The story of the Bice&Berta bespoke knitwear in Torre Boldone, a few kilometres away from Bergamo, in Northern Italy, is a wool yarn running through the decades and connecting the hearts of extraordinary women, who grew up in different ages and have been brought together by the same passion. The same passion which, 27 years ago, encouraged Marina Rizzini to establish the laboratory and atelier which has now become a special place, fulfilling the soft tailor-made dreams of her clients, and turning them into perfect garments to be worn.
Tell us the story of Bice&Berta.
Fashion has been one of my passions since I was a child. I was born and grew up in a small village in the Alta Valle Brembana in the province of Bergamo. At night, with my mother's help, I created garments and sweaters, taking inspiration from the fashion magazines of the times. After the birth of my two daughters Greta and Camilla, I decided to open a knitwear laboratory and recreate what I had done with my mother: making bespoke knitwear garments with manual flat knitting machines, or handmade, excellence material garments. In 1998, after we moved into the new Torre Boldone laboratory, our brand became Bice&Berta, from the second names of my two daughters, Bice being the name of an aunt who initiated me to the knitwear techniques and Berta a great-grand mother, whom we all remember as a wool spinner by definition…
I decided to open a knitwear laboratory and recreate what I had done with my mother: making bespoke knitwear garments with manual flat knitting machines, or handmade, excellence material garments
As I grew up, my mother taught me how to make bespoke clothes for myself. Living in a small village, this is how we spent our evenings, making clothes for ourselves together
Is there a person or an episode that influenced you in choosing this trade?
My mother Marì and aunt Bice certainly plaid an important role in bringing out my passion, and, later on, my husband Marco largely contributed to my decision to embark on this path. I did not go to pre-school when I was a child, and my aunt Bice, who was a skilful dressmaker, and did not want me to mess around and make trouble, sat me down on the table of her tiny workshop, with needles in my hands, and this is how I learned crocheting, embroidering and knitting, while creating gorgeous layettes for my dolls. As I grew up, my mother taught me how to make bespoke clothes for myself. Living in a small village, this is how we spent our evenings, making clothes for ourselves together.
Your daughter followed in your footsteps. How does sharing your passion with Camilla affect you?
When she was a very young child, she came to the laboratory and was just delighted in cutting and sewing clothes for her Barbies by using scraps and leftovers. After graduation and three years' internship with important fashion and knitwear companies, she asked me to work here together. We share the same great passion, and, after she started working here, we have even intensified our hand-made work, especially knitting and crochet. Camilla is a highly skilled and imaginative collaborator, she finishes our garments with amazing crochet inserts and can create knitted sweaters with natural, precious materials that cannot be used on machineries. She is a great lover of technology and can combine tradition and modernity better than I can.
What inspires you for your pattern books? Do you have an archive where you keep the Bice&Berta collections?
Today, our archive includes about 1600 prototypes, which I decided I did not want to part with. And, in fact, I often happen to reintroduce elements from garments I had created several years before, or even to join together elements from different samples. Each season, we present about 40 new models created either with traditional or new research yarns. We also design and create fabric garments, belts, bags, jewels, and so on, relying on external craftsmen for the working process.
What makes your relationship with your clients so unique?
I take as long as it takes to familiarise with each client and, with many of them, we have developed a friendly, trustful relationship. Also, I try to interpret each client’s wishes as regards aesthetics, comfort, and attentiveness to innovation. The Bice&Berta style is clean and refined, our clients are offered a number of possibilities, and we like to think our clothes can last forever and, ten years later, can be worn without a feeling of wearing an old thing, but enjoying the company of a garment for so long.
In a world with an increasing online shopping, what is the value of an activity like yours?
I often think the experience of buying a garment from our place can be assimilated to being pampered: having a show-room inside the laboratory allows our clients to see how we are creating their garments and to appreciate the manual skills, care and love we apply in the process. Camilla and me are not the only creators: our clients also contribute with their choices, suggestions, ideas and desires, which often prove to be crucial. Also, we rely on the valuable support of our passionate and talented collaborators, who interpret our explanations and help us fulfil the clients’ wishes in the best possible way.