Atelier Pietro Longhi: historic costumes in Venice
The Carnival of Venice, one of Italy’s most beloved Carnivals.
Something I have spoken about extensively in the last 11 years of blogging: from the origins of Carnival, to Frittelle and Carnival food, to why we love Carnival Masks so much, to my own personal opinion about today’s Carnivals!
It would have been a bit repetitive just to write a post about the various events which this year will take place from 16th February till 5th March 2019 – you can find all the information on the official website Carnival of Venice!
No – this year it had to be different; I wanted it to be different – but why?
Simple: this year I am celebrating my 50th birthday; since January 1st I have been celebrating every single day, making it a special day!
A dear friend of mine, Gillian from Gillian’s List, even got me a hashtag: #365daysof50 (feel free to use it if, like me, you want to celebrate being 50!)
And in line with this crazy way of living 2019, even Carnival had to be special this year!
I am not sure what I will be doing for the actual celebrations, but my readers deserved a special post.
Historic and Carnival Costume designer in Venice
And with this in mind, yesterday I went to visit Atelier Pietro Longhi, one of the most beautiful Historic and Carnival Costume designer in Venice, official partner of the Venice Carnival for which they create the costumes for some of the most important appointments such as the dress for the Volo Dell’Aquila and those for the Festa delle Marie.
I have wanted to visit the Atelier for a very long time, but never plucked the courage to ask, because I know how busy they always are and I am not a fashion blogger or a costume expert – I did not want to intrude!
But after a fortunate turn of events – meaning: Venice is pretty small so you always end up, sooner or later, running into someone you know – I eventually run into Raffaele Dessì, event organizer, PR and also right hand of Francesco Briggi, the mind and soul of Atelier Pietro Longhi.
Very cheekily, I asked him if I could bring some friends to see the amazing Historic Costume Exhibition, which is held at Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista, Storie di Moda, hosted by the atelier. He graciously invited us, not only for a private visit to both the exhibition and the Scuola, but also for a tour of the Atelier.
Now, words cannot describe how happy I was about this: I have wanted to see the shop for ages – and to get also a private tour of everything else!
You can imagine how long it took me to say yes: literally one nano-second!
Visiting Atelier Pietro Longhi
And that is why yesterday, on a beautiful sunny cold February morning, we headed to a small calle near Frari Church, where the “bottega” Atelier Pietro Longhi is based: a small bastion of real Venetian culture and tradition.
We were met by Francesco Briggi himself, the world famous Venetian costume designer, founder of the Atelier, and by Raffaele, who moved from Sardinia many years ago, but who is more Venetian than any Venetian born I know!
As we walked into the Atelier it was like stepping back in history, literally: beautifully hand stitched costumes of all eras, hand made masks, elegant hats and all sort of accessories on display – an explosion of colors and emotions!
Francesco founded the Atelier in 1994, with the help of his wife and his family. He comes from the Terraferma, as Venetians call the mainland, just like me.
And like me, he experienced the beautiful Carnivals of the 80s, those Carnivals when hoards of Pulcinellas landed in the city, the times when Venice decided to twin with Naples. He remembers the Campi, full of people dressed in all sort of costumes, extravagant and fun, fancy or just made up with leftover fabrics, where people played music, danced and enjoyed life to the full!
About Atelier Pietro Longhi
Those were the Carnivals, which inspired him to leave his job in publishing and start his own Costume Design business.
That is why, thanks to his passion for the carnival and historical tailoring and with the help of his wife Anna Maria, he created a small showroom – 25 years on and today Atelier Pietro Longhi consists of three distinct realities, thus united by the research for quality and originality: the “bottega”, the “tailor shop”, the “hatters”.
TV show and media from all over the world ask constantly to visit them for interviews showing their viewers the ancient Venetian sartorial art, which thanks to Francesco and his staff is well alive still today in Venice. And that is why I always felt a bit in awe and out of place by asking to visit them!
A visit to the atelier is not just about admiring some of the most beautiful historic costumes ever made: you are welcomed by a team of experts, real connoisseurs of the history of costumes, art and European architecture, who will take the time to explain the history of each of the over four hundred costumes present in the atelier, motivating their choices of fabrics and shapes.
What makes Atelier Pietro Longhi so special
Raffaele, who is a dancer, a choreographer, an architect, an ancient dance expert, in an interview, stated:
“The dress is the object which can absolutely represent an era. So when they ask me why it is important to study fashion and the history of costumes, I respond that it is for the same reason for which we study Latin and ancient Greek. You must know your origins if you want to understand who you are and build a coherent future. “
Everyone, here, has a deep knowledge about the history of European civil and military customs and Francesco and his staff are often called as consultants to organize the settings for museums worldwide and to provide some of their creations!
No glitter or hot glues are used in their costumes!
Wherever possible they use only original fabrics, or the most similar ones to the originals, to allow the most realistic recreation of a dress or uniform. And everything is hand stitched!
The Flight of the Angel
As we looked around the shop, we spotted the costume, which will be worn for the next flight of the Angel on Sunday 24th February 2019 at 12.00.
This is a special year, because there will not be one, but two Flights of the Angel on the same day, with a short time lapse.
This is to give the opportunity to Micol Rossi, one of the Marie 2018, to take part in this incredible event, even though she was not the winning Maria.
Why? Simple, Micol suffers from Crohn’s Disease and she wants to make people aware of this terrible illness, which can be debilitating. But she also wants to show to the thousands people who will be attending the Volo Dell’Angelo and who will be watching it on TV, that life goes on and no matter how sick you are, you must fight and enjoy life!
She has been called L’Angelo Guerriero, the Fighting Angel – no name could be more appropriate!
I was made to swear, with blood and fire, which I would not take any photos or give away any details of the costume – a costume which had to be adapted to the problematic of someone who suffers from Crohn’s disease…but I will simple say this: AMAZING!
Francesco Briggi, the heart and soul
Francesco is the creator of all the costumes in the Atelier: he sees a particular painting, an incredible fabric and simply gets inspired. The most amazing thing: he does not draw on paper and uses the pattern to cuts.
Oh no…he simply snaps away….with incredible precision! No matter what the cost of the fabric is…..and he never gets it wrong!
The main fabrics come from Venice, from the likes of Tessiture Bevilacqua and Rubelli, but also from other parts of Italy. Brocades in real gold or vintage lace are usually found in antique markets, handmade jewelry accessories are created by local artisans like Marisa Convento and the shoes are all handmade by Paoul on the Brenta Riviera.
The Atelier produces also beautiful hats, the iconic original “Tricorno Veneziano”, which they are bringing back in fashion!
Francesco, and all the staff of Atelier Pietro Longhi, do not create reproductions, they bring History to life!
We spent a long time in the Atelier talking to both Francesco and Raffaele. Then Francesco had to dash off for the dress rehearsal with Micol.
We followed Raffaele to Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista, the only school/church in Venice still owned by the same confraternity (brotherhood) that created it in the 1300s!
This is also the location of the exhibition Storie di Moda until beginning of March.
But that is another story, another post!
I do not even know how to begin to thank Francesco and Raffaele for taking their precious time off to give me and my friends a private tour of their atelier. I feel very honoured to have admired their creations and also to have learnt so much about the history of Venetian and European Costumes.
So, if you are coming over to Venice for Carnival, but not just during Carnival, and want to step back in time for a day, with a real authentic historical costume, do not hesitate and contact Atelier Pietro Longhi!
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