Destination: Italy: Venice
This the place to find great cloaks, whether you want one for Carnival or just because they are classic shapes that work well in the evening in black velvet or in winter in wool, which is so tightly woven that it’s waterproof. Owned by Silvana Martin, Balocoloc sources papier maché masks from a number of local artists and does sell over the internet. It’s also the place to find fancy period costumes for men and women if you need one for a Carnival ball. By appointment only.
Chic & Freak
On a small Calle between the Accademia Bridge and the Guggenheim, you will find lots of shops selling glass beaded jewelry and scarves. This particular shop has stacks of brightly colored scarves in dozens of different fabrics from silk to pashmina as well as fun purses that make good gifts.
Consorzio delle Botteghe della Solidarietà
Amongst the tourists stalls of the Rialto bridge is an international co-op that sells attractive goods from third world craftsmen at extremely reasonable prices. So if you need to pick up a lightweight linen bag in bright lemon yellow or electric green to carry home purchases or as a reusable shopping bag, you can find it here for less than 20 euros and know that you are helping support a struggling community.
This gorgeous lingerie shop between Campo Santo Stefano and Campo San Angelo sells exquisite nightgowns and housewares, all of which is made in Venice by true artisans. There are camisoles in lush silks and nightgowns in lace with fine needlepoint designs. Fabrics are the finest Italian silks and laces. Beautiful bedroom accessories, such as linens and blankets, as well as some vintage pieces are also on display. Everything can be custom-made and shipped anywhere in the world. Consider it a lesser-known, but equally treasured Frette combined with a slightly more modest La Perla.
In the true tradition of Venetian artistry, Giavanna Zanella apprenticed under a legendary shoe master before she opened this shop. She sold bags and belts originally but now focuses full-time on exquisite hand made leather shoes, which she crafts right at her work table in a corner of the boutique. (Often an apprentice sits at her right hand, literally, watching and working alongside her.) Shelves display examples of her talent and creativity. One pair resembles a bare foot with painted toe nails. Another is embellished with pop-up flower petals. Each pair can be custom ordered (takes about two months) but only after a client has had their foot measured in the shop, so only repeat customers can place orders over the phone or by internet. Women’s shoes begin at 500 euros and boots may go up to 900 euros a pair. Men’s shoes begin at 700 euros. Closed Sundays and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on other days of the week.
In a city that seems to have international brands or tourist costumes and not much in between, Hibiscus is a fashion oasis. As one Indagare member who visited recently remarked, “the owner has a great eye for interesting unique designers and the things are beautifully made.”
Gorgeous leather gloves in mouth-watering colors for men and women with decorative details, cashmere linings and trims that are memorable. You can also order online.
The traditional gondolier shoes, Friulane, which resemble velvet slippers and are stitched by hand with rubber from bicycle tires for the soles (so as not to slip in the boats), used to be easy to find in Venice. However, most of what you find now are cheap copies made in China by machines. The owner of La Friulana, though, still gets all of his from the same man in Friuli who has made them from decades. You won’t find a huge selection as his team of sewers has retired, but these are the real deal. Choose from velvet in jewel tones, real silk in Fortunyesque designs in pale hues (29 euros) or linen in pale pink or bright red or orange (19 euros).
Italy’s version of Calypso or Antik Batik, Maliparmi offers a bohemian beauty’s essentials from decadently beaded tote bags and skirts with woven flowers to slouchy sequin pants and caftans with embroidered trims and coordinating bikinis. Their boutiques can be found in Milan, Rome, Capri and other stylish Italian centers, but not yet outside of the country.
Guerrino Lovato’s carnival masks, for sale here, are true works of art. Stanley Kubrick used Lovato’s masks in his most recent film, Eyes Wide Shut. Unquestionably, the best place in Venice to invest in one worthy of Carnival.
Pot-Pourri, which began on the mainland more than thirty years ago, is sort of the Veneto region’s answer to Blanc d’Ivoire in Paris in that it celebrates an elegant Italian view of life in the country. The two adjacent boutiques in Venice, which are housed in the palazzo where Goethe once stayed, focus on fashion and home. The three owners, Marina, Malica and Melania, select all of the clothes and objects, drawing on Italian designers such as Avoncelli, Scapa and Santoni as well as their own designs. Painted white cupboards display pretty linens and dishware that is perfect for eating in a manor house in Tuscany or a villa on Sicily. Clothes carry on the theme of the well-lived weekend: tailored riding jackets and slacks for Tuscan walks or Capri style clothes for days spent on a boat.
This tiny boutique in San Polo stocks delicate women’s clothing and accessories, including silk jackets, one-of-a-kind woven and felt hats, fanciful gloves and scarves and candy-colored silk shoes that are a glamorous take on gondolier slippers. Many of the clothes are made by Valeria Bellinaso, who used to own the boutique and is based in Sicily. Serena purchased the shop from her and has added other Italian designers with a similar sensibility.
Probably the most exciting news in Venetian fashion in a decade was the founding of a couture house called Sete-Cento. Its creative director, Alessandro Possati, a handsome young nobleman whose family owns the Palazzo Bauer among other enterprises, who was supported by the collaboration of fashion designer Dominique Brunet, decided to mix the look of “vintage aristocracy with a modern fluid design.” Venice’s drama and history is crafted into the beautifully made jackets, shirts and evening wear, all exquisitely tailored with feminine flourishes. Buttons, for instance, may be Murano glass beads with gold flecks. Hand-stitched lace adds contrasting color or a glimpse of flesh. With sumptuous silks and velvets woven on 18th-century looms, it’s no wonder that Sete-Cento gowns have already appeared on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival and at Moscow’s Fashion Week. By appointment only.
Not as well known as Italian brands like Malo and Loro Piano, Virginia Preo has been making divine cashmere sweaters for other labels for years. This is the company’s first retail shop. Despite its location on a busy street near the Rialto bridge, the boutique offers a haven, where you can browse through stacks of glorious colors in many designs from chunky men’s cardigans to delicate feminine two-ply V-necks.
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