Textile designer Chiarastella Cattana doesn’t bemoan the many years she spent in the trenches of Milan’s ready-to-wear fashion world, given that they took her to the place she is today – a place that’s only about 173 miles from the city of her birth, but light-years away conceptually. That place is Venice’s ancient – and ultra-chic – Salizada San Samuele, just a stone’s throw from François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi and a quick stroll to the always-buzzing terrace of the Gritti Palace. Here, in a jewel-box 17th-century space, Cattana (first picture) has created an atelier-style beacon of exquisite taste frequented by the likes of Design Miami chairman and director Rodman Primack, Parisian über-jeweller Joel Arthur Rosenthal, and Robin Birley, who deployed her designs in the decoration of his members’ club 5 Hertford Street.
Milan’s hyper pace and industry convinced Cattana that textiles were her thing, but she craved a slower way of working with them – their traditions, their designs and above all their methods of production. The result is limited-edition and one-off pieces of exceptional craftsmanship and ethereal beauty, taking inspiration equally from forms found in nature – not just botanicals, but also exotic animals – and the magnificent architectural monuments of Italy’s past. Her signature bedcovers, for example, are almost heraldic in their motifs; the saffron jacquard Perugia (€390) has long been a favourite among her followers.
For years, the lion’s share of Cattana’s output was sold abroad, much of it made to order. These days, however, her shop’s chicly spare shelves are stuffed with “ready-to-wear” cushions, table linens, coverlets and accessories, all executed by a select group of Italian artisans according to time-out-of-mind traditions.
Cattana herself is most excited about her new line of wool and wool/cashmere blankets (examples in second picture, from €320) – weaves she has heretofore eschewed in favour of cottons and linens. “These are a real pattern story for me – more about geometry than my other designs,” she says. “I was inspired by traditional Nepalese checked blankets.” This season, her much-sought-after hand-dyed cotton/linen throw pillows (from €75) also showcase geometric repeats in improbably saturated shades of mango, crimson, turquoise and graphite. And among her bedclothes is a new range (from €380) in beautiful vintage linen, meticulously finished with bundles of white and slate-grey stitches.
Cattana hasn’t left behind fabrics by the metre (a covetable selection of jacquards and cottons, from €115, hangs behind the till), or wearable ones: her cotton-linen-blend kimono (€260), slightly structured but pliant and form-fitting, comes in a half‑dozen delicate colourways. Nor is she averse to letting other talented Venetian makers shine on her premises; the exquisite Murano glassware currently dotted around her boutique is produced by her friend Marie-Rose Kahane, under the name Yali. The delicate opaque Lattimo cups (€73), ornately ribboned A filo pitchers (€342) in vivid turquoise, lemon-zest yellow and fuchsia, and the new Monastir vase collection (from €1,460) are the perfect visual counterpoint to Cattana’s rich artisanal textiles.