When Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio — friends from Milan who worked next to but not with each other — launched Attico last February, the consultants-cum-designers did not expect the overwhelmingly positive feedback they garnered. Attico is already stocked by what most designers would call “The Majors” — Net-a-Porter, MATCHESFASHION.COM, MyTheresa and Moda Operandi. What’s unique is how quickly they put their idea, born while riding in a cab together during New York Fashion Week, into action. “Attico” is Italian for penthouse, and their launch story revolved around reimagining what a woman wears in the comfort of her home (cue the luxurious robes). Below, Todini and Ambrosio serve some intellect in a thoughtful interview on how to develop a brand in 2016, the pros and cons of social media, the importance of product good enough to speak for itself and what it takes to call yourself successful in fashion. (They say they’re not there yet, but we’ll see.)
When did you decide to launch a label together? How long after deciding did you actually launch?
It happened fast. We were in a cab traveling between shows at NYFW, lamenting the fact that we were kind of desperate for something new that excited us to come out. This sort of silent understanding came over us at the same time, and we tilted our heads and gave each other a quizzical look, almost like: “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” And decided to create Attico right then and there. We didn’t know it would be Attico, of course, but we decided to do something. Six months later, we launched.
What’s the best part of working together?
How different our personal styles are. It’s been an amazing pleasure collaborating, since we pull each other in directions that neither of us would normally go. That kind of discomfort and encouragement stimulates our creative growth.
How do you feel like your positioning on social media (you both have substantial followings) has affected the success of the company?
Social media is a fascinating animal. On one hand, it’s been an incredible tool for us — both for inspiration and, of course, for publicizing and marketing our brand. We’re in some strange way indebted to it, if one can be indebted to an inanimate digital platform. On the other hand, it’s a really dangerous time suck and vehicle for vanity. So, even though that didn’t really answer your question, those are our thoughts on social media.
Are you comfortable being called influencers?
Comfortable? Sure. Do we love it? No. Do our boyfriends use it to make fun of us? Always.
It’s been less than a year since you officially launched, but the feedback has been seemingly incredible; you’re stocked at NAP, Matches, on Moda Operandi — to what do you credit the success of the line?
We’re stunned by how well the brand has been received. Stunned and grateful. But as to why? We can’t really say. We hope it’s because we’re doing something refreshing, something different, something creative, making women feel elegant and beautiful and powerful all at once, and filling a hole in the industry. Who knows if those really are the reasons, but we also recognize that fashion is a fickle industry, and just as quickly as you can be welcomed and loved, you can be cast out. So we’re certainly not accepting ourselves as successes just yet.
Is Attico now your full-time work? What were you doing previously?
Attico consumes most of our time, energy, thoughts and creativity, but we still take on side projects. We’re currently consulting for other brands, though fewer and fewer than we were before. Prior to Attico, we were designers and consultants for fashion brands — basically more of the same, just not our own brand.
There is a great opportunity here to share a bit about social media’s power to help launch a brand. Do you feel like Instagram helped to get your name out there? If not, what do you think it was?
Instagram definitely helped. It is an amazing platform for publicity. We had 200,000 people looking at our brand the first day we decided to announce it. That’s a huge help. But it’s just a tool for marketing. Without a quality idea and execution, it only goes so far. We hope that Attico is successful because people love Attico, not because we have some Instagram followers.
Is there a reason that in the context of fashion week, you prefer the presentation format over a show?
We think that Attico needs context and a fashion show would affect the charm of it. “Attico” means penthouse in Italian, that was the starting point. A story about women in their private homes wearing robes. Every season we look for a different apartment in Milan and we furnish it in the way that fits the aesthetic and the theme of the collection. It helps to tell our story to buyers and press with a clear message. And it creates expectation and curiosity in our clients, so they wonder where we are taking them every season.
What’s the design process like? Do you truly collaborate on every piece or are there certain garments that speak to Gilda’s style vs. Giorgia’s style?
Our design process starts way before we really sit down to actually design. First, we research. We’ve been to vintage stores and swap meets and fashion libraries in Tokyo and LA and Paris and Milan and New York and everywhere. Once we have a loose idea, our library of inspiration and a clear direction, we meet somewhere — sometimes New York, sometimes Milan — and hole ourselves up in a hotel room, order room service and do not leave until we have a collection. We draw and we redraw and we piece things together — fabrics and colors and patterns and shapes — until we have a line.
We’re honestly true collaborators. That doesn’t mean we each take a pencil and meet in the middle on a sketch, or each name half of a piece, but we both contribute to everything in the collection. Collaboration is a really fascinating, delicate thing. We don’t think either of us knew exactly what it meant when we decided to do this together, but we’ve done really well together. We each have our strengths, our tastes, our styles, of course, but we’ve both made a point to be, above all else, open-minded to the other’s thoughts and creative vision, and that’s been critical for our success as a team.
Do you feel like you have a competitive advantage over other designers? If so, what?
There are two of us! Does that count? The clothes themselves are incredible, of course, and show that before anything else, a really good product has the ability to speak for itself.
Lookbook images via Attico.