Creative Personalities: Simona Marletta
In the 2nd of our Creative Personalities series we meet Simona Marletta, swing-dancer, swimmer and Pattern Cutter extraordinaire. We’re going behind the scenes to explore her creative space at the Emily and Fin studio, her draping and pattern-cutting process, and of course what style means to her.
Please tell us about where and how did it all begin?
My love for craftsmanship started early. My first memories go back to being a toddler and watching my grandma design beautiful pieces (from tailoring to knitwear, embroidery and crochet… there was nothing she couldn’t do to perfection). Everyone in my family had something made by ’nonna’. She was a visionary with impeccable taste and outstanding skills. A real force of nature and my biggest role model and muse. I was in awe of the magic she generated with her hands. I used to mimic her: with her scraps of fabric I would make dresses for all of my dolls. We would sit side by side and work together. To these days, those are my fondest memories. My admiration for her is possibly what guided me into becoming who I am today: a creative pattern cutter living and working in London but carrying that Sicilian artistry that I inherited from my grandma. I advocate the love for anything beautiful and handcrafted the same way she did.
Did you have formal training?
Yes. I studied at the Marangoni in Milan and have a degree in design. I worked in the city as a knitwear designer for a while but that wasn’t fulfilling the more visceral, tactile, hands-on approach to fashion that I wanted as a career. It took a lot of courage to leave a well-paid job in Italy and move to London with no plans nor promises of employment and a pretty basic understanding of English. It was scary but glad I did it!
Luckily fortune favours the brave and found a job in a fashion studio where I assisted one of the best pattern cutters I have ever met. He was my boss and teacher, mentor and friend. With his help, evening courses, technical books and a lot of hard work, I slowly became the pattern cutter I had always wanted to be.
The next chapter was my attempt to combine designing with pattern cutting in high fashion. I worked for a luxury brand for almost ten years. Long hours, two fashion shows a year, a demanding clientele counting aristocracy and celebrities. It was a very intense and not always happy period.
I loved my job but I was solely pleasing a small minority of people with a huge disposable income and that troubled me deeply: I did not want to dress just the privileged circle.Losing someone very dear to me gave me the strength to change my path once again: I started freelancing in order to handpick my clients and type of work. I chose to do pret-a-porter, beautifully crafted yet affordable by many.
How did you discover and start working with Emily and Fin?
I used to buy their clothes before I met them professionally.I have always loved their cotton dresses and fun prints and was very excited when a mutual friend told me that they were interested in me.I was nervous when I went for an interview as I really wanted the role. They gave me a chance and the rest is history: I have been with the company for several years as their sole creative pattern cutter.
I am so fortunate to work for people I respect, trust and admire and count as close friends.I feel inspired on a daily basis. I am given the time and space to translate the designer’s ideas into shapes that I drape and work on with my heart and soul. There is so much care for the product and no short cuts or compromises are taken to deliver what we do best.
I am immensely proud to be part of the EmilyandFin team. We all share the same approach to style, beauty, quality and affordability and work joyfully together. It is an ethical brand that I believe in and support personally: my wardrobe is full of bright pieces with bold fun prints that I wear at the office or on a night out.
Tell us a little about your process?
It all starts with a design meeting where ideas are presented and discussed. I work closely both with the design and production team. The work I do has to be both beautiful and technically correct. A mixture of creativity and precision.
I begin by draping on a mannequin. Every piece starts there and is individually created. The flare that you get from a drape is second to none; the fabric tells you how to manipulate to create the most flattering silhouette. Once I am happy with a look, I have a second meeting with the designer to have it approved. At that point I transfer the information from a 3D drape into a 2D shape.
The paper pattern requires concentration, precision and an understanding of balance between the pieces. I do not use blocks so that everything in the collection feels fresh and unique. The first toile is then cut using my pattern and tried on the house model before it is sent off to be graded and made at the factory. It is only when we are fully satisfied with the factory prototype that the pattern is finalised and ready for production
These meetings are essential to guarantee the best style, fit and quality when our clients buy the final product. The process is demanding but very interesting and enjoyable. I experience a great sense of pride and achievement when all the pieces are on display in our showroom and they all flow beautifully.
