Friday 1oth September, 2010
Rena Niamh Smith
Last week, we were invited to Chouchou Couture‘s “Cozy” sample sale. As far as intimate gigs go, this was pretty close-and-comfortable. Held at the designer’s penthouse quayside apartment with fabulous views over the cityscape through floor-to-ceiling windows, only a funky video installation featuring Chouchou‘s promo shots and some slick graphics projected against the back wall, and of course two rails of handcrafted garments set this apart from a house party thrown for a bunch of friends. As the late summer sunlight streamed in through the windows, designer Sylvia Pellegrino greeted guests with prosecco and peaches and her million-dollar smile, setting the mix of mates, journos, local designers and clients-cum-friends, such as a pixie-like chick for whom Pellegrino is designing a floor-length silk one-shoulder gown for what looks like a 21st birthday fit for a princess. A fairy godmother to make you the perfect dress? Sounds sugar sweet to us.
Chouchou Couture is all about the person and the personable. The night had the feel of a party, even if we did manage to throw in an impromptu photo-shoot. A designer qualified from CSM, Pellegrino designs her own collection but also provides a made to measure service, working with the clients’ ideas as well as her own to make people’s dreams a reality. Not only that, she can turn her hand to any well-loved garment you might bring to her attention, and trim and chop to make any adjustments necessary to make what’s frumpy fabulous. Be it vintage, high street or even designer, she has the eye for detail and skills required to turn that dress you never wear into the centerpiece of your wardrobe with a stitch here or new detail there, or by sometimes taking the whole thing apart and starting again. “It’s often so simple!” she exclaims, in her purry Italian drawl, describing garment transformations through the most basic of alterations. This is the fabulous fashion fairy who can throw a wand of new life over clothes.
A native of Rome, she has spent a considerable amount of time in LA, a city she continues to visit and draw inspiration from; in many ways she embodies these places in her sensual, sunny personality. Her current collection is for similarly bold-and-beautiful, body-confident women. Inspired by dancewear (Zumba is a personal passion of Pellegrino’s), there were synthetic bodys and leggings in fantastic colours as well as hooded dresses and embellished vests in grey jersey and printed wool fabrics, not dissimilar to the wares of that other LA-based sports-inspired brand, for whom Pellegrino worked over in Amsterdam. Yet of course, hers are of far more designy vibe, mixed with an Italian sense of sexuality with short hemlines de rigeur and a dash of leopard-print, as well as that perfectly polished thing our Italian cousins pull off with so much ease and grace.
Ever the international chameleon, she studied design in London as well as a brief but very happy stint at our own University of Glasgow as an Erasmus student. In her work, the quintessential British eccenricity is clearly present in her love of vintage and throws a spanner in the works to all that sassy ‘n’ sexy LA/Italian shit. Reusing forgotten textiles is a Chouchou speciality and printed silks range from pretty polka-dot to quirky candy colours and carriages. There are over-sized blouses and a fabulous tartan coat reworked into a jacket. On a recent trip to LA, Pellegrino claims the Americans didn’t know what to make of the curveball in the colection, but here there is the swagger and sex appeal to carry it all off. One of our favourites was a super-shiny floral print high-waisted puff skirt that seems to combine the glitz and shape of the dancewear with that odd British sarotrial sense of humour. Also, a peach blouse had been shortened from a granny-chic dress to sex kitten status and would work a treat with denim hotpants and a mane of tangled, youthful locks at any Glasgow hotspot. But in the end we had to settle for the high-necked leopard-print softer-than-silk tunic top. We need some of Chouchou‘s Italian sex appeal – British quirkiness and frump? Coming down with it, mate.
Chouchou Couture is currently stocked in We Love to Boogie and Welcome Home in Glasgow, and in Godiva in Edinburgh. On 25th September they will be hosting their Bold Souls pop-up styling event and sample sale at Stereo. See Facebook for details.