There was a time when the world of fashion was not as we know it today. Some fashion designers, real pathfinders and artists, contributed to its evolution. We’ll tell you the story of one of them, Roberta di Camerino, and of the amazing collaboration created with our Tessitura.
A Venetian Girl Surrounded by Beauty
Roberta di Camerino’s real name was Giuliana Coen, and she was Venetian, born to a wealthy Jewish family. Her affluent status was also shown by her clothes, which she used to buy with her mother in Paris, at Chanel and Dior. And among her childhood memories, there was often her mother effortlessly choosing colors and accessories for her outfits, always managing to create original combinations of great style and elegance.
Giuliana was fascinated by the colors that were created by the reflection of light on the waters of the Venetian canals: unpredictable, wonderful and ever-changing. An exposure to beauty and aesthetics that helped her to cultivate and refine her innate creative talent over time.
The Creative Turning Point
In 1943, in her early twenties, due to the persecution of Jews by the Italian fascist regime, Giuliana fled with her family to Lugano, Switzerland. It is there that, a little by chance and a little by necessity, she began to handcraft her first handbags. But she was not happy with them, she felt they were lifeless, boring, encapsulated in the stereotypes of the time that wanted the bag as a mere utility accessory, which had to match the color of the dress and shoes.
This is not what her creative instinct was telling her and that’s why she decided to break the mould, finally giving bags their deserved importance and their own personality. First of all, she focused on colors: they had to be bright and combined in unusual ways. A handbag had to be flaunted as a beautiful object in itself.
It was 1945, World War II was over and Giuliana had returned to Italy. There was a great desire for new energy and to leave the dark years behind and her creations were a revolution, with an enthusiastic response.
But the real turning point came a few years later.
An American Businessman in Venice
Giuliana took the professional name of Roberta di Camerino and her handbags made their way to the fashion press. “Bellezza” magazine, which at the time informed the international public on the trends of the emerging Italian fashion, published two color full-pages featuring Roberta di Camerino’s bags. And it was thanks to this magazine that Stanley Marcus, president of the luxury department store Neiman Marcus, noticed Giuliana’s revolutionary bags and brought them to the United States.
Stanley was a very sharp, intelligent, creative and well-informed man. During a trip to Venice, he asked Giuliana to take him to visit our Tessitura, and its magical antique looms, famous for the beautiful velvets that we were making mainly for the Vatican at the time. He wanted to study new fabrics for precious evening dresses. But when they arrived at our workshop and saw the handmade soprarizzo velvets, they had an epiphany: velvet would be the fabric of Roberta di Camerino’s new handbag.
Venetian Velvets for the Bagonghi Bag
In 1950, Giuliana was spending hours studying color combinations and how to use the new fabric, never used for handbags before. She was fascinated by the warm tones that the colors took on the soft silk pile of velvet.
She wanted to embellish the new bag with straps, buckles and loops, but was afraid of cluttering it with too many embellishments… but that’s when she came up with another extraordinary idea: there would be these decorations, but incorporated into the fabric as patterns, creating trompe l’oeil on the velvet, which would become one of her distinctive features.
With Giulio Bevilacqua, the father of the current Tessitura’s owners, a close and lasting collaboration was born. There were new colorful velvets to create, new patterns, and the enthusiasm was very high for all the collaborators of the Tessitura. Giuliana, who understood the quality and preciousness of craftsmanship, succeeding in making the Venetian handmade velvet known and appreciated all over the world, using ancient techniques to give life to something modern and classic at the same time.
The It Bag Loved by the Stars
The legendary “Bagonghi” was born, and so was Roberta di Camerino’s thirty-year collaboration with Tessitura Bevilacqua. The shape was inspired by the doctor’s bags, and the velvets used were specially made, by hand, some of them soprarizzo, with original designs and unusual but extraordinarily beautiful color combinations. The Bagonghi bag is perhaps the first It bag, a truly iconic accessory that has experienced a resounding worldwide success. Loved and worn by stars and celebrities such as Grace Kelly, who appeared on a famous cover of Europeo magazine in 1959 holding her fabulous Bagonghi, but also Liz Taylor, Farrah Fawcett and more recently Madonna.
For Giuliana, elegance was not just a matter of money, but of style and quality, which craftsmanship guarantees, and which Roberta di Camerino has brought all over the world with her creations.