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Il Gufo

Il Gufo: a brand that puts children first

“Children must be children,” says Giovanna Miletti, founder of Italian luxury kids fashion brand Il Gufo. Whilst this statement has been widely used, its meaning has somewhat been lost over time, particularly when it comes to fashion. It is a debate that is often associated with the continued popularity of ‘mini-me kids’ fashion. We’ve seen a boom in adult fashion brands launching kidswear, which can sometimes result in blurred lines between dressing as a child vs an adult. Yet this divide is never crossed at Il Gufo, a brand that for over 60 years has put children at its core.

 

To understand Il Gufo today, one must first understand how it began. In the early 1980’s Giovanna found herself living in a remote area of Asolo in Italy with her three children and husband. Having given up a corporate job to look after her children, she began spending her evenings making small creations such as bibs and sheets in her greenhouse, using a table tennis table to cut, sew and embroider. Her main objective was to create pieces of quality that did justice to the iconic Made In Italy label it bore.

 

Her focus on elegant shapes, tailored detail and luxury fabrics made it popular amongst Italians, leading her to launch at the 1994 Pitti Immagine Bimbo (tradeshow) in Florence, which positioned Il Gufo on an international stage. Yet Giovanna’s greenhouse continued to serve as her studio, and her living room as a showroom where she received customers and took orders, until Il Gufo finally moved into a larger workshop in the late 90s. This led to their first flagship store in Turin and subsequent boutiques throughout Europe, the United States and Middle East.


Yet despite its global expansion, the founding principles of Il Gufo have bever been compromised. One of the key areas of focus for Alessandra Chiavelli, Giovanna’s daughter, who now heads up the company alongside her brother, is their commitment to sustainability. So much so that Il Gufo was Kidswear Collective’s first ever official brand partner! 

 

We had a quick catch up with Alessandra about all things sustainable and what’s lies in store for Il Gufo.

Il Gufo has stores across Europe and America, could you tell me a bit more about the concept behind the stores?

All Il Gufo monobrand shops were created with sustainability in mind, with great attention to natural materials. Hornbeam and oak details permeate the décor, inspired by Nordic designs. The aim is to lighten up the space and create a welcoming, almost homely atmosphere. There are also numerous hand-made creations in store, like the large tree specially designed for the Milan and Paris boutiques that has been reproduced for the interiors of all new franchised stores.


Regarding packaging and small components, new shopping bags have been provided which are made of 100% recyclable FSC paper, all the used plastic hangers are withdrawn and recycled to make new hangers and polybags to cover dresses are all made of recycled polyethylene.

How do you push your sustainability initiative further in the next few years?

"At a brand level, sustainability initiatives start with the product."


Greater attention has been shifted to raw materials, making sure their origin is always controlled and choosing more and more suppliers that provide certifications both for the origin of their products and for the respect of human labour. Therefore, most processes are certified and traced so that we are sure the finished product has an even greater intrinsic value.


Also, we try and establish business relationships with companies that are particularly outstanding for their smart and sincere approach to sustainability. That is why we are so proud of the partnership with Kidswear Collective. It is our first step towards the word of pre-loved and it reflects perfectly our brand philosophy: to create collections that can survive generations and can be handed down from mother to daughter to friends!

Some of the earliest pieces created by Giovanna Miletti are still found in current collections - could you tell me about some of those products?

They are the milestone pieces that are still at the core of our collections today, always revisited in different ways. One of them is the teddy bear, most often found on our baby rompers. They are designed by hand and made of tiny pieces of fabric that have to be assembled and ironed together to create the perfect shape.


Another iconic item is the bib – it is a collar that kids used to wear back in the 80s and 90s instead of a shirt under a sweater to be chic and comfortable at the same time. They have had quite a comeback recently and they are still made using the most exquisite fabric including Liberty fabrics, as my mum used to use almost 40 years ago.

In general, the creative tradition started by my mother still resonates today in all the collections, season after season.

How have you adapted Il Gufo designs to fit an international market - for example what is different between the US and Italy?

The buying of our retail is quite different from country to country, but let’s say that we try and convey a unique style starting from the thought that all children of the world are alike: they have similar needs and habits. They play in the open air, go to school and have pivotal moments in their growth that require specific outfits. Our presence in US is still growing and our main area of focus is New York: our local clients have very similar tastes to the European ones so we have not felt the urgency to diversify much… yet!

What’s in store for Il Gufo?

We have a very exciting project that we are very happy to communicate!


Thanks to a collaborative partnership established with ‘Artetica, an all-female network of expert embroiderers operating in Salento. They have created a capsule collection of fine garments and small, sophisticated accessories. Artetica encapsulates and represents some of Italy's oldest traditional handicrafts, including hand-worked embroidery, needlework, bobbin lace and crochet. The business took off in spring 2016 thanks to the drive of a visionary entrepreneur who loves her country and her people. In a short time, she managed to assemble a group of women full of valuable knowledge and created an enterprise whose aim is to grow enough to ensure the financial independence of her collaborators and, therefore, sustainable social development. The most noteworthy pieces include a sleeveless empire-cut dress with a crocheted organic cotton bodice and a white linen skirt and a crocheted organic cotton cardigan. Sustainability and promoting honest, traditional workmanship are indeed key to the brand.


To find out more about Il Gufo, visit www.ilgufo.com


And click here to shop the Il Gufo collection at Kidswear Collective:

March 12, 2024 by Anthony Christodoulou