Local Heroes: Gianna Molinaro
Delicate garments made with passion and purpose – inspired by different generations and lands. The daughter of hardworking Italian migrant parents with their hand in business and dressmaking, Gianna Molinaro was destined to flourish in the fashion industry.
Honouring her family legacy with her own spin, Gianna Molinaro’s creations ooze simple sophistication and an air of timelessness.
We spoke with our latest Local Hero: Gianna Molinaro, on the history of her time at South Melbourne Market and the magic behind her brand.
Tell us a little about yourself
“Ever since I can remember, I loved fashion. In Tasmania, we lived in a small community where everyone knew each other.” I was surrounded by fashion – it was something normal. I loved it and absorbed everything I could, gaining a better understanding of pattern making.
My mum had an amazing background in fashion and pattern making. My father paid for my mum’s lessons and she studied with tailors in Italy, where clothes were made beautifully by hand. My mum’s clients would always come into the house. “They’d sit, have tea and you knew the story behind it.”
I studied fashion design at RMIT, building on my portfolio with the help of my mum, using these amazing European-inspired fabrics. After freelancing in Flinders Lane for six months, I went to Italy.
Describe your business and your experience at the market since 1987
“After having that experience, I came back and worked for a few companies – in at 6 am and out at 10 pm – making money for them.
I thought to myself ‘that’s it, I’m gonna do my own collection’. Everything I was drawn to was a natural fibre and I had an eye for the higher-quality product.
“The collection at the time was an experimental thing. I thought where I can sell it and that it made sense to go to a public arena like the market with people everywhere from all walks of life. And if I fail, I fail.”
“It was really encouraging the way women responded to the garments. I felt like I found my niche. I started this market stall and never looked back.”
“Working in such an intimate space made it easier to connect with people. And as time went on, clients became friends. They would share weekly stories with me, and this again gave me greater insight into their needs and interests. It was all very inspiring – I could channel that into future collections.”
What’s your inspiration for doing what you do?
I’m very in tune with trends and invest time and money into finding that inspiration. I’m always reading journals and old magazines to help keep me on trend.
“Every year, I’ll also go to a trade show in places like Italy, Paris or Hong Kong.” But the passion can also come to me anywhere. It could be the people you see, a shape, a building or a colour – it just comes to you. The Market was a place that allowed me that freedom.
“I challenged my creativity and myself. I wanted to give myself that opportunity to be unique. That’s where my inspiration comes from. The environment is very important to me – at the top of my head. I travel to have a look at new fabrics, technologies, [and] sustainable factories that have those ethical practices in place.”
What do you love most about the Market and the area?
“I love the diversity of the people.” People are coming together and every day it’s getting better. There are unique eateries, ongoing festivities and a real increase in younger people and performing artists.
In the last year, I’ve started employing fashion students to pass on that knowledge. It’s about giving them that same opportunity. I have this amazing fashion student who just won an award. It’s important to know the people you are designing for and understand what people need today.
Tell us about your favourite places in the City of Port Phillip area
I have lots of favourite places! The Gasworks Arts Market, all of the beautiful music places and festivals. The Botanical Gardens, St Kilda foreshore. And, of course, all the wonderful bars and eateries.
What future hopes do you have for the area?
“I’d like to see an increase in art festivals, where musicians can perform – in and around the Market and where artists can set up their artwork on the street.”
Meet other Local Heroes from the City of Port Phillip or check out upcoming events and places to visit in the area.