Photography by Ye Rin Mok
Giuliana Leila Raggiani is the founder of Giu Giu, a knitwear brand based in Los Angeles and Paris that features a variety of genderless and ageless knits. From reflexology socks to track suits to turtlenecks for dogs, every piece in the Giu Giu world encourages individuality and speaks to those who seek an offbeat and unbound freedom in their clothing.
Although her most notable piece, a ribbed turtleneck called the “Nonna”, is intended to conform to any body, there is nothing conformist about Giuliana’s approach to her creative vision. Since 2013, Giuliana has centered her world around a nostalgia for her Italian upbringing, a devoted yoga practice, and the importance of playful self-expression when building a brand.
Below, a visit to Giuliana's shared showroom BRUCE in Chinatown and a brief conversation about her influences and some of her biggest learnings this year.
Can you tell us the story of Giu Giu?
A bit of a story to answer this question, so I will try to give you the cliff-notes version! I grew up as a dancer, and was headed down that path for my career, when things took an unexpected direction in my late teens. I ended up at Parsons School of Design in NY, where I reconnected with fashion (after being brought up in that context with my grandmother having her own boutique / cult line of turtlenecks in Boston –– I mentally decided it was “not for me”). When being asked to choose between menswear or womenswear at Parsons, I couldn’t bear the idea of deciding, and instead changed gears and applied to Central Saint Martins in London. The only option I was left with when asked to choose between genders, was knitwear, so I went with that, as I had always had a fascination for textiles. Despite not knowing a thing beyond a basic purl stitch, I dove into this vast world, and fell deeply in love with the art of machine knitting. Eventually I bought a machine of my own in NY and finished my thesis at Parsons with a ‘genderless’ and ‘ageless’ final knitwear collection, since unisex was “not allowed” at the time. These were the seeds I unintentionally planted for giu giu. A couple years later, a label of my own manifested after working as a knitwear designer for the founder of Anthropologie, along with other labels like Alexander Wang and Tess Giberson, while balancing other freelance projects with the queen of knitwear, Caroline McKenty. These experiences helped me learn more about the industry, but also built my drive to start a label that would operate nothing like the standard oversaturated fashion industry in NYC. At the time, Giu Giu was primarily a tiny group of unisex oversized textural sweaters, and I was selling to a few of my favorite boutiques in the US. The missing piece of my brand fell into my lap when my beloved grandmother, Palmira Giglia passed away due to Parkinson’s Disease. After all this time, I hadn’t realized my grandmother was in fact a knitwear designer, until my mother had sent me two of her original turtlenecks from the 60's to my studio in Brooklyn, randomly 2 weeks before she passed. As an homage to her for simply sharing her gift to me, I decided to bring back the iconic “Vaccaro” Turtleneck in Ivory. I kept the ‘shrinking’ quality of the ribbed knit, but changed the fiber to a softer, cotton quality, calling it the NONNA Turtleneck (Nonna, is Grandmother in Italian). Thinking nothing would come of it, I was surprised to have such a huge reaction. Tons of her original customers were writing soon after, sharing their excitement of the revival of their favorite sweater, and many sweet memories. So the line continued to expand from there, as I continued her legacy, studying the correlation between clothing, memory, and emotion. It’s become something much more profound than I originally anticipated, and I continue to cherish Giu Giu everyday...
...The Giu Giu world is something I wanted to create for people to escape in, and feel free. As a brand that embraces humor in life, a sense of wonder is something I feel most adults lose with age. As a person who hates feeling restricted and labeled, my goal for Giu Giu is to serve as a blank canvas for people. Something that's not pre-labeled for a certain type of person. So whoever you are, or however you want to label yourself, you can still wear Giu Giu and feel unbound. It's less about how you look and more about feeling good in your own skin.
What does clothing mean to you?
Clothing is so important because, to me, it coincides with how we feel. If you’re in a bad mood when you wake up and throw on uncomfortable or restricting clothing, chances are it’s only going to make your mood even worse. I like to have my clothing assist me in making my day more positive, easy, and graceful. And not to mention, color has a huge effect on the energy we vibrate and emotions we feel. Given the current events in the world, this is something to be even more mindful of to stay sane!
Tell us everything about Yoko!
A little alien angel in the form of a dog entered my life last November, and my life has never felt so filled with love. She brings so much joy to everyone, and has recently become our best Giu Giu model and manager.
What have been some of the biggest learnings of this year?
A big lesson has been to let go of the way things were. Shifting perspectives to see that calendars, schedules, and time-frames don’t actually need to be as rigid as we have made them. I've learned to be more fluid. The importance of being flexible and open-minded to new ways of thinking and doing. Spending time by the water has definitely helped with this.
What are some new innovations in knitwear that you are exploring?
During my last trip to Japan, I was introduced to a lot of new technologies in the yarn world, including a 100% water proof fiber. So I’m excited to play with that in the next Giu Giu Sport Collection.
Tell us something you’ve failed at? Something you’ve succeeded at?
I have failed at not taking rejection personally.
I’ve succeeded at allowing myself to surrender to the circumstances that are out of my hands and letting what’s meant to be naturally unfold.
Tell us what’s in your bag.
Truthfully, my bag is mostly dedicated to Yoko! Poop bags, a mini water bottle, mask, wallet, phone, and keys. I’m such a sucker for nostalgia. At first sight the Box bag reminded me of my precious ballet box I carried my slippers in when I was little. I just remember carrying it and feeling so special. The BB version makes me feel the same way as an adult.
What is your favorite thing about being your age right now?
I was nervous to enter my 30s this year, but it’s been pretty enjoyable so far. I feel I’ve gone through enough lessons and blessings to confidently shape who I am as a woman, yet still have a whole life ahead of me.