Gemma Vernò, designer and maker of unique hats, is one of the three artisans who share a workshop situated in the courtyard of a typical old Milanese house.
What brought you to become a milliner?
After graduating in fashion design at the Istituto di Moda Burgo, I immediately started working for a number of designers in Milan. In 2009, on the day of my birthday, i decided to throw myself in a new challenge: I moved to London to take up a course in theatrical millinery at the Kensington and Chelsea College, which is one of the very few institutions to offer training in this very specific field. In fact, there is nothing similar in Italy. While I was in London, I also worked for Victoria Gant, where I found a very nice environment and I learned a lot.
I believe that it is very important to combine what you learn in school with practical training with a master craftsman. This is the only way in which you can really pick up a trade, which involves many aspects, from the management of suppliers to the time and dedication that you must devote to your clients.
And then you returned to Italy?
I decided to come back to Milan after spending two years abroad. I followed a course in stage costume tailoring at the Academy of the Teatro alla Scala, working with them for four months. In the meantime, Luca and I started our cooperation at Finart, where he created fabric flower compositions and I design and made hats. The experience of Finart ended in December 2014 both for me and for Luca but we kept in touch and try to cooperate as much as possible. After Finart I started to work in tailoring department and maintenance habits at the Teatro alla Scala.
I believe that it is very important to combine what you learn in school with practical training with a master craftsman. This is the only way in which you can really pick up a trade...
Social networks are certainly important, but also the more classic word of mouth. Through these two channels I manage to reach those clients who are sensitive to my products.
This workshop looks more like an artist’s studio.
We are three young artisans sharing a common space: I make hats, Daniela makes clothes and Alba makes jewels. Daniela and I have known each other since school, and we have always kept in touch. When I came back from London we decided to look for a laboratory where we could both work. That’s how we met Alba: this used to be the studio of her father, the musician and sculptor Alexander Kossuth.
Would you recommend your co-sharing solution?
Certainly, and not only for practical reasons. Milan is an expensive city and in this way we can share the rent and other costs. It is also very important because we can exchange opinions on each other’s work. We don’t have to go through the creative process entirely on our own; together we can share our doubts and find solutions. It is also essential to keeping our spirits high.
As a young entrepreneur, how do you relate to the institutions and trade associations?
At the moment I am trying to understand what development opportunities there are for my business. So every day I visit the websites of sector associations as well as those of the city of Milan and the Region of Lombardy. I believe that with the support of the institutions I could certainly improve my project and broaden my perspectives.
How do your clients get to know of your activity?
Social networks are certainly important, but also the more classic word of mouth. Through these two channels I manage to reach those clients who are sensitive to my products. It often happens that a client coming to the workshop to try one of Daniela’s dresses will end up ordering also one of my hats, and vice versa. When I started, I visited all the best bridal shops in Milan. I told them about my project and that I wanted to concentrate on one-off pieces, tailored to the tastes and requirements of the clients, since I don’t design collections and I make every piece by hand. In this way I managed to develop collaborations with ateliers that share my philosophy.