Silvia Pellegrino is a driving force in Glasgow’s fashion scene. This Italian born gem is constantly working, be it running her own business, Chouchou, in which she sells all her own hand-made clothing designs, or organizing popular annual fashion events such as Bold Souls.
Luckily for me, Silvia took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to chat about where her spark of love for designing came from.
‘Fashion was always a major interest for me since I was a kid. I loved clothes, shoes and jewellery. I remember my mum buying me beautiful La Perla dresses when I was 12 and asking my granny to knit me a special cardigan I had designed when I was 14.’
Silvia surprised me by telling me that it took her some time to realise that designing was her biggest passion.
‘At 19 I designed my first skirt. It was an A-Line tartan and I had no idea or training on how to put it together or make it work. I remember I had made my own pattern out of newspaper…I smile when I think about it now!’
As rife as the fashion industry is in Glasgow, I was confused as to why Silvia left Italy, one of the most fashionable cities in the world, to come to the UK.
‘Funnily enough, when I was younger I used to find Italian fashion a bit boring!’ she confessed. ‘I went to New York, Paris, London and Amsterdam with my family and I was always attracted to whatever was different from our tradition. I think a rounded designer needs to be aware of other cultures, constantly needs inspiration. Now that I know about good tailoring and couture, I am Italy’s number one fan! I love my country and I’m so proud of what we have achieved with fashion. Sometimes you just need time to appreciate what you have.’
Silvia even chose to study in London, rather than in her home country.
‘Everything just worked out perfectly! I was teaching Italian in a high school on the Isle of Wight and randomly found out about this course, “Introduction to Fashion Design” at Central St Martins College of Art and Design and invested everything I had to take part in it. I learned how to look at the world differently and the important techniques needed to design clothing. It was a very valuable course and I would highly recommend it.’
It was learning these designing skills that helped lead Silvia into designing all the beautiful pieces that she now sells through her business, Chouchou, to an international market.
‘Chouchou means “loved one” in French’, Silvia explained. ‘I fell for the sound of it when I was in Paris back in 2007. I just want as many people across the world as possible to enjoy my designs and feel good about themselves and the way they look.
‘Running Chouchou is different every day. Every moment is full of new challenges and you can find yourself dealing with all sorts of aspects of the business, from responding to a client’s emails, visiting a stockist, shipping products, designing, arranging photo shoots, making phone calls, purchasing fabrics, creating moodboards, training new interns…being the CEO of a small business is a big game that I love.’
I love the motivation and Silvia has to make Chouchou the successful business that it is, and so wonder what she’d spend £1million on for the company, if she had it.
‘I would invest it in product development, advertising, training, employing people, travelling to get inspired, trade shows, fashion shows, photo shoots…and if the money was for me personally, I’d go on a world tour with it and purchase some unique pieces from independent designers across the world. I have seen too much talent in the most unexpected places to go to waste.
‘But I’d also spend part of the money to give to the less lucky people in this world; one day I’d love to run fashion design courses in second or third world countries. That would make me happier than just keeping the wealth to myself.’
Not only is she one of the most successful and kindest designers I’ve ever met, Silvia is also one of the most relatable to; she admitted that she, like all of us, has had some fashion disasters in the past.
‘When I was in fashion school I created these crazy, magneto colour nylon drop-crotch pants…they were mental! I can’t believe I wore them in New York for 2005’s New Year’s Eve…cringe! But the good thing about a fashion disaster is that at the time, you thought you could pull it off – confidence is key in fashion.’
Even Silvia’s standard clothing is lovely – not the usual so-high-fashion-it’s-impossible-to-understand pieces we see most fashionista’s wear, that just scares us off.
‘Simple black leggings, leather boots, and oversized lace top, a nicely tailored jacket and, of course, Chouchou’s fur lined Hollyhood is my favourite outfit’.
Silvia advises anybody just starting out in the fashion industry to follow their dream.
‘Every mistake has brought us where we are and we couldn’t do without’.
Silvia is delighted to be taking part in New York’s prestigious tartan week; a huge celebration of all things fashion related from our hilly homeland, in the big apple. She also revealed that Chouchou have many plans for 2013, most of which are currently top secret -to be the first in the know about her exciting events, keep an eye on Chouchou’s Facebook or Twitter.