Today we interview Paola Girardi, owner of the homonymous tailor’s shop in Corso Fogazzaro, always very active in the fashion but also in the training field.
• Mrs. Girardi, what do you do?
In my artisan tailor’s shop, I produce tailor-made women’s garments and I also make changes or repairs.
• What does make you an excellence of the Vicenza and more generally Italian tailoring?
There are 3 qualities that stand me out: effort, research, ability.
I opened my business in 1983 and this certainly involved a lot of effort, not only from the practical side. You know in fashion, creativity is not enough, you must also have an eye to the big brands, constantly face each other with companies that do the same job, but at a higher level, to always try to improve and be competitive on the market. This is what I call research, but then it must be translated into concrete acts: out of this, for example, the participation in cultural events and training activities. The ability to manage human relationships, to create connections, is in fact fundamental: interacting with customers, advertising my work through the website or social networks, being an active part of the Vicenza craftsmanship are some of the ways that allow me to give visibility to what I do.
• Do you have employees or coworkers?
I have been collaborating with external tailor’s shops for several years, then they closed because of the crisis that has been between 2008 and 2010 and I therefore chose to remain alone. I have never had permanent employees because unfortunately in Italy there are not enough tax breaks and moreover it takes at least ten years to train a person in this field, which is for me not affordable.
• What kind of costumers do you have?
My clientele is medium / high. It is composed not only by people from Vicenza (some loyal customers from the 80s) but also by customers who come from outside the region or from abroad.
• How long have you been welcoming trainees? In which areas? From which country have you welcomed trainees so far?
I have been welcoming European trainees as seamstresses since 1997 thanks to Eurocultura but I also collaborate with other entities, including, for example, the Confartigianato (Craftsmen’s Association). The trainees mainly come from Spain, Germany, France, Finland, and of course Italy.
• How do you organize the placement and the “follow-up” of the trainees? What are the tasks assigned to them? What can a trainee learn from you?
At the beginning I try to “test the waters” to see what they can do: I get them to carry out simple machine or hand works on fabric samples, leaving them all the time they need. In this way they do not feel under pressure and I can understand what the best for them is. I think it is important to have the peace of mind, first because this is a craft work and not an industrial production and then because the trainees are here to learn, so it is a moment of study and growth for them, professional as well as personal.
Trainees have here the possibility to touch all the fabrics, dealing with basting, hand and machine sewing. Obviously, the complexity and variety of tasks assigned also depend on their skill, dexterity, desire to get involved.
Certainly, with me they can learn a lot, not only doing ordinary tasks but above all watching me working and therefore learning with their eyes. In fact, trainees are never left alone, they can always rely on my guidance and constant supervision.
• How do you get on with trainees from Europe?
I have always had wonderful experiences with Eurocultura’s trainees and I think their preparation is excellent. Although I do not have in-depth linguistic knowledge, I have always managed to instill my teachings and my passion to the trainees.
• Tell us something funny that happened to you!
I remember in particular two episodes that I would like to tell you.
The first dates back to 2004, the year in which I welcomed Claudia, a German girl, into my tailor’s shop. She created a dress based on the legend “the chocolate girl” for the inauguration of the new headquarters in Corso Fogazzaro and she gave me a photo album about her experience in Italy. I enjoyed it very much and of course I still keep these gifts.
In 2013 Teresa, another German trainee that I was hosting at the time, convinced me to organize a fashion show in my tailor’s shop with thirty of my personal clothes for my 30 years of activity’s anniversary. We created the event on Facebook and I must say that it has been very successful, attracting many young people. I do not deny that this made me very happy!
Intervistatrice: Federica Perazzolo, Eurocultura