Chiara Boni and the Most Popular Stretch Dress in America
If you wear a Chiara Boni La Petite Robe dress once, you won’t forget it – you’ll recognise it forever.
Because Chiara’s dresses have an incredible fit.
If you want to shorten them, you can just cut them: they are all in stretch jersey of different thickness and therefore don’t need sowing or ironing. But what makes them so feminine and above fashion trends is how gently they adapt to your body. Oprah Winfrey called Chiara’s office to order nine of them in different colours and pose for the cover of O, the Oprah Magazine . Dita Von Teese loves the fit too – Chiara Boni La Petit Robe line is incredibly versatile.
The Chiara Boni Interview
I went to Milan to interview Chiara Boni. Her headquarters and new flagship store are in the Via Montenapoleone Fashion District: the heart of glamour. She warmly introduced herself and gave me a quick look.
You are an Italian 38 or better 36… so tiny! She said.
Chiara genuinely likes to dress women and immediately imagined me in one of her creations. For sure I couldn’t leave her showroom without falling in love with at least 20 different dresses, and getting 2 of them.
Here is our chat.
Beatrice: What do Americans like so much about your clothes?
Chiara: That they sell! (laughs)
Which is good, because when we first presented the collection to the Saks buyer, he said they look good when you wear them, but awful on the hanger. Now that we are among the top sellers of the shop, when he orders, he sits down with a glass of wine and enjoys…
Beatrice: So you see the dress at its best when you try it?
Chiara: Yes. I guess it’s because of the fit. Women often tell me they wear one of my dresses and feel so fresh and young. And buying a dress, for me, remains a joy, a pleasure. I don’t do pure basics, I always loved femininity and the fun of giving yourself a little treat. American also love long sleeves – never baggy or excessively tight, exactly like the dresses.
Beatrice: You mean that Italian beauty and perfect proportions translate in good business?
Chiara: It’s a combination of factors. Americans love precision, and we are very strict about our delivery times: we deliver in an average of 45 days from the order, also for special orders (you can always have a dress you like in your favourite colour, especially made for you). To that, I try to add a joyful, cheerful touch. And beauty – after all I was born in Florence, and grew up surrounded by beauty.
Beatrice: How did you start your career?
Chiara: I designed for my own shop in Florence in the 70s, and then joined GFT (Financial Textile Group, that included Armani and Valentino), where I was the first woman designer and learnt a lot about fabrics and stretch fabrics in particular. I also worked in Geneva as a consultant for fabrics and introduced these stretched materials in fashion for the first time. I had sold GFT my name and it took me years to buy it back – Now I finally have it, so I have my own line once more.
Beatrice: You also wrote books, designed theatre costumes, worked with photography and as a politician for 5 years for the Tuscan Region. Would you have preferred one of these careers to fashion?
Chiara: I like anything creative and related to show business. If I see a ballet, my head starts imagining how the dancers could go in and out, or a different choreography. If I read a novel, all of a sudden I see a movement of the main character and I see her dress! And my years in politics were also brilliant because I felt I could do a lot for my own Region and was very independent. I also love writing and proofread everything, so I do like different fields and tried many. But I wouldn’t really want to be a writer or somebody different than who I am.
Beatrice: As a woman entrepreneur, have you always felt treated fairly?
Chiara: Yes. Of course the world is not the same everywhere, so it depends on which country we are talking about, but my experience is very positive. I do believe there are differences in the female and male approach to work, and women are on average more skilled in things like communication for example. Personally I don’t like some aspects of management, so I work with a tough partner! He does the tough things for me (laughs). I am not sure I could work, say, for a pharmaceutical company. I am very aware of moral issues too and I need to be fully happy about the impact of my job.
Beatrice: Your work is indeed positive, full of energy, almost poetic I would say. How do you react when it’s a bad day, or episodes like the recent terror attacks happen?
Chiara: I am optimistic by nature. I am not able to hate, it’s not my personality. I travel a lot and recently I told my son (who by the way just had Bianca, my first grandchild!): if anything ever happens, tell Bianca I’m going away with love. I won’t give terrorists the gift of my hate. I have overcome many things in my life. Never with hate, always with love.
Beatrice: Do you prefer working alone, or in a team, to be creative?
Chiara: In a team. I Skype and laugh almost every day with the designing team. Fabio, who is taking pictures, used to be one of my fashion students at the Politecnico di Milano: I notice and remember people and like to work with fresh talents. I do elaborate a lot on my own though, through lateral thinking.
Beatrice: Lateral thinking?
Chiara: Yes, like Isaac Newton sitting in his garden when an apple falls on his head and he suddenly comes up with his theory of gravity. If he didn’t have the necessary knowledge and didn’t think about it all his life, he wouldn’t have found the solution. Yet, the solution comes from something different, something not logical.
Beatrice: I was positively surprised when, after a simple email in which I asked you for an interview, you actually looked at Ask the Monsters and accepted without knowing me. How do you keep so incredibly open to new things?
Chiara: My son taught me; he showed me the importance of social media, for example. I am also very curious. Wait…well, Steve Jobs also did something! He changed my life by inventing the IPhone (everybody in the room laughs and says “mine too!”)
Beatrice: Well, thank you for this opportunity I didn’t expect; it has been a honour.
Chiara: Now it’s time for you to try something… Do you want us to shorten your hem a bit? It takes only a moment. Here you are: now that you are so happy, we have finished!