Cleonice Capece is an Italian fashion designer whose contribution to fashion between 1960 and 2000 was significant for the thriving of Made in Italy. A pioneer of the ready-to-wear, Cleonice is now living in London and has recently wrote her first book documenting through her passion and innovative spirit the history of Made in Italy during those years. I met Cleonice two years ago in her apartment in London. Her niece Cecilia is one of my best friends. We were exhibiting caro scarves during fashion week, and I was thrilled to receive a dinner invitation from my friend to join her and Cleonice after work. It’s not every day you get the chance to meet such an inspiring and successful designer. Cleonice’s charm and elegant manners, her stories, her passion and clear views on fashion were capturing.
After reading her book, I wanted to learn more about her work, so I recently contacted her and asked her to be featured on my blog. Cleonice has been so kind to answer few questions and also to share some beautiful images from her collections.
Cleonice’s story and passion are very inspiring for those like me “With no formal training in fashion but full of enthusiasm”.
Having been inspired myself by Indian textiles, I had to ask Cleonice how these exquisite textiles have influenced her first collections and inspired her throughout her career.
“Since centuries, India textile production was and continues to be a very important inspiration of its fashion trends. India has a worldwide reputation for much of the finest kind of cloth woven and Indian manufacturers have developed sophisticated methods of creating cotton fabrics into light breathable textiles with vibrant long-lasting dyes, enabling dazzling colours and striking motifs, which were all washable. With designs on these amazing textiles, some especially created to export in Europe, they achieved a significant share of the market, for which demand was considerable, and growing”.
I asked Cleonice to share what inspired her collections.
“Whilst studying in London I was working for Indiacraft, who sold Indian crafts, from brass work to jewellery and perfumes. I was fascinated by the fabrics, the silk saris , all hand embroidered in stunning designs and colours but most of all it was the personal impact I had with the fabulous cotton voiles saris all magnificently hand embossed in silver, gold and vibrant colours . It was love at first sight, and I knew that I had to take the matter further, and I decided to work on this project. The whole project which inspired me so much, came about “By Chance”, just like the title of my book, published two years ago, “Fashion by Chance”. With no formal training in fashion but full of enthusiasm, I launched myself into this labour of love. The immediate market reaction to my work gave me the confidence to know that my collections, inspired from Indian designs, would be a success worldwide”.
I was curious to know what in Cleonice’s opinion made her collections such a worldwide success.
“Two looks and a simple concept were I think the key aspects for the success of my work worldwide. Firstly, I had some ethnic cotton fabrics, painted by an Italian artist in Southern Italy, whose designs were reminiscent of the lively and colourful works of the Abstract Expressionist master Jackson Pollock. Secondly the magnificent cotton voile saris designs from India. My initials CC underlined the simplicity of the concept – two amazing fabrics and two design styles, channeled, to begin with into Cruisewear and Co-ordinates.
Initially, the collection of the co-ordinates was made up of shirts and bikinis of the same fabric. However, I soon realised that by adding few extra pieces you could create a A Total Look, to cover many styles and occasions: beachwear, city look, resort, evening.
My real inspiration came from the high quality and originality of the fabrics.
Other contributory factors to my success were “Simple, uncomplicated design”, “Ready-to wear prices” and an immense choice to combine the many elements of the look. In a very short time the very originality of the concept, translated into selling all over the world from London to New York, and Palm Beach to Tokyo. Everybody loved the TOTAL LOOK proposed by Cleonice Capece”.
Off the records, Cleonice has revealed to me that she has given away her entire collection of “water” pashmina. Water-weight pashmina are lightweight and semi-sheer shawls. I offered my help next time she needs to clean up her closet.
I have recently worked on a new collection of light-weight scarves and shawls which will soon be available on line. Stay tuned.