Ah, that inimitable Italian style. It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. Fashion doesn’t define her. She defines herself. She knows an extraordinary life is not about status, money, or achievement. The only mastery it requires is one her heritage has given her, the irrepressible passion to make art of life itself.
Ask an Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels. It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms.
Sass, Smarts and Stilettos takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence, and the humanistic business practices of Luisa Spagnoli, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Alberta Ferretti, from the emergence of Italy’s fashion industry after WWII, to slow food and sustainable fashion initiatives taking root around the world.
Life lessons echo in the words of the author’s mother and grandmother, in the voices of Italian film divas, designers, tastemakers, writers, and artisans across generations, from the first Sala Bianca in Florence to the game changing design ethic of Franca Sozzani, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace.
Learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living. Say good-bye to mindless consumerism, emotional clutter, and others’ expectations. Create a personal style that fits like a custom blazer by Ferrè and enchants like the colors of a Sicilian sunset. Then go on to craft an extraordinary and empowering life made-to-measure for you alone.
I already had a copy of Gabriella Contestabile's first book, when I heard she was working on a new one. I couldn't wait to see what she would come up with next. Unfortunately, I hate to wait a lot longer than I hoped for as she polished this book to her high standards. No worries. I made sure I was first in line to order a copy on launch day and couldn't wait for it to arrive.
When I first heard the title would be Sass, Smarts and Stilettos, I made the assumption that it would be a fashion book covering how to add a little Italian style in my own life. The fact the author has an incredible sense of style reinforced this misconception. As I began to read, however, I quickly learned this book is actually filled with all things Gabriella cherishes about her heritage - her family life growing up filled with the culture of her birthplace; the authentic Italian food her mum prepared along with that sampled on trips to Italy; the wonderful quality clothing she learned to appreciate (both sewn by her talented mother and purchased); the fashion style she learned from her mother and from other women on trips back to Italy; the history; the art; and so much more.
This book is in many ways a memoir, told as if the author is talking with the reader over a freshly made espresso at her favourite Italian cafe. We learn about all things Italian initially as we listen to her personal story from childhood forward. Gabriella's ability to vividly share important moments help them to come alive. There were times I swear I could visualize the scene, smell the aromas or taste the food.
Then slowly she begins to showcase her extensive knowledge of the history of Italian art and fashion, adding examples that help to bring home important points. And she includes story after story about the strong, independent fearless Italian women who dared to do things their own way without apology. Her mother was one of these brave women.
A wonderful read. I highly recommend it.
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Meet the Author -
Fab behind the scenes author interview - HERE!
The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.
One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.
Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn