Italian Designer Spotlight: Caterina Gatta

An Interview with Up and Coming Italian Designer Caterina Gatta

Everything old is new again, or so the saying goes. For Italian designer Caterina Gatta these words definitely ring true. The buzzed about young designer has made a name for herself in fashion circles by creating very modern clothes out of very beautiful vintage fabrics. Forget mass market retailers, Gatta’s creations are one of a kind and fashioned out of yards of silks and fabrics from design houses like Versace and Valentino.

The 27-year-old Gatta graduated from Rome’s La Sapienza University with a fashion degree and has also studied at Central Saint Martins in London and the Jewelry and Luxury Industry at Confcommercio in Rome. The designer also attributes much of her fashion growth to her job in a vintage clothing store and working as a stylist’s assistant. Gatta’s original plan was to be a stylist, a given considering her love of both fashion and photography (these days she shoots most of the photos of her own collections). Not much thought was given to being an actual designer until Gatta went to work behind the scenes at Milan Fashion Week.

“The turning point was in 2008,” Gatta tells LifeInItaly, “when I found an old Irene Galitzine fabric from the 70s and decided to create a couple of dresses for myself for the shows during Milan Fashion Week. Everyone was attracted to the original–I would say unique–pattern of the fabric. The rest came naturally.” The compliments Gatta received for her original designs during Fashion Week certainly planted a seed. Gatta recalls that it wasn’t long before she was acquiring a large quantity of vintage fabrics from more than 15 different designers and deciding to make fashion design her full time job.

Four years later and Caterina Gatta has garnered a very significant amount of buzz. After favorable reviews of her Pre-Fall 2008 collection, shown at AltaRoma, Gatta continued on her path, showing her first fall collection at SoHo House in New York City in May 2009. Last year,  Vogue Italia anointed Gatta as a true up-and-comer by inviting her to participate in the Vogue Talents Corner, organized by the magazine and AltaRoma at Palazzo Morando in Milan during the 2011 fashion week. This huge exposure has helped to get the word out about Gatta’s line and many, like fashion website Refinery29, are naming her as a designer to watch.

Gatta’s collections, and her aesthetic, are starting to take shape and she even has a signature look: the t-shirt-dress. The designer was quite proud to show at Milan Fashion Week although notes that in Italy the shows tend to “focus around big names.” That said, there has been movement in Italy to allow young designers their moment in the sun. “It’s such a big pleasure to see how in the last years AltaRoma and Vogue Italia have been organizing lots of events to support new talent in such a professional and concrete way. They are creating lots of opportunities…and that’s very important because we are the future and their help is a guide to use to be prepared and mature.”

Caterina’s quick rise to prominence can likely be attributed to her fresh and unique take on both clothing and design. “I never planned on being a fashion designer, I’d always dreamt of being a fashion stylist so I think that’s why my approach to design is completely different than many designers,” Gatta explains. “I’m more attracted to the colors and the images of the collection rather than the shape and cut. That’s why in my collections you can see the importance of the research of the fabrics and the images, including the photographs that I take personally.”

Gatta says she is inspired by fabrics and designing for a strong, complicated woman who is more unique dresser than fashion victim and has a certain joie de vivre that matches the vibrancy of many of the patterns that the designer chooses. To Gatta a lot of fashion, and choosing what to wear, should be fun or at the very least a way to express one’s mood. Due to the varied inspirations Gatta’s collections have “a single theme but many stories” and are “the result of a trend that resists fashion but is its daughter.” In other words, more style than trend. The difference between a chic fashionista and a fashion victim.

Caterina Gatta seems to be a new breed of Italian designer, one who “draws on the past to project into the future, not any traditionalist taste, just the need to rediscover, through colors, patterns and prints, a typical Italian creativity that seems to have run out right in between generations of designers.” As for Italian fashion, its role in the world and the future of the industry, Gatta believes that “fashion plays such an important role for the economy in Italy. Our brands represent us in the world and are synonymous with high quality and creativity. We have to keep [our reputation] alive and improve our skills to make our number one business even better.”

Currently planning her Spring/Summer 2012 collection (using not only vintage fabrics but ties) the welcoming and enthusiastic designer is taking her newfound success in stride, but definitely not for granted. As for plans for the future Gatta hopes to collaborate with some world famous photographers, see her clothes on sale in London and Paris, and, of course, at 10 Corso Como in Milan. It’s likely only a matter of time.

If you’d like to get your hands on a Caterina Gatta original you can purchase the designer’s clothing at Spiga2 in Milan, online at The Corner ( and at P.S. Post Script Couture in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Photographs Courtesy of Caterina Gatta

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