The Fashion Week has just ended: people often forget the creation of a great dress or accessory is not only the work of the designer or the stylist, but also the skilful hands of craftspeople who know how to transform the project into a magnificent object.
This is exactly what Anna Tosi, does: she is the third generation of Pagliani & Brasseur, a historic family-run artisan company specialising in the creation of fabric flowers and animals, refined and imaginative accessories made entirely by hand, which over the years have seen numerous and varied applications in fashion and interior design.
Over time, the company has grown enormously, collaborating with major fashion houses such as Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Christian Dior, Gucci, Giorgio Armani and many others.
In 2020 Anna Tosi was awarded the MAM - Maestro d'Arte e Mestiere (Master of Arts and Crafts) accolade, recognised by the Cologni Foundation for the Métiers d’Art.

Tell us the story of your family business, Pagliani & Brasseur.

The company was founded in 1946 on the initiative of my grandmother Giuditta Brasseur and my grandfather Giobatta Pagliani. A French high school teacher taught my grandmother Giuditta the art of creating fabric flowers and all the secrets of this ancient craft. After finishing her studies, Giuditta met Giobatta, a sculptor and painter, whom she married a few months later. My grandparents moved to Verona and founded the “Pagliani & Brasseur Craft workshop for the production of artificial flowers in fabric, for clothing and furnishing” in 1946. My grandfather began working with clay to create the moulds, that were then cast in bronze: moulds are indispensable for accurately reproducing the shapes of the petals and leaves of each flower, to be made then into fabric. My mother Luciana Pagliani joined the workshop when she was still very young, and in a short time our flowers were appreciated and purchased in the best shops in Italy. In 1958, Luciana married my father, Luigi Tosi, and the company moved to a larger workshop to serve the growing family.

Each collection is unique: it is always a stylistic and creative growth, that gives me the energy and enhusiasm to go on with this work. I jealously keep all the designs, collections, model studies and tests of my clients in an archive that today counts 70,000 prototypes.

I started as a child in the family workshop, and since then I have never stopped being fascinated by this extraordinary art, thanks to which I can express all my creativity.

What was your path and how did you start in this trade?

I started as a child in the family workshop, and since then I have never stopped being fascinated by this extraordinary art, thanks to which I can express all my creativity. In primary schools, I not only learnt embroidery, needlework, crochet and painting on canvas, but I also became passionate about working with straw baskets and loom techniques. After finishing my studies, in 1982, I took over my parents' business and made radical changes in both workmanship and product quality, and introducing myself to the world of fashion. In addition to the flowers, I started making customised hats and bags woven on the loom. The result has been appreciated by many fashion houses. 

What has changed over three generations and what does it mean today to run a business handed down from mother to daughter?

A lot has changed stylistically, creatively, manually and also in the business. For many years, my parents, particularly my mother, found it hard to accept the change I had brought about in fabric processing and style, and in the creation of patterns that were born out of my creativity. I completely changed the style, using clothing fabrics, which were soft and light (those originally used for handmade flowers were stiff and heavy). I wanted to make every single pattern come alive. I wanted to realise everything that my imagination inspired me. And so a new story was born, a new era: I wanted the flower to be worn like a piece of jewellery, by everyone. It was very difficult to make the fashion world understand beauty, romanticism, study, manual skills: if from the beginning my flowers were highly appreciated by my haute couture clients, my dream was that they could become ready-to-wear accessories, wearable by everyone. But at the time they were not for everyone.

What eras and styles do you draw inspiration from to make your accessories?

I have always been very attracted and inspired by old prints and paintings of ladies of the 19th century, wearing flower crowns, tiaras in their hairstyles and romantic dresses, decorated and embroidered with shoots and cascades of flowers in fabric. A poetry and romanticism that has always made me dream. I have a great fortune, that of working with so many different designers, each with their own personality, which allows me to range my imagination from one theme to another.

Nowadays, how is the company organised? Do you have collaborators who assist you in your work?

Many people have always collaborated with me, each with their own role, but all of them are driven by passion and specialisation, acquired with time and experience. We have grown up together and experienced intense and beautiful but also difficult moments, and great sacrifices. There are those who started with me forty years ago and are still by my side, and those who could not resist all the difficulties and left. Fourteen girls still work with me, with whom I try to maintain a relationship of trust and respect. As in all companies there are difficult times and very important decisions to make, but we are still united and strong and we move forward determinedly trying to always look ahead.

Over the years, your company has grown a lot. What do you think has been the secret of this success?

I have always believed in my work from the beginning, and I have never had any limits in realising and interpreting the projects requested by my clients: every time it is something new, a discovery inspired by imagination and creativity. There are fundamental principles in my work: the seriousness of the given word and respect for the client's needs; I try to always be punctual and precise in controlling the quality of the models, first as a study, and then in the production, since they must always conform to the original; but also to please the client by producing the samples in a short time, even with sacrifice and overtime. I always try to propose new models, with studies and sophisticated workmanship, to make them unique and special. The most important thing is to love your work, to transmit energy, vitality and enthusiasm to the customer and all my staff, knowing that we must manage to do it... this time too!

Over the years, you have collaborated with important brands and fashion houses. What was it like working side by side with fashion designers and other industry professionals?

I was 18 years old when I presented my first flower collection to the maison Valentino, an unforgettable moment. Valentino immediately gave me the confidence to interpret his request: I had to apply small flower petals painted on silk velvet and satin, which, joined together, formed pansies, which faded to reunite again in other pansies. I always carry that work in my heart; the original model is still on display in my showroom. Subsequently, I began to present my company to many fashion houses, always working enthusiastically alongside my clients, from the study of the project to the realisation of the models. The collaboration with the maison Dolce & Gabbana, with whom I have been working for almost 40 years, is particularly dear to me because of the understanding and the empathy between us. Each collection is unique: it is always a stylistic and creative growth, that gives me the energy and enhusiasm to go on with this work. I jealously keep all the designs, collections, model studies and tests of my clients in an archive that today counts 70,000 prototypes.

What do you love the most about your job?

The freedom of being able to express and realise what I feel, and to see it appreciated in the fashion world. The joy of being able to realise my dream and make the family business flourish... a flagship of Italian craftsmanship!

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