The bSmart community loves to celebrate women who follow their passions and chart their own courses. Recently, we learned about Claudia and Flavia Giardinella, the Miami-based sister duo behind contemporary womenswear label artTECA, a brand that combines contemporary art and fashion with the aim of embracing the individuality of today’s modern woman.
The name artTECA is a combination of two words: art and ‘teca’ which is a Latin term meaning gallery. The label, which launched in 2013, is designed in collaboration with contemporary artists to offer limited edition and one-of-a-kind blouses, joggers, and scarves, all of which are made with 100% silk in the United States.
The clothes are ‘inspired by femininity, strength and success’ and combine unique prints and styles that are both elegant and comfortable—designed to take a woman effortlessly from daytime to evening cocktail hour all while looking both trendy and sophisticated. The sisters’ vision is ‘for your closet to look like a gallery of wardrobe pieces that inspire, personally resonate with you and offer you a sense of confidence and empowerment.’
And these clothes do more than just look good: they also do good. The Giardinella sisters are dedicated to donating a portion of all proceeds to Wynwood-based nonprofit Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC), a visual arts and education institution which supports young artists in Miami-Dade, Florida public schools.
We thought this was a brilliant and big idea, and we're delighted to profile the two women behind the business.
Claudia and Flavia have always been involved in the art world—they grew up in a family of art collectors, so they consider the passion and the business ‘rooted in [their] culture.' Together, they’ve lived across the cosmopolitan cities of Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Caracas, Venezuela, all of which boast art as an important part of their cultures.
Flavia attended college in Connecticut and holds a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts Administration from New York University. She's worked in numerous art galleries and art museums. Claudia graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami, and after working at a local TV station for a while, she went to work in the nonprofit world as a Fundraising Director for Education Programs in Latin America.
It seems knowledge of art and business, as well as a shared passion for fashion, is the perfect cocktail for a thriving independent fashion company.
Below, Flavia and Claudia offer some answers about their ideas, their advice, and the entrepreneurial challenges that surface when launching a business, even one born of passion and expertise.
Can you share about your journey starting a fashion business?
artTECA came from the idea of mixing two creative fields: art and fashion. Besides being involved with art all our lives, fashion has always been a passion too. So for us, our idea was very organic. We wanted to fuse art and fashion in a different, creative and affordable way with the help of talented, creative artists.
Who are the artists and where do they come from?
We work in collaboration with artists from all over the world including the United States, Latin America, and Europe. It’s a very diverse group, and so is their artwork. We look for emerging or established artists who have a promising career, respected galleries represent them, they’ve participated in solo or group exhibitions, or their artwork is part of a museum or private collection.
How do you begin your collaboration with the artist?
We follow art fairs, read art magazines, and visit galleries and museum exhibitions in search of artists who produce good work. Once we spot an artist that we really like we start brainstorming how that artist’s work could be translated into fashion.
Once the artist is on board we begin the collaboration process. We first choose a selection of the artist’s works and decide what garment(s) we’re going to design. We work with the artists in terms of design and patterns until we reach a print design that we all love!
What prompted you to give back to the Bakehouse Art Complex?
Since Flavia came up with the idea of artTECA, and due to Claudia’s background working with non-profits, we knew we wanted to build a company that would make an impact in our community. This is why part of our mission at artTECA is committed to assisting art education programs to expand the opportunity for art development in our local community. In order to achieve this, artTECA has partnered with Miami-based nonprofit organization Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC) to support the organization’s art education programs for children by donating annually a percentage of sales.
ARTTECA COMBINES CONTEMPORARY ART AND FASHION, EMBRACING THE INDIVIDUALITY OF TODAY’S MODERN WOMAN.
What has been your experience working with small-scale, Made In the USA fashion production?
Our line is all limited edition, which means we only produce a limited number of each piece. This makes our production small-scale, and that way we can have successful quality control and work very closely with our manufacturers to guarantee the best and highest quality we can. We oversee the production of every top, pant, or scarf we make.
Is it a tailored and customized approach to making garments when art and print are involved?
Absolutely, the integrity of the artwork is very important to us. That said, we make as many samples as we need until we find the best quality printing of our prints. This is the only way to work with art, because it's very important for the detail and color to match exactly the print design.
Has fabric development posed any challenges?
It sure does, not all fabric can be printed digitally. Digital printing is still a very cutting-edge printing method for fabric. Not all mills can print all fabrics, so we look extensively to find the best fabrics that can go through this process and achieve a high quality imaging. This can take us a few months.
What other challenges have you encountered running a fashion company?
Our biggest roadblocks come in finding the best supply for our designs and creating the best look and fit for every style. In order to achieve this, we go through a long process of samples and that takes time and many times it delays our production timelines. We've learned to work many months in advance in order to have more time available for samples and production. When it comes to fashion and manufacturing, challenges and roadblocks are a common issue, so problem solving is a key factor in being successful in this business.
What advice do you have for women who want to start a company from their passions?
What are you waiting for?! It will never be the right time… so just get to it! Starting a business is always hard, but if you're lucky enough to have it be your passion, then go for it! When you really commit and have dedication towards your business it will most likely result in a great experience.
How have you grown since first launching your line?
Starting a fashion brand is very competitive. Defining our brand and our customer, looking into good manufacturing, finding high quality fabrics and the best printing methods, partnering with artists, designing the garments and the prints, building our online store and introducing our brand into boutiques, has all been part of our journey.
What advice do you have for women who want to turn their passion projects into a success?
We have a couple of pieces of advice:
First, PATIENCE! This is probably the hardest, since you obviously wish to grow and be successful overnight. Everything is a process and sometimes it takes longer than expected. Also, taking your time will help you make better decisions. Being impulsive most times results in mistakes…so again: have a little patience and take your time!
Second, TAKE OTHER PEOPLE’S ADVICE. It's hard to find people to give you good advice. Everyone is juggling with their own business, but try your best to surround yourself with people who have been there already. Their experience will help you avoid many mistakes. It doesn’t mean doing exactly what they say...just consider their experience before you make your own decisions.
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