The-Italian-Secrets-bold-sexy-luxury-affordable-fashion-new-innovative-startup-all-you-need-to-know-about-our-pop-up-shop-Interview-Founder-CEO-Melissa-Collaro
Q. Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you study? Something you’re interested in?

I am an architect. I studied in Italy and Barcelona and I had my final exam to be an architect here in the UK. I worked a lot of years in the architecture and interior design industry. Actually, I come from a family of architects so it has always been our background. I worked as an architect for many luxury brands. Before I came to London I started to work as an interior designer and visual merchandising for luxury brands and their own shops. I quite enjoyed doing that. I decided to move to London to experiment and see what the experience of being an architect is like here. Still, I found myself to be attracted to fashion. I am still an architect, I have my own office, but this is a new project because fashion is my passion and I found it difficult to find Italian clothes in London.

Q. What inspired you to create “The Italian Secrets”? What does it stand for?

I decided to create TIS because I worked for so many years as an architect and I got bored, to be honest. When I got my son I decided to take a step back from the construction work path to focus on my family and I was thinking to do something with fashion. I didn’t know what. One day I was shopping around, I was trying to shop around. After 9 months of pregnancy, I was finally getting into shape. It was one of those days where I was starving to buy clothing. I literally wanted to buy everything so I went on the main street in Central London and I was shocked. There was nothing to buy. Not because there was no product but there wasn’t something more unique to find, something that you don’t find on every street. I didn’t want to spend so much money on luxury brands like Gucci or Prada. And so I thought and I was telling my partner “I so wish I was in Italy because I know where I can go to buy affordable clothes that are niche and different.” And this is basically when the idea popped in my head if I have this problem maybe someone else is having the same problem, especially Italian people, or people that love Italian fashion. This is the reason why I started this business. That was the main catalyst but also curiosity to see what the next challenge is and trying to see if I can make someone else happy by finding clothes.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your mission and the “Made in Italy” tradition.

It’s in my origins, in my blood to be Italian, 100% original, from the north and south so I basically complete all Italy. My mother is from the north and my father is from the south so I am fully Italian. When I started my architectural business I started it Made in Italy, so I was bringing materials from Italy here in the UK, stones, marbles, tiles etc. with Italian flavours. In construction, it’s known that Italian architecture is the most recognised and most of my clients are Italian. It actually linked back to my origins so the idea of having Made In Italy clothing was part of a personal need haha. It seems after so many years here in London, there is something that wants you to link back to your origins to make you feel like home. I know that Made in Italy design is very unique and you can recognise it in the street. If I was wearing something out of the ordinary and not monochrome, people were always saying “Wow that is very nice. Where did you get it?” and I would say “Well, in Italy.” and the answer was always the same “Of course it’s from Italy”. My friend always said to me “You’re really good with fashion, you should do something with that.” so then I thought, why not combine my passion for fashion with my origins from Italy and have something that is good quality and affordable price.

Q. What is the process behind finding designers to work with? Do you have certain criteria when choosing designers?

We do. We have certain criteria and it is actually very hard to find new designers, that aren’t online first of all. The first criteria is that the clothes have to be Made in Italy, they actually have to make the design and product over there, that is a must. The second point would be to not have a website, where possible because this makes them unique to the British market. The other criteria would be to be affordable, ethical, sustainable and of course all in good quality.

Q. What is the reason behind opening a Pop-Up Shop?

The reason is that the website itself has different types of designers and most of the items are hand-made and made-to-order so we want to give the opportunity to the costumers to see the Italian product in the store. So we have some of the products that are on the website here in the shop, for example, IMHO, so people can touch the material and try them on, it’s a different feeling from seeing it on the website. Together with these, we have new designers with limited edition clothing. So we will have probably one piece each or two pieces with two different colours, that’s because we want to promote new designers, bring them here to the UK. To be able to do that we want to test the market and let people know that we are a business that can offer bespoke service from low budget to high budget. We are trying to give a wide range of items.

Q. You said that these items are limited to the shop. So how did you find these designers and how did you get a hold of these items that you’re selling at the shop?

Actually I myself went to Italy. The designers that we have on the website, were not able to produce items in time for the opening. I decided to go there myself and cherry-pick some items from particular designers and bring them here. Some of them don’t even have the label, that’s because we don’t want to give it away, let’s say it like that. We want to make the experience special and unique and we are hoping to collaborate with these designers on new collections.

Q. Is the location in theme with the brand?

It is. I didn’t want to have the shop looking too bland but I wanted to have something more sophisticated, cosy and friendly. Then I found the perfect location because it’s actually in a courtyard, it’s a bit more secluded. It’s very cosy and comfortable, you have a very good feeling when you walk through because you feel at home. You have an external garden, you have seats, you can have a coffee and chat while you try on clothing. It’s a very sociable experience.

Q. How has your experience with the Shop been so far? How does it feel to interact with customers first-hand?

Well, it’s very good, especially because I can see what clients are looking for and what they are buying. Most of the time, it’s funny to say, they put their eyes on something but buy something else haha. It’s like the first love. So yeah, it’s been very good so far and I’m looking to meet more local people as well, as at the moment we are based here in Fulham.

Q. Do you think opening a shop was a good way to show customers a glimpse of “The Italian Secrets”?

I believe that it is, also I think that it is a good opportunity to let the people understand more about Italian fashion and how we mix and match and how we style. Most of the time they buy something, they wanna buy something but they don’t know how to style that so it’s more like having the experience of a personal shopper. Based on their style and based on their choice I can suggest an outfit, casual or classic, based on Italian styling ways. I actually love meeting people and customers so they can see me in action, haha, and not behind the scene. It’s like putting a face to the brand.