Curiel Maison: When Fashion Shows the Elegance and Timeless Beauty of Curiel Ladies by Maria Zota & Nick Zonna

Curiel Maison

When Fashion Shows the Elegance and Timeless Beauty of Curiel Ladies

In 1945, Gigliola Curiel, the niece of Ortensia Curiel, brought Curiel to Milan. The simplicity and delicacy of Curiel made it a huge immediate success and it was very famous and popular among the upper-class world widely. As the pioneer of Made-In-Italy fashion designer, Gigiliola has brought Curiel to La Scala, one of the most notable theatres in the world. Her most well-known design ‘Curielini’ revolutionised the way ladies dressed at the time.

In 1965 and 1970, Raffaella Curiel, the daughter of Gigliola Curiel, inherited the aesthetic concept of Curiel and presented her first collection in New York at Bergdorf Goodman, and Harrods of London, whilst in 1970, she opened her own boutique in Milan.

Raffaella Curiel, pseudonym of Raffaella Bettinelli (Gardone Riviera, 1943) beganher experience when she was introduced to the family business: the Milanese tailoring company owned by his mother Gigliola (1919-1969).

This tailoring company became a very important fashion centre in the fifties and sixties. Raffaella follows the French school by Pierre Balmain and she has been active in the fashion field since the seventies.

In 1992 Curiel opened a showroom in New York and she is also present in Japan since 1996. She has been working alongside her daughter, also named Gigliola, since 1993. 

In her fashion works, Curiel takes up great personalities of literature and art, earning the nickname “the intellectual of Italian fashion”.  She has been honoured with several awards, including Cavaliere di Gran Croce, Ambrogino d’oro, Gold medal of the city of Milan and Gold medal of the city of Rome, Bronze wolf from the municipality of Rome as world fashion Ambassador , Rosa Camuna and San Giusto d’Oronel Award 2005, as well as several others .

And this is something to know about her story.

When I went to visit Curiel New Show Room in the heart of Milan, via Montenapoleone 13, I was very honoured to talk with her and I had the possibility to ask her some questions.

Here is my 21 questions interview.

  • What is the secret to remaining one of the most important high fashion Maison over the years?

Great effort, because every 3 / 6 months we need new ideas, and for a brand that is very classic but also young, it is not so easy, but … I am in love with this job, therefore there is nothing to do.

  • So the fashion passion was transmitted from the mother?

The first person in my family with this passion was my great-aunt, then my mother, then me, my daughter and perhaps my niece, for a total of  5 generations.

  • We really hope this passion will be present for several generations because you are really doing a beautiful job. I note, with pleasure, that your clothes fit on all body types.

Oh yes, they are elegant, but they are also likeable. Our clothes are hand cut, the materials are of very high quality and all is done with passion and love.

  • I would love to talk about your story. I read that, for a long time, you focused on dressing very intellectual people, that is why you are also known as the “intellectual of Italian fashion”. How did you came to this choice?

Yes,  I dressed Ornella Vanoni, Fracci and my mom dressed Jackie Keneddy.

  • Why you didn’t follow the temptation to dress actors or musicians?

For me every woman is a character, every woman is a princess, every woman is an actress. And above all, every woman is beautiful. For me doesn’t really matter if she is famous or how rich she is. The important thing is that the result of my creations is happiness.

This is my aim. Otherwise I would not have the satisfaction to do this job. If a lady looks at herself in the mirror and she is happy with my clothes,  this is for me the maximum of happiness and satisfaction.

  • This is very good and very important, and it means you really put a lot of passion in your job, while most of the brands focus on the commercial and advertising

You know, I went to an antic school until 10/15 years ago, when it wasn’t all about this  “show”. We have dressed women like Marinna Bulgari, very important women, even in America and I was also in the White House. In England, we dressed the wife of Michael of Kent. But I prefer the advertising comes from one person who goes to another to say “look, this dress is s amazing on you. I also  went to Curiel “

Because not always the red carpet represents the great class and the nobility, the great profession that is required in our job.

  • Instead, what can you tell me about the awards you’ve received? I saw that there are many awards in your career.

I am a Grand Cross Knight of the Italian Republic, but for another kind of merit.

I have been a health volunteer for 25 years and I have done so much concrete al charity, not with money.

By organizing … I was one of the first to go and build “San Patrignano”, I made a league against drugs, I worked for the institution of cancer, for the polyclinic, because I think that those who live “in the beautiful life”,  have to make something for others, to give  what life has given to them.

  • The charity that made me particularly excited was for children with the syndrome of down.

Now, have you seen how they are growing and improving? They have also opened a restaurant. They are so sweet, able to give you so much affection and love.

  • How was growing in this field?

First of all, I didn’t want to do this. I wanted to be a Doctor. My mother got sick at 39 years of cancer. And I pretended to study. Then she asked me to come and work with her when I was 18 years old. And that’s how it started.

My daughter graduated and she makes her experiences in pret-a-porter. And then after a while, we started to work together. She ‘s VERY GOOD.

  • What is the thing that your mother taught to you that you transmitted to your daughter about Curiel and about your job?

I believe that dressing Curiel is a lifestyle.

The attention to small details, the research, is a very feminine thing, but not vulgar, transparent, and very sensual in its simplicity.

  • What is the Curiel dress that you are most proud of?

The wedding dress I made for my daughter. She got married on the lake. And I dressed her like Lucia of Manzoni Novel.

  • Last year D&G was inspired by the same idea.

We did it in 2001. But I tell you something: There is space for everyone. I, for example, copied some great masters, the painters. And they copy me.

  • How did you get your inspiration from the painters?

I was the first to mix fashion and mart, meaning that art combined with fashion, in visual art. I started with the great painters combined with fashion in 1982.

  • Congratulations! Which is the character you dressed that remained in your heart?

All, because, in the end,  there is this mutual respect, trust, friendship, even affection and gratitude.

  • Therefore, Do you create a relationship with all your clients?

Yes, I stay in touch with several  American ladies I dressed and I am in contact with several customers.

  • How do you see the future of “Alta Roma”?

I don’t see the future. Because I am deeply convinced that Italians do not love each other. Even if it is something that could be extraordinary, in this case, it has no hope.

French people, from a beautiful thing, were able to create an extraordinary thing. Even if today Haute Couture is not affordable for anyone.

However, High Fashion is a source of creativity, of experiments and it is not only luxury. Craftsmanship, creativity, experiences, teaching to young people the fashion job: this is High Fashion.

French people were able to keep it and to make it explode.

But now, every year, there is a new emerging stylist who comes from the Orient rather than Italy, or rather than French.

In Italy, there is no one anymore. We no longer have politician clients. In the past, I had, as a client, the Neapolitan lady who did not miss a Fashion Show.

But during the FASHION WEEK in Milan, there are no politicians that come.

In Paris, the politicians’ wives, at least, are always present, and the French brands have the support of politicians, of the government. This is what we miss in Italy.

  • When her daughter enters the office, Raffaela exclaims: “Look at the lady who exceeded the Master!!”

Therefore I started to ask some questions to Ms Gigliola Curiel :

Can you tell us how it has been growing in the fashion World? how was inheriting such an Important passion and business from your mother?

 For a child, growing up in this world is a bit like growing in a fairy tale.

When I was a child I observed this princely world and when I saw these beautiful clothes, I often move to the laboratory to re-create my dolls clothes.

Regarding my job, initially I was not supped to work in the creative area of the Maison but I was supposed to take care of the legal and financial part. Then while I was studying, I started working in the warehouse and lately  to the other side. Let’s say I was more attracted by the creative side of the Maison.

  • Instead, You would like your daughters to keep the Maison tradition?

Yes. First of all, many things have changed in the last 10-15 years, that has been quite revolutionary.

But if my daughters want to continue this job or at least one of the two,  I think it will be happy with this. But they need to learn that now there are different mechanisms in this Fashion World.


It is true that, in any case, is important to learn not only the techniques but also the marketing and communication needed beyond the product.

It is important to learn in the Family Maison but also from another part, like me. This last operation that we have done with “red stone” is being set up in high fashion,   as it should be in a large international group.

  • Are you happy with this collaboration?

I am very happy. I pushed a lot for this collaboration and my mom was very smart to follow me. With all these changes, I felt very responsible for this decision and is important also to evaluate the future, considering the risk to become a hidden brand. They seem very faithful, very respectful. Let’s say they understood the story.

This challenge is so good because they are developing a lot in China where our brand was not so well known, so it’s a good challenge for us because the style is different, so it’s nice to go to with them and it seems to me that it’s all so positive.

  • Since we are a fashion channel based in Dubai, I’m  curious to know what do you think about the oriental style?

I think that Eastern women are the most elegant in the world. They already have their own charm.

They are elegant, with a lot of class, something that we no longer find in Europe.

They have femininity within themselves and care for themselves that is magnificent, as the woman should always be.

  • Instead, have you got some scoop of the next fashion show, some details we shouldn’t know?

The truth is that our partners are very attentive to our history.

Since the last season, we are revisiting the archive of the grandmother, to the mother, to the modern woman.

So practically they are reinterpretations. Always red carpet, always elegant. A little our story.

So this was the last question of my interview and now I will tell you something

Very interesting…

Did you know that Raffaela refers to her daughter calling her “my gigli”?

Did you know that in the next fashion show there will be 24 items from the archive, from 1947 to 1980?

Did you know that grandaughter Vittoria is studying to become a Doctor, while Ortensia thinks to continue to work in the fashion world?

I am completely in love with Curiel. Such an amazing elegant brand and such a wonderful family full of love.

Author: Maria Zota 


Ph. © Nick Zonna 


Photographer Press Editor-Media Relation

Phone: +39 3478253843 

Mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @nickzonnaphoto

Curiel Maison: When Fashion Shows the Elegance and Timeless Beauty of Curiel Ladies by Maria Zota & Nick Zonna


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