Born and raised in Luxembourg, Manuela Mariotti was influenced by Nordic aesthetics and the school of Antwerp that led her to develop her own unique vision. In the 1980s, she moved to Italy and began to work for emerging fashion companies in the artisanal area the Marche-region, a world and expertise she appreciated and continues to support today.
In 1999, with Massimo Berloni, she co-founded the denim and fashion brand Dondup. Although they sold it to the private equity fund L Capital in 2015 Mariotti continued to be its creative director until 2017.
After a period dedicated to traveling and looking for inspiration, in July 2019 she co-founded Academy Srl, a creative hub meant to develop projects focused on the fashion and lifestyle scene in the Italian and international markets, involving young artists, designers and emerging talents.
Mariotti, as creative director, revamped it as a 100% Made in Italy and top quality focused brand. It debuted as a small women’s and men’s collection for f/w 2021-22, and became a compact, complete women’s collection including a few pieces for men for s/s 2022. The brand’s latest evolution also includes a men’s total look collection debuting in January 2021 for f/w 2022-23.
Mariotti explained what ideas and aims guide her relaunch.
Seafarer is a journey, an adventure and a source of never-ending inspiration. It is related to a world and time I always loved. I wanted to create an accurately Made in Italy ready-to-wear collection expressing the rebel heart and the desire of self-expression of a freak-chic couple, between a French classic style aesthetic and a modern and contemporary taste.
Its summer collection reminds me of Cote d’Azur and Morocco vibes, and the icons who wore it in the ’60s and ’70s, free-minded people who wore bell-bottoms, a symbol of freedom in those years, mixed with ’70s-inspired blazers made with great fabrics like silk and linen.
We do our best to involve as many local artisans as possible in manufacturing it. I also did it before with Dondup as I always believed in Made in Italy since the first steps I took in my career. Also, embroideries are made by a local artisan specialized in this craft.
Are the materials Made in Italy too?
The collection is made with Italian fabrics and mostly produced in the surroundings of Fossombrone, in Central Italy, where we are based. This also helps constantly check the quality of your products as most laboratories are mostly based at a few kilometers from us. This is indispensable to reach premium quality and a way to preserving a high-value expertise we cannot lose.
I believe in sustainability, but only in part. Everyone is speaking about fabrics made with recycled materials, but I want to know what they are exactly made of. If I use an organic cotton fabric and then wash it or dye with chemicals that piece of clothing can no longer be considered eco-friendly.
The best way to be sustainable is starting to produce less. If you produce fewer pieces that last longer, you will throw fewer items to landfill. Everyone has to start from a green mentality and act accordingly, and not simply follow as a trend everyone speaks about.
My criteria remain the same–including, among others, great care for premium quality. I also want to continue offering compact collections. At present, the women’s part offers about 100 pieces and the men’s about 60. It might further enlarge, but not much more, as I don’t like “fireworks.”
Academy has always been my dream, but I prefer to focus on a project at a time as relaunching a brand requires a huge effort. Academy is meant to focus on fashion, but also design and more… It’s a means through which I can help young talents grow in different creative fields that can run parallel to our projects.