The perfection of the unforeseeable
" All colours are beautiful anc look goog together, because - if, for some reason, two seem to jar when placed next to each other - all one needs to do is to add a third and harmony is created. " Giuliana Coen
Over the last fifty years, Roberta di Camerino handbags have played a leading role in the world of fashion. The bags themselves evoke stories, characters and emotion. The legendary Bagonghi bag, photographed in 1956 on the arm of Grace Kelly, toured the world with her. Other devote admirers include the likes of Elsa Maxwell, Princess Paola of Liegi, Liz Taylor, Gina Lollobrigida, Isabella Rossellini and Farrah Fawcett. Not forgetting the Caravel bag - carried on the arm of Madonna on more than one occasion.
The story of Roberta di Camerino, one of the great Italian fashion empires, begins with Giuliana Coen, the brand's innovative founder. The label's name was born by combining the name Roberta, taken from her favourite song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and Camerino, her husband's surname.
Giuliana relied the extraordinary craftsmanship synonymous with Venice to create one of the region's only major brands. This craftmanship was mixed with the Neo-baroque style that would become her famous hallmark feature. "Soprarizzo" velvets woven in the dark on antique looms, until Roberta di Camerino werw only used for furnishings and ecclesiastic robes. For the first time they were decoded in new colours on her creations. The claps and studs found on her bags were created by the craftsmen of brass ornaments for gondolas. These unique objects caused nothing like them had ever been created before. Roberta di Camerino's handbags proved to be a revolution, totally unlike anything made until that time.
An innovator, who wished to change the rules of fashion, she created bags made from narrow leather strips resembling shoe strings, interwoven and worked on looms. Objects that impacted the world of fashion with their unforgettable names (pirata, Casanova, Tranviere, Postiglione) and which continue to act as a reference point, both veiled and explicit, for all the most famous luxury brands of today. "The hanbag is being upgraded from the status of an accessory to that of a garment. It is always less casual, shunning the norm and refusing to tolerate anonymity. Credit for this re-evalutation of the handbag, making it a unique, luxury item, far removed from the monotonous cliché saddle-stitched-rigid-shoulder strap, goes, as everyone is now aware, to Madame Giuliana Camerino, who is gamering prizes, Oscars and awards for having created and continuing to create the most beautiful bags in the world", as Camilla Cederna wrote in "L'Espresso" in 1959. And, it was again Cederna who praised the Brigitte model: a velvet bag complete with an outside pouch in gilded metal that quickly became a best-seller worldwide.
In 1956 she received the prestigious Neiman Marcus "Oscar of Fashion" Award. In the Sixties, she was invited by Giambattista Giorgini to present her iconic trompe l'oeil effect pret-à-porter collections at Palazzo Pitti's Sala Bianca. Although she then went on to win numerous awards on an International level, it was thanks to the Compasso d'oro award in 1979 that she enterd the realms of those creators who have know how to revolutionize and improve the quality of objects.
The consecration of her talent as a fully blown designer came in 1980 in New York. The Whitney Museum of American Art dedicated an exhibition to her tha documented not only the affection and high esteem that Americans have for her work (in 1975 she opened a large boutique in New York on Fifth Avenue), but also demonstrated how art is fascinated by her working methods. Artistis of the calibre of Salvador Dalì and Giorgio De Chirico werw her friends and recognized her enormous talent. The exibition included a display of her sketches, both those of her garments and scarves showing how her design path is, first and foremost, conceptual.
When discussing the past and present influence exercised by Roberta di Camerino, Julie Gilhart, Fashion Director and Senior Vice President of Barneys New York, said that visiting the archive of her brand label is a truly incredible experience: "every bag that I know was already made by her."