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Check Out Giuliana Leila Raggiani’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Giuliana Leila Raggiani.

Hi Giuliana Leila, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up as a dancer and was headed down that path for my career when things took an unexpected direction in my late teens. I ended up at Parsons School of Design in NY, where I reconnected with fashion (after being brought up in that context with my grandmother having her own boutique/cult line of turtlenecks in Boston –– I mentally decided it was “not for me”). When being asked to choose between menswear or womenswear at Parsons, I couldn’t bear the idea of deciding, and instead changed gears and applied to Central Saint Martins in London. The only option I was left with when asked to choose between genders was knitwear, so I went with that, as I had always had a fascination for textiles. Despite not knowing a thing beyond a basic purl stitch, I dove into this vast world and fell deeply in love with the art of machine knitting. Eventually, I bought a machine of my own in NY and finished my thesis at Parsons with a ‘genderless’ and ‘ageless’ final knitwear collection since unisex was “not allowed” at the time. These were the seeds I unintentionally planted for giu giu. A couple of years later, a label of my own manifested after working as a knitwear designer for the founder of Anthropologie, along with other labels like Alexander Wang and Tess Giberson, while balancing other freelance projects with the queen of knitwear, Caroline McKenty. These experiences helped me learn more about the industry but also built my drive to start a label that would operate nothing like the standard oversaturated fashion industry in NYC.

At the time, Giu Giu was primarily a tiny group of unisex oversized textural sweaters, and I was selling to a few of my favorite boutiques in the US. The missing piece of my brand fell into my lap when my beloved grandmother, Palmira Giglia passed away due to Parkinson’s Disease. After all this time, I hadn’t realized my grandmother was in fact, a knitwear designer until my mother had sent me two of her original turtlenecks from the 60’s to my studio in Brooklyn, randomly two weeks before she passed. As an homage to her for simply sharing her gift to me, I decided to bring back the iconic “Vaccaro” Turtleneck in Ivory. I kept the ‘shrinking’ quality of the ribbed knit but changed the fiber to a softer, cotton quality, calling it the NONNA Turtleneck (Nonna is Grandmother in Italian). Thinking nothing would come of it, I was surprised to have such a huge reaction. Tons of her original customers were writing soon after, sharing their excitement of the revival of their favorite sweater and many sweet memories. So the line continued to expand from there as I continued her legacy, studying the correlation between clothing, memory, and emotion. It’s become something much more profound than I originally anticipated, and I continue to cherish Giu Giu everyday…

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Of course, not. With everything in life, there are waves. Highs and lows and I try to remind myself that the challenges are our teachers that help us grow. In the beginning, the biggest challenge was to create sustainable and financially stable brand. That evolved into the lesson of letting go of some of the responsibilities so that I was not in control of every aspect, which required to build a team. Recently, figuring out the ropes of managing the team to set a solid foundation for growth has been a big learning curve for me.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Although I love all aspects of creativity within creating the brand, I specialize in Knitwear Design. Knitwear is special because you are creating the textile from scratch, keeping in mind texture, fiber, gauge, etc., rather than simply selecting a fabric and cutting into that. It makes it more of a full-circle experience for me while being a sustainable craft, involving a lot less waste.

The Giu Giu world is something I wanted to create for people to escape in and feel free. As a brand that embraces humor in life, a sense of wonder is something, I feel most adults lose with age. As a person who hates feeling restricted and labeled, my goal for Giu Giu is to serve as a blank canvas for people. Something that’s not pre-labeled for a certain type of person. So whoever you are, or however you want to label yourself, you can still wear Giu Giu and feel unbound. It’s less about how you look and more about feeling good in your own skin.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
I feel blessed to have had a lot of mentors, teachers, and loved ones along my journey that have brought me the inspiration, encouragement, and support to keep going, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. The most significant being my grandmother, Palmira Giglia, who passed on her gift to me.

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Photography by Ye Rin Mok via BUILDING BLOCK & Bennet Perez / Daniel Bromberg

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