic collection rich in detail and suggestions. It deeply touched our customers - it was an unexpected success.
What are your earliest fashion memories – what did you wear as a child?
My fashion memories are all linked to dresses. I grew up in the textile company of my family with an indomitable mother who was always very busy with dummies, spools and fabrics. My mother Dora had four kids and the burden of directing the style department, but she nevertheless always found the time and energy to take care of my wardrobe, creating dresses for me in bright colours, and made of muslin and swishing silk with plenty of ultrafine applications. When I think of my favourite one, a sky blue dress with red poppies, I am still deeply moved.
When you think of your childrenswear label, what words come to your mind?
Romantic, accurate and with great personality - dresses giving emotions to those who wear and who select them. The Monnalisa style is very 'recognisable'.
Can you explain why there are now five companies (including Jakioo, Chic and NY&LON) under the Monnalisa label?
The lines correspond to various age brackets or different occasions of use: MonnalisaBebè is dedicated to the very young, Monnalisa is our core age two to 12 year range, Jakioo is trendier and has been conceived more for teenagers, Ny&Lon interprets the everyday sporty chic. Then for special occasions, there is Monnalisa Chic. We also have the newborn Couture line and, last but certainly not least, Hitch-Hiker: our brand for boys.
Can you tell us a little about the new Monnalisa Couture collection for girls?
I love our Couture line which was been launched during the last Pitti Bimbo childrenswear trade show. We showed a few dresses in three colours – rose pink, ivory and aquamarine - made in taffeta and full-bodied silks with sartorial care and attention. These are dresses for princesses, packaged in exclusive boxes with pearl coat-hangers: a real dream.
Do you have any set style rules when designing for children?
My style rule is emotion, which is always obtained through quality. We create beautiful things and we do them well - an apparently simple, and yet, very difficult recipe.
What are your three must-have items in the AW13 collections?
A winter wardrobe in energising colours, like green and ochre, brighten up short winter days. The must-have items? Reversed sweaters which can be brightened up by lurex yarn, collars full of coloured mini-studs and cross-stitch embroideries mixed with folk patterns.
What have been, in your opinion, the most important recent innovations in childrenswear?
Besides technical innovations linked to increasingly performing fabrics and refined prints, the greatest innovation is a cultural one. In selecting a dress, the taste and aesthetic sense of the child is being increasingly respected. Educating children to dress well essentially means educating them to beauty.
Do you have a muse when you design your collections?
I am incurably curious – good books, beautiful movies, interesting conversations and travels. People continuously enrich me with new stimuli. Being a mother and a grandmother gives me a privileged, watchful access to the world of children. I design thinking of the little girls who will wear my dresses, in the hope I can keep astonishing them a little bit.
How do you feel about English fashion for children? How is it different from Italian?
London is the ideal place to intercept new trends, experimentations and ideas. English fashion is always rich is energy with a touch of irony and irreverence that I like very much. Italian fashion is more conservative and classical, also for kids.
How does it feel when you see a child in one of your designs?
Every time it’s a leap of the heart, an emotion which rewards me for my great commitment, effort and work.
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Catwalk photography courtesy of Monnalisa