Translation from Portuguese to English by Michelle Lesck
Ultraoriginal without having to appeal, she is the most consistent fashionista in recent times thanks to her classic style with a contemporary twist and her exotic beauty free of artifice. Meet Giovanna Battaglia, darling of the fashion world and now also muse to Brazilian jewelers.
The first time I saw Giovanna Battaglia personally was in September 2008 in Milan, at the door of the MaxMara fashion show. She was wearing a straight-cut gray dress with a pattern of feathers, a knit turtleneck underneath, thin belts, leather boots to the knees — the exact height to reach the bottom of the dress — and a Kelly minibag that fit in the palm of her hand. I knew that dress belonged to the 2009 winter collection of Dolce & Gabbana and was going to hit the stores some weeks away, but the rest was a first in life: "the dress covered" — almost an insult to our culture that values the sexy above everything else — the little makeup, hair divided in half and put up into a low knot, and a bag that everyone has — but the coin purse version — in short, the whole thing was too good to be true. The best part of checking Giovanna’s "evolution" closely, however, came later. At the exit, a few meters away, I caught her standing on the sidewalk lighting up her cigarette with the help of a boy who was distributing some papers. Fantastic! The myth-woman was as real as you and me.
After this encounter, understanding what makes a relatively normal person — and one that uses neither exotic pieces nor overstyling — stand out in the fashion crowd turned into a fixation. At the age of 31, Giovanna is not exactly a celebrity that everyone recognizes on the street. But if you follow the fashion world closely, you know very well that she is a member of its royalty. She is definitely not typical “paparazzi material,” but when she is out in the streets for Fashion Week, a very particular group of photographers win the jackpot if they can capture what Giovanna chose to wear. Those who follow her on Twitter know that Battaglia works hard, nights and weekends, giving life to spectacular fashion editorials for Vogue Pelle and Vogue Gioiello, two of Condé Nast’s Italian titles, under the direction of Franca Sozzani, the editor-in-chief. Of course, romancing the French Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld — heir of another clan of the sidereal fashion universe — and having unrestricted access to the most amazing clothes and accessories in the world makes it much easier to compose her myth. It also helps with friends like Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana — she is much closer to both since the time she was an official model to the brand.
There are others lesser factors that contribute to her way of dressing that has inspired a number of women, making her continue to rise and be the target of photographer's flashes for more than just a season — the equivalent in the fashion world to the "15 minutes of fame" of Warhol. One is its accessibility. Unlike other famous fashionistas orbiting the Vogue planet — including the super “wasp” Laura Santo Domingo, the squalid Brit Plum Sykes, and the superlative Anna Dello Russo — Giovanna is kind of a tangible woman, connected with the same reality (almost) of everyone. Look at the facts: she was not born noble, she is no Italian tycoon's daughter (her family is composed of artists from various fields) and she still has to prove that she is a competent professional. Add to that natural aesthetic attributes far from the ideal of perfection that has become status quo: her face is too small, the smile is not formed by a sequence of snow-white jackets, her hair is rebellious, the kind that causes psychological injury at the school age. Instead of having surgery to reshape her face, spend hours polishing her teeth (obviously being forced to quit smoking), and tame her curls with formol and ammonia, she takes her repertoire of imperfections and turns them into assets, thereby avoiding the industrialized beauty that some women spend a lifetime chasing.
Giovanna doesn’t camouflage the defects, instead she knows how to appreciate their qualities — this pair of long and very thin legs is already a legend on the doors of the fashion shows around the world. But do not think she is abusing her genetics, revealing more than she should: when her legs are exposed it is always in an elegant way, to enhance the clothing and not to attract attention. Eventually, when she chooses short skirts from one of her favorite brands (Yves Saint Laurent, Alaïa, Lanvin, Marni, Miu Miu, Balenciaga and Dolce & Gabbana), leaves only a little of the thigh showing. Neckline, she never uses it and hardly ever embarks on flashy trends, of those made more to illustrate fashion editorials than to do pretty fantastic on sidewalks, parties, cocktails. I do not remember, for example, having seen her even once using an outrageous pair of samba school platforms. Her preferred models are the classic, thin heel without any kind of platform, only proof that those who dictate fashion do not sell themselves body and soul to it. Colorful and well edited looks with many accessories are her trademark, and despite moving away from the current minimalism, due to her intellectually sound Italian background, she knows very well how to maintain a sober and elegant ensemble without boring.
With an eye on all these ethereal qualities, the jeweler Carla Amorim used Battaglia as inspiration for the collection that celebrates the 18th anniversary of her brand, with her presence at the premiere, on Jan. 23. "We chose Giovanna precisely because her body type is very similar to that of Brazil and she represents very well the spirit of the woman we would like to wear our jewelry," says Kelly Amorim, right hand of her sister Carla. When they invited Giovanna, the two had a great surprise: she not only knows their work, she is a fan of Carla’s jewelry and has several pieces in her collection. Named Brasiliana, the collection has a festive air and contains about 30 super well worked pieces, nothing timid and in the completely mature Italian style of Giovanna. "It is the meeting of our Brazilian DNA with her Italian sophistication, hence the name, " she concludes. For Giovanna, who by the invitation of Vogue decided to direct her self-portraits in these pages, Carla’s jewelry reinterprets classic contemporary lines and is therefore very easy to use. "They're good to go with more casual clothes and go out during the day. Late at night, do exactly the opposite: choose a powerful piece and reassemble the look out of it " she explains.
Vogue Brasil text and photograph © 2011 Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved.