MILAN — In an industry dominated by a fast-paced rhythm, an overall search for fame and individual success, it’s hard to find a brand rooted in a diametrically opposite set of values.
Family, durability, modesty and solidarity are the pillars that Cynthia Vilchez, 28, and her husband Giovanni Castiglioni, the 30-year-old son of Marni founders Consuelo and Gianni Castiglioni, wanted to establish as the foundation of their Aliita jewelry line, which was established in 2015.
Aliita — a word that means “important object” in Wayuu, the native language of the indigenous Guajiros people who live in the same area of Venezuela from which Vilchez hails — offers custom jewelry collections infused with a minimal, elegant style peppered with lively, joyful touches.
A graduate in fashion marketing from Milan’s Istituto Europeo di Design, Vilchez began her personal relationship with Castiglioni in Boston in 2006 and subsequently cut her teeth at Vionnet before deciding to launch her own venture.
“At a certain point we decided to become three [the young couple has two children now] and I wanted to be able to manage my schedule differently and have more time to dedicate to the family,” explained Vilchez during an interview at the couple’s elegant Milanese apartment, which also houses the brand’s showroom. “I have always been extremely passionate about jewelry and being in Aruba for Christmas [a part of her family lives there] I asked a local gold artisan to craft a pendant in the shape of a sketched house.”
Thus was born Aliita’s signature “Casita Pura” 9-karat gold charm, which continues to be the label’s bestseller. Even if the first prototype was manufactured in Aruba, the brand’s collections are now entirely produced in Italy, between Milan and Tuscany.
“The Casita definitely reflected my desire of settling down and having a family,” said Vilchez, who, following the Castiglionis’ complete sale of Marni to Renzo Rosso in 2016, was joined in the Aliita adventure by her husband.
For nine years, Castiglioni worked at Marni, where he took care of the off-price business and then of operations. His experience at the family’s fashion house definitely helped Aliita to quickly develop a commercial business, especially in Japan, which is the brand’s most successful market. Boosted by local fashion influencer Rinka, who discovered the brand online, Aliita sells to several Japanese luxury department stores, including Hankyu, Estnation, Maison de Reefur and Martinique.
The brand launched with a focus on charms which, in addition to the house, reproduce a series of common objects, especially linked to the worlds of the seaside and summer vacations, including the fish, the palm, the ice pop and the boat, among others. Aliita is now expanding its collections to offer a wider range of pieces.
“Along with our ironic, playful pieces, we decided to introduce more elegant collections to be worn in all the different occasions by different types of women,” Vilchez explained. “We started experimenting with different stone cuts and enamel techniques. Currently we are very focused on the research of gems.”
For the spring 2018 season, for example, Aliita — which follows the schedule of fashion deliveries by presenting four collections a year — combined graphic lines with tones of musky and white agate and of jade in the sophisticated earrings and pendants of the Rocas range.
In addition, the brand played with enamel for the geometric pieces of the Chromatic Indicator multicolor collection, while tiny diamonds, tourmalines and sapphires punctuate the rings, earrings and pendants of the Aro range, which plays on the combination of a square and a round shape.
In keeping with Vilchez and Castiglioni’s social consciousness, which has always been a defining element of the Marni brand under the guidance of its founders, Aliita every year develops a charity project.
This month the company is launching a holiday capsule made up of fabric bracelets embellished with a gold charm in the shape of an envelope. Each piece, which will be available at the company’s online store, will come with a little card decorated with a tiny hand-wrapped paper symbol representing the dream job of those Venezuelan children in need who will benefit from 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the bracelets.
“We chose the symbol of the envelope because we want to be the guardians of the dreams of those children,” said Vilchez, who this year picked the Comparte Por Una Vida non-profit association, which thanks to Aliita, will provide Venezuelan children with food and medicine.
Businesswise, Aliita, with a price range between 120 euros and 1,300 euros, is currently present in 35 high-end stores worldwide, including Colette in Paris, Andreas Murkudis and Theresa in Berlin, Banner in Milan and Plum in Lebanon, among others.
“The short-term goal is to enlarge our wholesale network to about 50 stores and to debut in the United States next year,” said Castiglioni, who also revealed that in 2018 Aliita will open two corners inside Japanese department stores, followed by three additional units the following year.
“However, what remains extremely important for us is to maintain a tight, very human relationship with our clients and customers,” said Vilchez who, for example, includes in each order made on Aliita’s online store a handwritten thank you note.