Multilayered was the first descriptor used by designer Bea Fontana to describe her brand Risa Venezia. Having just been exposed to the brand myself, I could already understand why and tell that there was a lot to unpack.
Risa Venezia spawned from Bea’s first-hand experience of the Italian textile industry at a young age. Because of her family’s furniture design business, she was exposed to halls of hanging textile that she’d run through as if lost in a dream. Being from a small artisanal town called Stra outside of Venice, Bea grew up with artisans and this work right at her fingertips. She looks back fondly on observing artisans in textile factories as a young child and even developing personal relationships with many of them. Eventually, she became more attuned to the amount of scrap fabric that went to waste because it wasn’t large enough for a particular project. The amount of meticulous work that went into each and every piece didn’t equate with disposable, Bea asked, “What about the artisans?” and this remains a question Risa Venezia moves people to ask today.
It was brought to Bea’s attention that many Italian brands import their manufactured goods from other countries while still tagging them with the sought-after label ‘Made in Italy’. The intricate textiles that she grew up around was authentic Italian material which created a foundation of specialty that she wanted to bring to people’s awareness through Risa Venezia. The brand is not only a clothing brand but an emblem of Italian culture and history. Dating as far back as the Silk Road reaching the Mediterranean, 1st century CE, present-day Italian artisans use the very same techniques and patterns of these times of trade and cultural overlap. Bea wants Risa to live as a platform that amplifies the work and history of Italian artisans. Risa brings a centuries old dying art to the present-day conversation about resource-conscious spending and treating the items we buy as too good to throw away.
To speak to her process- Bea finds each artisan through word-of-mouth as, oftentimes, these artisans don’t have very much exposure to begin with. In the case that the piece is to be ready-made, Bea collaborates with the artisans and the tailor. And in the case that the piece is custom-made, the customer will join the design process. When it comes to designing each piece, there are many factors at play beyond just the visual. Typically working with different pieces of fabric for one project, all sourced from furniture textiles, there are tedious considerations to take into account such as the weight of the fabrics have to work symmetrically or the patterns need to face complimentary directions. This makes each piece a long and meticulous endeavor. “It is like slowly making a painting”, says Bea in comparing the many choices that go into each Risa item with her painting practice. Having material sourced from the halls of Venice’s most precious textile houses Rubelli, Fortuny and Bevilacqua, each piece is truly one-of-a-kind, a work of art.
At the heart of Risa is that within each piece, there is a story, a name and a place for the customer to get to know; all of which gives the piece a life and longevity. With the backstory and versatility of many Risa pieces, there is ample potential for the consumer to resonate and make the item their own. In this relationship to the piece is a relationship to the artisan and their history, placed at the foreground of the brand and the spirit of its designer. Bea shared that this past summer, she observed an artisan who had been creating bags for over 50 years manually, single-handedly crafting a new bag by hand in just one hour. “It was as if she was drawing on her powers”, says Bea who hopes to bring this magic to the eyes of her customers as well. Bea’s main priority is that the artisans trust her and that Risa is a through-line between consumers and the artisans of ancient Italian textiles.
Connect with Bea on: Instagram