DAMDAM

Conversations with

Giu Giu

BY GISELLE GO

Photographs by Giuliana Raggiani, Kara Kochalko, and Stella Berkofsky

We met designer Giuliana Raggiani at the recent Man/Woman shows in Paris last June. This dusky beauty is a modern multi-hyphenate, splitting her time between Paris and L.A. as a yoga and meditation teacher, art director (among her recent projects are a shoot for a boutique in Portland and creating album art for a musician in New York), and as creative director of her own line, giu giu.

The eponymous line is named after a childhood nickname and the backstory is similarly nostalgic: Giuliana revived a classic knit turtleneck designed by her grandmother in the 1960s and modernized it for the millenial generation. The result is a collection of cotton-blend knits in shades of neutrals punctuated by pops of celery, marigold, and blue glace – surely, building blocks of any wardrobe.

We chat with the soft-spoken creative about giu giu and her yoga practice – her gentle and calming presence a reminder to cement our vow to visit her yoga studio in Paris on our next trip!

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Giuliana Leila Raggiani. I’m the designer and creative director of giu giu. I also work as an art director for other projects. Aside from the design world, I grew up as a ballet dancer, and now teach yoga and meditation classes. My family is from Sicily, but I was born in Boston, and spent many years in New York City.  I currently live between Paris and Los Angeles.

Staple knitwear from giu giu. inspired by the iconic turtleneck her Nonna designed in the ’60s.

“My Nonna designed this knit with her brother, Gino my godfather, in the 1960s, when they immigrated to the US. The turtlenecks became a staple item in every women’s wardrobe, after opening their shop called Settebello in Boston… I kept them hung in my studio and felt so inspired by them; as if I was looking at them with new eyes. After she passed I had this strong urge to reproduce them under my line, giu giu.”

I love the name of your line, Giu Giu. Where did that come from and what was the impetus for your brand?

Giu Giu has been my nickname since I was little. I recently found out on my last trip to Tokyo that ‘giu giu’ in Japanese means hugging / shrinking, which is also quite fitting to the brand!

Since entering the design world in school, it was always my dream to have a little universe that I can pour all of my creative ideas into. It wasn’t until after working as a knitwear designer for a few other labels, that my vision was fully executed. I realized I could create a place in fashion for people to feel less restricted; a place for expression. More of a blank canvas brand, not bound by age, race, or gender.

The Nonna knit is one of my favorites from your line. What’s the story behind that piece?

Well, my Nonna – grandmother in Italian – designed this knit with her brother, Gino my godfather, in the 1960s, when they immigrated to the US. The turtlenecks became a staple item in every women’s wardrobe, after opening their shop called Settebello in Boston. I completely forgot about them as I got older. One day, my mother mailed two of the originals to my studio in Brooklyn. It was around the time my Nonna became very sick. She was battling Parkison’s disease in the later half of her life, and eventually passed two weeks after I received the turtlenecks. I kept them hung in my studio and felt so inspired by them; as if I was looking at them with new eyes. After she passed I had this strong urge to reproduce them under my line, giu giu. So I started with the ivory, simply as an homage to her beautiful creation. I kept the shape, the shrunken, alien-like structure, and the integrity of the knitting exactly the same. I only changed the quality of the yarn, from a scratchy acrylic that I remember hating when I was a child, to a softer cotton blend. Immediately it caused a reaction, and somehow a lot of her original customers began to contact me, expressing how grateful and excited they were that the turtleneck was making a come-back. From there, I introduced new colors each season, most of which are dyed exactly to match the original line, and new shapes and variations of the iconic turtleneck silhouette.

The ethereal Giuliana anchors her creative work with daily yoga and meditation.

“Expanding my environment when designing a collection gives me a fresh perspective. It could be one color that catches my eye on a trip, and from there the palette of the season is formed.”

What inspires your work?

Traveling, number one. Expanding my environment when designing a collection gives me a fresh perspective. It could be one color that catches my eye on a trip, and from there the palette of the season is formed. The energies of every city are all completely different, so I try to capture the essence I feel in that moment. Keeping a sense of humor in my collections is also important to me as a designer. Life can feel too serious, especially in the fashion industry, so bringing a bit of light-heartedness makes things feel fresh and free.

For a practicing yogi, do you have a morning ritual that you try to keep everyday?

Yes! My morning ritual is something very sacred to me. I have a meditation practice I do each morning. I try my best to do with the sunrise, so I love an early night’s rest. It makes me feel clean and centered before starting the day. As a business owner, everyday things can come up without warning, so it helps me feel less reactive and adapt more easily to unexpected change.

Art imitates life: images of giu giu echo the designer’s twin love for dance and yoga.

 

“My morning ritual is something very sacred to me. I have a meditation practice I do each morning. I try my best to do with the sunrise, so I love an early night’s rest. It makes me feel clean and centered before starting the day. As a business owner, everyday things can come up without warning, so it helps me feel less reactive and adapt more easily to unexpected change.”

Tell us a little bit about your yoga practice in Paris.

Aside from my personal daily practice, when I first moved to Paris, I was hosting small private gatherings in my apartment, which I organized with every new moon / full moon. Then my classes expanded, and I’m now teaching at two beautiful studios in Le Marais at Omm Studio & Le Centre Element.

After living in New York for 10 years, and studying different yogic and spiritual practices on both East and West coasts, I formed my individual practice. I try to embrace the mélange of knowledge I gained, such as Vinyasa, Kundalini Yoga, Naam, and Universal Kabbalah. So my classes are constantly evolving, but generally consist of mantra, breath-work, and various movements to open the body. Ultimately I feel grateful to be able to hold this healing space, sparking creativity in others, and help increase more light in the city.

Wearing giu giu.

“Your products are so special. I’ve been using the face oil at night and it’s so gentle. The hydrating mist is also perfect for days at the beach in LA when my skin can become so dry.”

We’re happy our products have reached you and hope you’re enjoying the experience.

Your collection carries so much light. I’ve already fallen in love with the Little Wonder lip balm. Your products are so special. I’ve been using the face oil at night and it’s so gentle. The hydrating mist is also perfect for days at the beach in LA when my skin can become so dry.

You’re based between LA and Paris. What are some of your favorite places to visit in those cities?

Yes, I balance my time between these two cities. Here are my top spots:

Los Angeles

My little nest in Venice

Gjusta 

The Pacific Ocean 

Mignon

Paris

Early Mornings at Palais Royale

0FR. Librairie & Galerie 

Chambre Noire natural wine bar

Charme D’orient – a magical escape from the city, a spa inspired by the owner’s Algerian traditions and family recipes

 

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