Dinner with designers Cecilia Federico and Rosita Giammarino

At Armani Nobu Milan

Conversation with Fabiana Fierotti Photography Bea De Giacomo

As found inside Alla Carta 13 Issue
Cecilia Federico and Rosita Giammarino are the two (incredible) women behind the brand Archivio. A brand that celebrates women and their elegance and embodies a subtle sensuality that keeps it strong and current. I met them at Armani Nobu to enjoy a few drinks and try Chef Nobu’s delicious creations while they told me about the brand and their past. Above all they described their wonderful friendship in a flurry of laughter and anecdotes about life on the road. It is well known that only something powerful can come from the union of two strong women and, in Cecilia and Rosita’s case, the determination and dedication that defines their approach is truly admirable. As is carrying forward a brand that goes against current trends by returning to the traditional fashion atelier and placing new emphasis on the relationship with the final consumer: the real stars of Archivio are modern women, mothers and career women.
  • It is well known that only something powerful can come from the union of two strong women and, in Cecilia and Rosita’s case, the determination and dedication that defines their approach is truly admirable. As is carrying forward a brand that goes against current trends by returning to the traditional fashion atelier and placing new emphasis on the relationship with the final consumer: the real stars of Archivio are modern women, mothers and career women.
  • FF
    How did you meet?
  • RG
    It all began at NABA, on the very first day of university.
  • CF
    We were both taking design so we spent the whole three years together. And to top it off, we lived in the same building…
  • FF
    Sounds like destiny.
  • CF
    Exactly. After NABA, we started working, which was obviously crucial for us to understand what we wanted to do, test our abilities and decide which direction to take…
  • FF
    What did you do before launching Archivio?
  • CF
    I worked at Ports 1961. I did an internship and then stayed there for another four and a half years working on the product – shoes, bags, accessories and jewellery. I learned so much there and was able to gain extensive experience with suppliers and the methodology of product development. Rosita took a completely different path.
  • RG
    Yes, I worked in creative direction and we mainly handled trend hunting. Our clients mostly came from the world of fashion and design. I really liked it because it was incredibly stimulating and we were always out discovering new and interesting things. I knew back at NABA that I wanted to be an art director. I didn’t want to work in a style department and, I have to say, it was hard to find that kind of job back then. I was lucky because an art director, a brilliant woman, took me under her wing. She taught me so much. The idea for Archivio was born from my friendship with Cecilia, we had the idea for it almost immediately after NABA. We are great friends and we have travelled so much together – perhaps that is one of the things that has most united us.
  • FF
    I know you consider Cecilia your muse.
  • RG
    Yes, I only ever take photos of her.
  • Laughter
  • FF
    It is so wonderful to see such a close-knit relationship between two women.
  • RG
    Yes, we have always been very alike. If we ever have to choose anything, we already know we will make the same choice without having to explicitly state it. We were one of those unique encounters that life throws at you sometimes. We wanted to create something of our own so we started out and we were so…
  • CF
    Naïve.
  • RG
    Yes, naïve. We were 24 years old and we thought we were going to revolutionise everything. We were such babies. I spent the last year at my job thinking about our idea. That’s essentially what I was working for. I did a Master’s in marketing at night, after work, concentrating all my energy on Archivio: business plans, strategy, communication, etc because I knew absolutely nothing and I needed to have the situation in hand.
  • CF
    And then we learned on the job.
  • We order one more drink before dinner.
  • RG
    Do you know how we started? With a collection tailormade for us.
  • FF
    I still remember when your brand first caught my eye. I had seen Rosita in a brown velvet corduroy coat that I really liked and that was how I discovered Archivio.
  • RG
    Yes, exactly. We went to a stockist in Veneto, got the material and said: “Right, let’s make some outerwear for us and take some photos.” To get our name out, we plastered the city in posters of our logo on a rosewood brown background – our branding colour. It really worked because people were intrigued by it. Lots of stylists and photographers from all over the world got in touch with us.
  • CF
    Even from really far away, like Los Angeles! We hadn’t really done anything, it had all been a bit of fun, but at that point we decided to give it a go.
  • FF
    You have a very strong communication style though and that must help you reach a very precise target.
  • RG
    We are still very cautious, in any case. Everything is going well, but it isn’t always easy dealing with the world of sales in Italy. Italy always arrives last in some ways, which is a great shame.
  • FF
    There is no longer the same interest in what’s happening in Milan.
  • RG
    We are fighting to change that. We want to create a new idea rather than a brand, a concept behind Archivio – okay, two women, but also a product made in Italy. We’re doing things a bit backwards, working with small companies, garment-makers as well as artists and designers. We are trying to start collaborations, because we think that the poetry of Made in Italy is getting lost. We won’t give up, in short.
  • The waiter brings our drinks.
  • FF
    The immediate perception of female entrepreneurs is of unreliability, or at least that’s the cliché in Italy. What has your experience been?
  • CF
    It was incredibly discouraging at the beginning. Then when you start to understand how the system works, especially in terms of the showrooms, by speaking to other similar companies, you realise that’s just how it works. It’s an awful thing to say, but you feel relieved in some way. We just have to be patient and believe in this challenge.
  • RG
    In some ways, never stopping is great, even when faced with insurmountable obstacles. It would appear that the people around us have no idea how much of a sacrifice it is to make a collection and samples… we are very hands-on too, we deal with the tailors, pattern-makers, pattern-cutters personally and we have the utmost respect for the people who work with us.

