Role Models, over Fashion Models

Posted on by Phuong Mai

Did you know we use role models instead of fashion models for our campaigns? We believe in sharing the stories of real women who inspire us in meaningful ways. That’s why we want you to meet Nina and Lola Viggi—two Italian sisters who are changing the way you think about fitted shirts. We sat down with Lola to discuss their unique childhood, the truth about working with your sister, and their latest venture, The Italian Collective, a network of Italian artisans designing handmade, bespoke fit apparel.

image

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Milan, Italy, but was uprooted to California at the age of 8. My childhood was pretty incredible, in the sense that on a Friday afternoon in October I said goodbye to my Italian elementary school and friends, and the following Monday morning I was being shown around Woodside Elementary by new classmates (whom I couldn’t understand of course, knowing very little English). It took me roughly 6 months to learn the language, 1 week to make new best friends, and 1 day to realize this place was magical. I continued on to experience life at an all-American high school, and later received my B.A. in Psychology from UCLA.

“Having been put so far outside my comfort zone at a young age has really opened my mind, and has made me more than anything, adaptable.”

Transitioning from one culture to another at such a young age had a tremendous impact on the person I am today: slightly resistant to change, but incredibly thrilled when I feel it is coming on. Today, I feel ease in navigating one place to the next, whether it be a country or a dinner party, and it feels quite normal to take something over and make it feel like ‘home’. Having been put so far outside my comfort zone at a young age has really opened my mind, and has made me more than anything, adaptable.

Did you always want to start your own fashion line?

No, but the fashion industry has always been a part of my life. My mom worked as a fashion stylist for over 20 years, and my dad used to be a fashion photographer – so my sister and I grew up on sets, even subbed in as baby and child models a handful of times.

Personally, what I wear has always been important to me. Once you discover your staples and “statement” pieces, you begin to learn what style defines you, what feels good, what items you love to wear regularly, and what makes sense for your age and profession.

The clothes on your back are much more than sewn cotton—they are a reflection of how you think, and how you feel that day. When I think about the fact that we started an online retail line, it makes me smile, because I am not at all surprised that we ended up here.

image

What was your inspiration for starting the Italian Collective?

I think my mother’s experience in the styling world is really where it all began. After 20+ years in the industry, my mom would come home from a photoshoot, completely exhausted, and state that she was tired of the fashion game, the rat race. When you actually take some time to think about what the fashion industry really is, particularly fast fashion, you realize it’s a lot of churn. One item may be “in” for a while, but it’s a matter of weeks or just a couple months before it’s on to the next.

It started with talking about my mom’s exit out of the styling world, and into helping women actually look great. We realized there were few retail companies out there that remove themselves from the ‘churn’, and create clothes that are truly long-lasting, can’t possibly go out of style, and fit each unique woman beautifully. Overtime, these conversations got more specific: who, how, what, where – and we started framing what would later become the Italian Collective Inc.

One day I was out doing some competitive analysis for the Italian Collective. I walked into Brooks Brothers and headed straight to the custom made department. I asked the woman seated at the tailor desk if they did any custom shirts for women. Her answer was, “You know what, we used to – but it didn’t go over so well, so we don’t advertise it anymore.”

Challenge accepted!

image

What’s it like having your sister as a business partner?

Nina is 3 years older than me, and she can be the definition of my best friend and my worst enemy, you know – the way sisters are. I have the outmost respect for my sister. Nina was the one to lead the way to with the UCLA admission, where she graduated with a B.A. in Architecture. She then became the youngest student to enter the Pasadena Art Center College of Design to receive her M.S. in Industrial Design. Nina has an incredible mind, and I trust her completely when it comes to leading the Italian Collective brand, website, design, and strategy.

However, working with your sister is hard; there really isn’t another word for it. We have a tendency to be really frank, direct, and cut-throat with each other because that’s what we are used to. It’s hard for us to separate ourselves from the “sister” mentality to the “coworker” mentality.

That being said, I think having to work on the Italian Collective together is the best thing that could have happened to us. We complement each other really well, because Nina lives in the forward thinking, extremely creative, visual inspiration world. I am the organizer, the communicator, the social butterfly, the detail oriented, the planner. Sometimes I have to be the one to slow her down, and really hone in on what we need to do this minute, before we think about our brand 20 years from now.

image

Where do you go to for inspiration?

We take inspiration mostly from very classic looks, and thinking about what professional women of all ages and sizes would look lovely wearing. Occasionally, one of us might be flipping through a magazine and see a shirt that truly has an edge, and that can make its way into our proposed collection.

However, at the end of the day, we aren’t going out there searching for the latest trending style or the latest ‘hit’ color, because that’s not what we are about. We want to design shirts that will always feel welcome in your closet, which you can wear all the time, all year long, and that you don’t feel like you had to get rid of after a few seasons. When you start thinking about what that entails, it always takes you back to a classic, all-time look.

What’s next for your brand?

My mother would say, “PANTS and BLAZERS!” with outmost enthusiasm and determination.

Nina would say, “3D measuring technology and world domination, obviously.”

I will say: We are on a mission to dress women across the country, and truly deliver on the perfect fit. We want to bring back the notion of truly handmade, in Italy, from women for women. We want to be a part of the artisanal, slow fashion movement, and make our customers really happy. When we have all of that down, let’s chat again.

Finally: How do you carry on beautifully?

I carry on beautifully with the proper mindset. You can really make or break your own day, simply by how you choose you approach it. The days that I am carrying on beautifully, it’s all coming from within, you have to choose your attitude towards every single day.

image

Thanks for your time! You can check out the Italian Collective here.

