Meet the Florentine fashion designers
I met Livia couple of years ago through a friend in common. Already during our first talk, I learned that she was fashion designer and that she run her own boutique in Oltrarno. Soon after, I visited Hello Wonderful for the first time and, I have to say, I was really impressed. I found a little boutique, run by two brave ladies, Livia and Viviana, who design and sew unique pieces of clothing for women. First, I became their client, then, when I started to run my tours, I continued to visit their shop with my clients during our Oltrarno tour. Hello Wonderful is a truly unique place! Livia and Viviana promote a successful business model producing unique, handmade pieces of clothing at competitive price.
Yesterday I had a chat with Livia about their activity, artisans in Florence, their place in Oltrarno and about their ideas for the future.
Me: Livia, could you tell me who you are and what are the beginnings of your activity?
Livia: We are Hello Wonderful and we opened this shop in October 2016. We are an independent, eco-friendly boutique. Our products are eco-friendly because and we use stock fabrics.
Me: What does it mean?
Livia: It means that we use what remains from the over-production of the industries. The textiles we buy are high quality products, but they risk becoming a waste because their producers do not have enough space for the storage. Sometimes it is a matter of colour or pattern, which are not super trendy anymore. In other cases, it happens that the industries produce too much of these fabrics and they are not able to sell them. Instead of destroying them, these textiles are distributed between the producers like us.
For us there are many advantages of buying stock textiles. First of all, we are sure of getting high quality product, made in Italy, which is very important for us, but we can get it at a really good price. In consequence, we can sell our products at an attractive price being competitive with mass market and big brands.
Nowadays the competition is immense, but our products really have few strong points. We not only guarantee the quality of the fabric we use, but we also always produce limited edition collections. When we look for a textile, we never buy 30 or 40 m of it. Normally, we take about 10 m of each fabric and we use it to produce three or four garments and the clients always get a unique product. Today, this is what clients look for. You know, it happens often that you go out on Saturday night and you meet twenty girls wearing the same dress. It is always more difficult to be different. In our shop, instead, you can find a unique piece at a competitive price.
Me: How did it all start?
Livia: Me and my business partner, Viviana, we both moved to Florence from other parts of Italy. I come from Brescia, a town in Northern Italy and I moved here five years ago because of my boyfriend. Viviana, instead, comes from Sardinia and she came to Florence before me. She worked in a similar shop in via Sant’Agostino before. When we met, we were both unemployed, so we started to share our ideas, dreams and thoughts. We united our forces, and this is how Hello Wonderful was born! This shop is the result of our work!
Me: Is it important for you that you opened this activity in Florence?
Livia: You know, I came here because I decided to follow my boyfriend. We worked together in a family activity here. But then I realized that this artisan production has always been very important here. Fashion was born here! For me now it is like a return to the origins of fashion design. Moreover, today if you want to be taken seriously in the world of fashion design, you have to self-produce your collections. If you really want to do what you’ve been studying for, it’s the only way to do it. Then, it’s also a great fun! It’s also hard and laborious because you work as a one-man band. You must take care of all the process, from your idea until the final touches to the ready product, so you have to be everywhere, but it is a beautiful experience.
Me: How do you organize your work?
Livia: We have an outline for the collection but there always is an element of improvisation. We have a constant feedback from our customers. We see immediately if a garment doesn’t work, if we have to change something, transform it. But, generally, our task is to produce constantly. We are lucky to have our laboratory directly inside of the shop, we produce while we sell. There is a constant change of garments in the shop. What we sew, we are able, fortunately, to sell immediately so our offer changes constantly. This is important especially for people who live or who pass through Oltrarno regularly because they always find new products in our shop. It is fun for us to produce all the time new models but it is also nice for our final clients, because we can always say that in two weeks the collection will change and the client has a reason to return.
Me: How long does it takes to make a pair of trousers?
Livia: (Laughing) It depends! Let’s say between 45 minutes and two and a half hours! It really depends on the model and on the fabric. You can find a fabric, which is very easy to work on, while in other cases the textile can create many problems, during the ironing for example. You can also have difficulties in trying to match the pattern. So sometimes you can even pass an entire day on one piece.
Me: What sizes do you produce?
Livia: We produce our cloths in sizes from XS to L and we always offer some corrections if needed. It is impossible to produce cloths that fit everybody. Even if we design highly wearable garments, sometimes some corrections are needed. We always do them.
Me: Do you feel any bound between you and Oltrarno?
Livia: We do. It is enough to thing about the history of this particular shop, which before hosted a coffee shop, very famous in the neighbourhood. When we were restoring it, our neighbours would come to tell us all the story of this place. This is why we keep a jar of coffee beans on our counter, just to remember the past. We are in a building dating back to the fifteenth century! We are literally surrounded by artisans’ workshops. Oltrarno has always been an artisan district. It happens here, but it also happens in other European cities, that the productive neighbourhoods revive and change. It is all happening right now! When I moved here five years ago, many activities, which are prosperous today, did not even exist. So, Oltrarno is becoming more and more popular and fashionable.
I hope that the future generations of the artisans will continue their activity here.
Me: What are you plans for the future?
Livia: Difficult to say. Maybe we will try to open another shop! Who knows! For now, we have enough work!
Me: Do you have a shop on-line?
Livia: Not a proper shop. Our website is more like a shopping window, but our clients can always order writing us an email or using Instagram and Facebook.
Me: Thank you for your time! I wish you all the best and see you soon! I have to try this gorgeous Corolla Trousers!
Livia: Thank you!
I will definitely return there soon! If you want to learn more about Oltrarno and about other young artisans who work in this neighbourhood, book our Oltrarno tour! It will bring you to the very heart of this area.
Feel free to visit Livia and Viviana’s shop to see their beautiful cloths!
Here are some practical information about it:
Via Santa Monaca 2R
Monday-Saturday and every 2nd and 3rd Sunday of the month, 10 am – 1pm and 2 pm – 8 pm