The Fashion Folk S01 ep1 : Gaetano De Franceschi, Ghirardini Fashion, [Milian]
Interview with Gaetano De Franceschi
All the experiences you have working with leather are important, because leather is a living material and it is important to know just how to sew by hand, "scarnilla" cut it by hand, knowing how to fold leather and handle it, feel it with your hands. Knowing the feel and texture of leather, knowing its beauty and its ablilities as well at what it is unable to do.
Girardini for me I think is the first factory - first let me tell you a particular story.
Mr. Gucci was in the factory of Girardini.
KM: Ah so Mr. Girardini was Guccio Gucci's master.
The factory of Girardini produced accessories for the travel at this time. The
women in Florence have need of new and interesting things, beautiful things.
In Italy I think it was the first of its kind in leather, at the time.
KM And how would you describe his designs from the early years.
Very very elegant, very very fine: with rubies and emeralds.
KM: With some jewels, so he was doing some beautiful things.
Very very fine, yes some really beautiful pieces.
After being in business a little while Girardini began inventing a very special
fabric for the travelling industry - light, extremely strong and durable - this
fabric was made of cotton and plastic.
KM: What was the other advantage of using this synthetic material?
The colour - in Girardini this material, this special material.
KM: Is this the same, is this the material here?
Yes, these cushions are made of this material. Feel this....
KM: When did you start working with Girardini?
This is the one, two, third season.
KM: Why did they want you?
Because I am a fashion designer. I have been doing this work for 27 years.
For the last 10 years he has worked for the Danillo Dolci group which is the
new owner of Girardini.
KM: So you were working with them before.
Exactly, I started doing this type of work from the age of 16. Prior to working
with the Dolci Group I worked for Fendi, Fendissime, La Copani, Le
I love art. It was possible for me in my city to work in a special factory to make
saddles. I handled the leather, the cutting, the colour - this was truly very
interesting work for me, and I loved it.
In the mornings I was a student, in the afternoons I worked in this factory.
KM: what did you do exactly?
I cut the leather, make the pattern in cardboard, sew the article by hand,...
KM: How many years did you do this?
For about 2 – 3 years.
I came to Florence to study Architecture in university.
My first important job with Nazzareno Gabrielle - all the experiences you have
working with leather are important, because leather is a living material and it is
important to know just how to sew by hand, "scarnilla" cut it by hand, knowing
how to fold leather and handle it, feel it with your hands. Knowing the feel and
texture of leather, knowing its beauty and its abilities as well at what it is
unable to do. Because leather is a living thing, each piece is individual and it is
similar to us, therefore knowing it, being in constant contact by that I mean
working with it, feeling it with your hands, certainly these experiences gives
you the ability in interpreting the leather. These things are in my opinion
extremely important for a designer who works with leather.
Designing an object made of wood, you need to know just what wood is, how it
works. How can I work it, how can I cut it, how can I glue it together. Leather is
exactly similar to this. I need to know the intricacies of the leather, know from
which region in the world it comes from, in which areas the animals were
grazed, why? Because leathers have individual characteristics. A cow in Italy
has a different style of life than an animal that is raised in Argentina - very
different, and when I construct an object from these two different hides, they
actually are two very different objects.
In Italy the cow lives a serene life, there is plenty to eat, the living
arrangements are usually very modern, there is no barbed wire around - in
Africa on the other hand food is scarce, the animals are quite thin, the leather
is more pliable, but the terrain is more rugged therefore the animal has marks
on its hide - these are things you see immediately on a hide when you have
laid it out in front of you. Therefore you have to know the feel and that it is a
biological difference in the leather. All leather is beautiful, but you must know
how to select which leather is good for which particular product you are
producing and when you begin designing with that leather you understand its
limitations. Many times I select the leather first and then I design.
It is possible for both situations. Designing and then selecting the leather but I
feel it is much much better, to first look at the leather and then within its
limitations start designing. This is the better option because you see the
product in front of you. and you can imagine in your mind what this piece of
hide can yield in design.
KM: Are they different to ….
KM what is the difference?
The cut and size of the hide, the price, the thickness, the way you must sew it,
the way in which you cut it, the methods you use in constructing a piece, -
everything is different. Each type of leather has its own peculiarities when it
comes to design and construction.
We at Giraldini do not wish to make great number of our designs, we
manufacture limited quantities, constructed carefully and beautifully because at
Giraldini we truly love leather and we do not want to become a mass producer.
KM What is the best leather?
Leather that was produced in the most natural way, that is tanned in the
method that was used 500 years ago and until 20 - 30 years ago it was
possible to find, now it is becoming more and more difficult. This was the most
beautiful leather of the world.
KM: How do you make good leather?
The industry does not want to have hides that have imperfections on it,
therefore these hides with the imperfections are taken and re-tanned if you
like, to produce leather that is perfect without blemishes. This process
normalises the quality and there is no longer the differences in the hides that
nature produced. The tanners of yesteryear respected what nature produced in
the hides and you saw this natural difference in the hides and in the pieces you
produced. It was more exclusive. These new hides are treated with a series of
chemicals, they have a particular sequence of work done to them within big
vats, and then they are tossed with chemicals added, that remove the parts
that can ruin the quality - it is a very long process and very industrial.
KM: what is the difference between hand processing?
You dig a big ditch, then you place the hides and many other natural things.
What type of things, even the urine of the cow for example.
KM: You dig a hole in the ground, in the dirt, you stick the piece of skin the
urine of the cow and tannin. How long do you leave it in the ground?
Depends, some weeks.
KM: This is the traditional way of making leather? - o.k. then , after two weeks
you take of the dirt and you pull out the skin, and then what do you do?
You colour it,
KM: You wash it,
Yes you wash it....
KM: then you steam iron it,
Exactly, then the colour and after you add Parafin.
KM And that is it?
KM: Is this the same with crocodile, with all leather?
No, it is not the same although there are similarities. The crocodile leather
must be rubbed and polished by hand, otherwise it does not have that high
shine to it, this is the difference in the finishing of the product.
KM: Why are we still doing leather like this.
Perhaps because we have a need for the traditional in these products and
therefore we have a need for security, we have a need for the continuity with
our past. Therefore any great change in design that is available, and is done,
surely for the market place it is a little bit perilous. Perilous in the fact of these
massive changes, the market place is slow to change and with these particular
products it is still very cautious with its traditions.
KM: What do you think of yourself as a designer, or an artist?
That is a very mean question. Sometimes I think I am an artist, these a
beautiful moments and they render me extremely happy. Other times, I am a
designer and I am satisfied with this, but this does not give me the same
happiness as when I feel like I am an artist.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Gaetano De Franceschi, Ghirardini Fashion, Milian