Like the rest of the School of Design and Engineering, Textile Design faculty and students alike were excited for the talk given by Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna on Jan 27th. And she did not disappoint! Lavinia talked not only about her fashion design business, but also about her family, her experience, her principles, and her influences. It was an hour filled with good humor, insightful advice, and inspirational anecdotes.
Lavinia started her career “in the fitting rooms of New York,” and that became one of the first stepping stones to the position she holds now. She says it was one of the best experiences of her life because it led her to understand that sellable fashion needs to look good on the regular women, not just the model, to build a good reputation and robust business. This lesson applies not only to fashion designers but to textile designers as well. High-quality textiles need not only to be beautiful but to perform the intended function as well.
Hailing from a family of influential female leaders certainly didn’t hurt her chances of being a successful entrepreneur. Her grandmother, Delia, started the design house, and her mother recorded an impressive list of firsts. She was the first to bring cashmere to the women’s fashion market, first to be invited to hold a fashion show in China in 1988 and the first to hold a fashion show at the Kremlin in Russia in 1995. The goal of these fashion shows was to “build bridges” with other countries and cultures where the language was not shared. But what was shared was a mutual appreciation of the aesthetics of fashion and high-quality textiles.
One piece of advice that Lavinia repeats throughout her talk is, “Be curious.” I love this quote. It implies that you should never stop moving forward. If you are curious, you are thinking through a question that propels you towards an answer. No matter the outcome, you are always walking down a path. This curiosity is what drives textile designers to make fabulous fabrics. Sitting down at the loom/knitting machine/computer and trying something out just to see what it will look like and then following that journey of making until something else piques their curiosity, and they are off exploring a new path.
It was wonderful and inspiring to hear Lavinia’s journey of curiosity, and we are thankful to have had the honor of her visit. To end the talk on an exceptional note, Thomas Jefferson University bestowed upon her the gift of a beautiful jacquard created by one of our esteemed alums, Jiyoung Park, a recent textile design graduate. We couldn’t be prouder to share the love of beautiful textiles with Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna.