In the fashion district, via Montenapoleone, door number 13. In a nineteenth-century building, right in the middle of the luxurious street, at the top of a narrow staircase, there’s the door that leads to Curiel’s atelier, a place that evokes the past, where you’d expect to see the premiere… This year, the house has expanded its space and, in the new wing, the renovations have brought to light some magnificent frescoes, found underneath an old boiserie.
Open on Saturday and Sunday.
Of all the Italian maison, Curiel is one of the most engraved in the aesthetic Italian affairs with a punctual, secure, recognizable style.
A visual alphabet that translates into a strongly connoted aesthetic language. And like each language, along a timeline that dates back to more than a century ago, it has constantly updated, it has created clothing neologisms, and it has adopted new formulas while remaining faithful to itself. A vocation: multidisciplinarity, that is, the connection to different disciplines, from the history of art to cultures elsewhere. A mission: to make beautiful women with a fashion that exalts you without ever overwhelming, which you value without ever exhibiting, which expresses sophistication without ever being lazy. Not by chance Raffaella Curiel often mentions Ivan Bilibin, a Russian painter of the early twentieth century: “What makes a dress attractive? There are a number of things like the beauty of its movement and the beauty of serenity”.
Movement, beauty, serenity. Concepts that come back uninterruptedly in the saga, all female, of four generations. From the middle-european Trieste of Ortensia Curiel, Gigliola Curiel’s aunt, whose atelier is next to the bookstore of Umberto Saba, comes a cosmopolitan sensitivity and a sense of fairy-tale emerges, which corresponds to Italo Calvino’s definition in the American Lectures: “weightless authority”.
Her grandaughter Gigliola takes after her: since she was a young girl she showed so much passion and enthusiasm that she opened in 1945 her own tailoring in Milan, first in via Durini, then in via Borgogna. It soon became an indispensable point of reference for the ladies of the aristocracy and the high middle class who are fond of those fluffy suits that give the impression of a quiet but definite chic, express an estro and millimetric sartorial technique, irradiate that happy pleasure of things that improve with time.
In the Italy of the economic boom, in the late 1950s and 1960s, Curiel dresses are protagonists in the early stages of the Scala and in the retreats of high society during rites officiated in the most prestigious and private places in the city
The spirit and the character of milanism – a category made of balance, sobriety and a pinch of madness – lies in the mythical Curiellini. Short, fast, mercurial and almost always black dresses, virtuosity of whispered couture, sophisticated in apparent simplicity. They are modern and timeless.
Author of a Made in Italy before the expression was coined, Gigliola Curiel is the first Italian designer to give exclusive coverage to the prestigious Bergdorf & Goodman department store in New York and Harrods in London.
In 1961, her daughter Raffaella, called Lella, joins her. Solid cultural formation, after a period of study from Balmain, already draws the first collection in 1965 and five years later, following the premature death of her mother, she opens her atelier in Corso Matteotti. She’s proposed as the star of the then-rising prêt-à-porter, but the success is such that Raffaella decides to parade even with a couture line. In 1986 she also decided to deal with the Haute Couture of Rome.
It is in the couture lab that she concretizes the obsession of combining different inspirations that flow into what she renews in Moda-Cultura. Every défilé is a tribute to painters such as Klimt, Goya, Velasquez, Van Gogh, Schiele, Beardsley, Depero, Vermeer. But also collections-tributes to African art, Russian art, Tudor England, Maharaja’s India, Frida Kahlo’s Mexico. Anticipating the current tendency to grasp the cues and inspirations where you feel the beauty of each event vibrating, Raffaella Curiel reaches inimitable sartorial levels: the plissé, almost three-dimensional embroidery, the reproductions on high-end thirsts of art become her own figure, before stylistic, intellectual.
Yet she always remains herself and offers classics – from the tailleur to the legendary evening dresses – an innovative reinterpretation. The story rewards her: in 1984 she was nominated Commander, in 1985 Grand Officer of the Republic, in 1995 she received the Ambrogino d’Oro, in 1997 the Cavalry of the Great Cross of the Italian Republic. In 2002, she went to Rome at Palazzo Farnese with a collection of couture inspired by Victor Hugo, the only Italian designer invited to the French Embassy in Italy.
In 1994 her daughter, Gigliola Castellini Curiel, started working with Raffaella in the atelier. She studied at Bocconi University Economics and Commerce and at the same time she had a tremendous passion for the conception of fashion transmitted by her mom. Only four years later, she debuts with a prêt-àporter line with many outlets in Italy and abroad, with crisp lines and precious materials. Gigliola also receives many awards: the “Fashion Under the Stars” award at Ascona in 2006, one year after the “Milano Donna” prize and in 2009 the international prize “Friends of Milan for Young People”. Now she is alongside Raffaella Curiel both in the creative and in the more entrepreneurial side: position that will continue to grow with greater commitment in the role of marketing supervisor of the brand, after the acquisition by the RedStone group, to perpetuate creativity and know how to do it. An asset to enrich and amplify to extract contemporary visions. Always Italian. In fact: always Milanese.