XO, P.MAI

Did you know we use role models instead of fashion models for our campaigns? We believe in sharing the stories of real women who inspire us in meaningful ways. That’s why we want you to meet Nina and Lola Viggi—two Italian sisters who are changing the way you think about fitted shirts. We sat down with Lola to discuss their unique childhood, the truth about working with your sister, and their latest venture, The Italian Collective, a network of Italian artisans designing handmade, bespoke fit apparel.

image

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Milan, Italy, but was uprooted to California at the age of 8. My childhood was pretty incredible, in the sense that on a Friday afternoon in October I said goodbye to my Italian elementary school and friends, and the following Monday morning I was being shown around Woodside Elementary by new classmates (whom I couldn’t understand of course, knowing very little English). It took me roughly 6 months to learn the language, 1 week to make new best friends, and 1 day to realize this place was magical. I continued on to experience life at an all-American high school, and later received my B.A. in Psychology from UCLA.

“Having been put so far outside my comfort zone at a young age has really opened my mind, and has made me more than anything, adaptable.”

Transitioning from one culture to another at such a young age had a tremendous impact on the person I am today: slightly resistant to change, but incredibly thrilled when I feel it is coming on. Today, I feel ease in navigating one place to the next, whether it be a country or a dinner party, and it feels quite normal to take something over and make it feel like ‘home’. Having been put so far outside my comfort zone at a young age has really opened my mind, and has made me more than anything, adaptable.

Did you always want to start your own fashion line?

No, but the fashion industry has always been a part of my life. My mom worked as a fashion stylist for over 20 years, and my dad used to be a fashion photographer – so my sister and I grew up on sets, even subbed in as baby and child models a handful of times.

Personally, what I wear has always been important to me. Once you discover your staples and “statement” pieces, you begin to learn what style defines you, what feels good, what items you love to wear regularly, and what makes sense for your age and profession.

The clothes on your back are much more than sewn cotton—they are a reflection of how you think, and how you feel that day. When I think about the fact that we started an online retail line, it makes me smile, because I am not at all surprised that we ended up here.

image

What was your inspiration for starting the Italian Collective?

I think my mother’s experience in the styling world is really where it all began. After 20+ years in the industry, my mom would come home from a photoshoot, completely exhausted, and state that she was tired of the fashion game, the rat race. When you actually take some time to think about what the fashion industry really is, particularly fast fashion, you realize it’s a lot of churn. One item may be “in” for a while, but it’s a matter of weeks or just a couple months before it’s on to the next.

It started with talking about my mom’s exit out of the styling world, and into helping women actually look great. We realized there were few retail companies out there that remove themselves from the ‘churn’, and create clothes that are truly long-lasting, can’t possibly go out of style, and fit each unique woman beautifully. Overtime, these conversations got more specific: who, how, what, where – and we started framing what would later become the Italian Collective Inc.

One day I was out doing some competitive analysis for the Italian Collective. I walked into Brooks Brothers and headed straight to the custom made department. I asked the woman seated at the tailor desk if they did any custom shirts for women. Her answer was, “You know what, we used to – but it didn’t go over so well, so we don’t advertise it anymore.”

Challenge accepted!

image

What’s it like having your sister as a business partner?

Nina is 3 years older than me, and she can be the definition of my best friend and my worst enemy, you know – the way sisters are. I have the outmost respect for my sister. Nina was the one to lead the way to with the UCLA admission, where she graduated with a B.A. in Architecture. She then became the youngest student to enter the Pasadena Art Center College of Design to receive her M.S. in Industrial Design. Nina has an incredible mind, and I trust her completely when it comes to leading the Italian Collective brand, website, design, and strategy.

However, working with your sister is hard; there really isn’t another word for it. We have a tendency to be really frank, direct, and cut-throat with each other because that’s what we are used to. It’s hard for us to separate ourselves from the “sister” mentality to the “coworker” mentality.

That being said, I think having to work on the Italian Collective together is the best thing that could have happened to us. We complement each other really well, because Nina lives in the forward thinking, extremely creative, visual inspiration world. I am the organizer, the communicator, the social butterfly, the detail oriented, the planner. Sometimes I have to be the one to slow her down, and really hone in on what we need to do this minute, before we think about our brand 20 years from now.

image

Where do you go to for inspiration?

We take inspiration mostly from very classic looks, and thinking about what professional women of all ages and sizes would look lovely wearing. Occasionally, one of us might be flipping through a magazine and see a shirt that truly has an edge, and that can make its way into our proposed collection.

However, at the end of the day, we aren’t going out there searching for the latest trending style or the latest ‘hit’ color, because that’s not what we are about. We want to design shirts that will always feel welcome in your closet, which you can wear all the time, all year long, and that you don’t feel like you had to get rid of after a few seasons. When you start thinking about what that entails, it always takes you back to a classic, all-time look.

What’s next for your brand?

My mother would say, “PANTS and BLAZERS!” with outmost enthusiasm and determination.

Nina would say, “3D measuring technology and world domination, obviously.”

I will say: We are on a mission to dress women across the country, and truly deliver on the perfect fit. We want to bring back the notion of truly handmade, in Italy, from women for women. We want to be a part of the artisanal, slow fashion movement, and make our customers really happy. When we have all of that down, let’s chat again.

Finally: How do you carry on beautifully?

I carry on beautifully with the proper mindset. You can really make or break your own day, simply by how you choose you approach it. The days that I am carrying on beautifully, it’s all coming from within, you have to choose your attitude towards every single day.

image

Thanks for your time! You can check out the Italian Collective here.

XO, P.MAI