x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

'A creative mind needs to be nourished by knowledge'

Giovanna Furlanetto, the creative director of the Italian leather goods brand Furla, talks about her path to fashion

Corniola bag in Vetiver, Dh2,280, Furla
Corniola bag in Vetiver, Dh2,280, Furla

Giovanna Furlanetto, the creative director of the Italian leather goods brand Furla, talks about her path to fashion. My parents were from Veneto, but after the war they moved to Bologna, which has one of the oldest universities in the world. I was brought up there and I studied languages: French and English. I come from a family of five brothers and one sister, so our house was always full of young people and we were surrounded by the sounds of the Beatles, movies, and later contemporary art and sports. It was a lively atmosphere.

I had a wonderful relationship with my father. They used to say that you are the product of those who believe in you and my father believed in me. When I was 13 or 14, I joined him in the company for a few hours after school. The company's background is trading so he used to buy and sell accessories. So I supported him in choosing products. This is when I was initially immersed in design. I was always curious about what was happening around me. My father let me travel quite a bit. I remember a wonderful holiday I had in London when I was 16. That's when I started opening my mind by travelling and watching things around me. This is a constant in my life. When I go around I always pay attention to what women are wearing, who is doing what, what are the newest shops.

When I finished studying, I started to work as a co-ordinator in the creative team of my father's company. He left the company when my brothers and I became strong enough to go forward on our own. This was around the 1970s and the 1980s, and at that point we began working on our network of shops and global visibility. Two of my brothers mainly looked after the commercial and financial side. I was more in charge of the creative direction - I was the first creative director at Furla - and this has always been, and still is, my main job. I'm not necessarily always designing, but I do bring my point of view to bear. I'm always trying to understand what's going to come next and my mind is always focused on the future. I was also lucky to be able to travel to Europe first, then to the United States and then Japan. My point of view and taste, as a result, became more well-rounded.

I've always been inspired by Japanese designers, and the one who inspires me the most is Rei Kawakubo. She is amazing. Visiting her Aoyama store in Tokyo is always worthwhile for me. Kawakubo's taste is so forward and avant-garde, but still minimal. It's difficult to understand, but I interpret her unique point of view to appeal to my customer, who is a much simpler woman. Rei Kawakubo is also one of my favourite designers, and though I buy only the simplest things from her collections, it probably represents 40 to 50 per cent of my wardrobe. My style is contemporary, but timeless. I never wear bright colours, except for maybe red sometimes.

I love black and white as well as minimal and basic clothing options. I feel good every time I wear white in summer and black in the winter because I don't feel like I need anything else. I think this preference has to do with my admiration of the Japanese designers in the 1980s and I have a lot of respect for Coco Chanel as well. I think a creative mind needs to be nourished by knowledge. Every kind of knowledge helps, whether it's looking at architecture, listening to music, appreciating art, watching movies or observing people.

I've always made a point of discovering who is doing what all over the world. You have to nourish your creative soul by adding knowledge. You have to nourish what's around you. You need to grow. My father used to say to me, and my brothers as well, you are like a beautiful vase. But you need to fill it. You must continuously fill it with whatever good and interesting things you bump into.

Furla's flagship store is at the Dubai Mall (04 339 8811).