What's a typical day like for you?
I usually start my day with a swim. My flat is between London Fields Lido and the office so I roll out of bed, put my costume on, train outdoors (it is a beautiful 50m open air pool in the park) and then head to the studio. I feel refreshed, energised, happy and ready to do my eight hours indoors.My room is bright and tidy, there is music and a very pleasant atmosphere… I say it again; I am very lucky.
After work I go for my power walk or, if there is a dance event, put my shoes on and go swing dancing with my husband. He is one of the best leads out there and makes me look so good when we are out socially. We met on a dance floor and we have been happily married for six years.Then bed and repeat.
What do you love about what you do?
It is a fine balance between creativity and precision. Combining those elements keeps me engaged and excited.I love making beautiful pieces that can be worn by many for years to come.I am proud to associate with an ethical company that does not condone fast fashion and poor quality. I am lucky to create the type of fashion I want to wear.
Would you like to share where else can people see your beautiful work?
The EmilyandFin website is possibly the best window for what I do and love. I also make my own clothes and from time to time post something on Instagram @simonetta_73_ . My page is filled with art, architecture, travels, a bit of fashion and my passion for swimming. I look for inspiration everywhere and go to museums for research at least once a week. The beauty I try to create through my job comes from observing nature, looking at masterpieces in art galleries, from well-balanced architecture and not just from a fashion magazine or a catwalk show.
How would you describe your style?
I have an eclectic style. I wear all black or I mix colours as if I were a lollipop. I dress according to my mood and exuberance of the day. I do not follow trends, never have and never will. Seasonal taste just is not for me and I prefer to buy less and make it last. My wardrobe counts pieces found in charity shops, vintage fairs, high street and of course plenty of EmilyandFin dresses. I mix and match to reinvent my look daily. ‘Boring’ is not a word I would pick to describe my style.
How do you express your personality through what you wear?
Fashion is a very powerful tool to express who we are or what we aspire to become.Our clothes, the colours we choose, the accessories we pick, create a visual set of information that says a lot about us as people. A dress is not just functional: what we wear determines how we want to be seen in the world.
Some days one feels confident and daring, the outfit will probably express that. Other times is nice to be ‘quieter’ and a more demure style is of the essence. I find beauty almost everywhere and in everyone and always admire those who do not shy away from bold statements (both visual and verbal). Through my style I try to convey the daring yet playful side of my personality. No matter the day, I introduce an element of fun in my outfit: it is amusing to myself and others.
I like the bold, quirky, unique yet elegant. I am a little lady of 5’1” with a big personality: what I wear probably says that about me.
What are your favourite picks from SS20 collection (and why)?
I truly enjoyed working on SS20 and have already ordered a few favourites.
I love the floaty and lighter fabrics for a more sophisticated look and the Chloe Wrap Dress in Pink Asilah floral is on my wish list. It is a lush print and the fit is easy and flattering. It will be long on me and will wear it for more special occasions and high heels.
For a day in the office or at the park, I will wear the Scarlett Dress in the Mint Gingham. I have that style in many prints already and love the choice of green and white. It is fresh, fun and comfortable to wear.
The Jenna Wrap Jumpsuit in the Marrakech Landscape is also one of my favourites: it is soft and floaty but fitted at the waist. The cropped leg will make it easy to wear both with flats and heels. I think I will finish the look with red accessories.
Last but not least, I will wear the Bree Dress in the Summer Rainbow Stripe. The colours are so beautiful together and I can just throw it on and head out as it is a looser fit with big pockets for my keys and wallet. For a more cinched look, I can add a belt but am attracted to the comfort and easiness of this shape and modern feel.
I look forward to summer already!