If we ever have to choose anything, we already know we will make the same choice without having to explicitly state it.

  • FF
    I do understand. But in the end, you are very lucky to be slaves to something created by you, for you.
  • CF
    I always say, I would never go back. The satisfaction that comes from a positive comment or a photo… it’s priceless.
  • RG
    A while ago, a sales guy said “Girls, I’m sorry to say it, but you’re just too in love with your brand. You need to be stricter.” A man, obviously. I am just grateful that there are still people who feel so passionate about something in this difficult world.
  • FF
    The truth is that people want to be treated badly, as though it were somehow synonymous with prestige.
  • CF
    It’s incredible. Some of the suppliers we worked with initially – all men obviously – acted like they were our fathers, our partners, our everything. We decided to distance ourselves from this unhealthy reality. We didn’t owe them anything, quite the opposite if anything. Working with women is another story.
  • We move upstairs for dinner.
  • FF
    You make everything in Puglia, what value does this region hold for you? It has always been home for you, Rosita, of course, but for you Cecilia?
  • CF
    It’s a dream. Things happen there, you meet people that you would never expect… it is truly stimulating.
  • The waiter brings over our first dish: yellowtail and fresh tuna with jalapeño, soya and yozu sauce.
  • FF
    What was the first trip you went on together?
  • RG
    We went to Sicily by car with two other women that we usually travel with. It was amazing. One of the best trips.
  • CF
    I love Sicily, my parents have a house at Noto, where I got married two years ago. My father is originally from Calabria. I was born and raised in Genoa, but he always missed life in the south: the pace, the people, the connections… he was always looking for a way out of Genoa. In the end, a friend of his who was born in Noto but lived in Genoa, moved back. My father immediately went to visit him and found some land and built a sort of village above the city, entirely covered with citrus groves. It has become a sort of community and there’s always a party going on.
  • The waiter brings us yellowtail fish with marinated cucumber, served with a mixed salad, tomato salad and mango sauce.
  • FF
    The Archivio collections exude an extremely feminine sensuality. Where do you get your inspiration from?
  • CF
    Elegance is the foundation for everything: a very discreet sensuality, a woman living her daily life. We always try to create looks that can be worn from morning to evening, tailored suits are a big focus for us. The Archivio woman is a mother and a career woman.
  • RG
    Yes, we start from ourselves really. We are definitely our first inspiration. The clothes we create are the clothes we would like to have in our wardrobes.
  • FF
    And yet you seem so different…
  • RG
    We are very similar in our private lives, the things we like, what we want to do, the way we want to live our lives… We are very different aesthetically, so we dress differently. But we definitely start from ourselves. Then of course we look at everything that came before, so we look at our mothers’ wardrobes, for example.
  • CF
    Yes, we are very fond of the image of the ‘80s woman.
  • RG
    The Versace shows from the ‘80s, Armani too…
  • The waiter brings a marinated sea bass, filled with Iberian ham and served with kombu flakes, peach sauce and tomatoes.
  • CF
    The fashion dream from that era has been lost to us completely. We are absolutely disgusted by fashion today. That is another thing that we find very discouraging: seeing how all that research, elegance, study of form and fabrics has just been lost.

We want to create a new idea rather than a brand, a concept behind Archivio – okay, two women, but also a product made in Italy. We’re doing things a bit backwards, working with small companies, garment-makers as well as artists and designers.

  • FF
    Yes, it’s as though they were making fun of the final consumer. It’s a sort of challenge to see whether you are stupid enough to fall into their trap. We are witnessing the extreme exploitation of fashion and a marketing phenomenon.
  • CF
    That is why we went in the opposite direction. That is our challenge because we do not agree with this idea of fashion. It is not Italian, first of all, fashion is an art and it cannot be reduced to a logo. We are still convinced that elegance will make a comeback. We hope so, anyway.
  • We make a toast to elegance.
  • FF
    I saw the cover of the new All Saints album where the band is in total look Archivio, it must have been a nice surprise!
  • CF
    I almost died when I saw it.
  • RG
    They fully reflect the idea of the Archivio woman: career women, mothers having fun. Real women…
  • CF
    It was incredible for me because my sister was born in 1985 so I grew up alongside her with the music she listened to and the things she liked. It was like an apparition when I saw them.
  • RG
    I was in the gym when she sent me the screenshot and I just called her straight away to say “What?!”
  • The waiter brings us Chef Nobu’s most famous plate: black cod marinated in ponzu sauce for three days, served with miso and yuzu sauce.

Elegance is the foundation for everything: a very discreet sensuality, a woman living her daily life. We always try to create looks that can be worn from morning to evening, tailored suits are a big focus for us. The Archivio woman is a mother and a career woman.

  • FF
    What are your hopes for the future?
  • RG
    If I think of Archivio in a few years, I hope that we will still be creating a strong, concrete and real identity in a city like Milan, which welcomed us and where we made our name.
  • CF
    I would like to build a dream behind the brand so we can dress women in something truly special.
  • FF
    A bit like in the traditional atelier.
  • RG
    Yes, that’s the approach we want.
  • FF
    And my last question is: why Archivio?
  • CF
    We were looking for an Italian name, but it was hard to find something that would still sound melodious to an international audience. Archivio perfectly reflects everything we wanted to do when we started working: taking pieces from the archive and reworking them with a modern twist.