Brillante Come Il SO-LE
Building Beauty: Maria Sole Ferragamo's Fusion of Fashion & Architecture in Jewelry Design.
Picture this: cobblestone streets adorned with elegant storefronts and dazzling lights, captivating you with their charm and beauty. The air is filled with the sweet aroma of freshly brewed espresso and the sound of lively chatter. This is Milan, a city that exudes sophistication and class, where every corner is a feast for the senses.
For me, this past week has been a whirlwind of inspiration as I immersed myself in the rich Italian culture. The stunning architecture, world-renowned fashion, and vibrant energy of Milan have captured my heart, and I couldn't resist exploring this unfamiliar territory. As I wander the streets, I can't help but feel a small sense of guilt as if I'm cheating on my beloved Florence. But my heart is big enough to love both cities, and I'm excited to discover what Milan has in store for me.
With my two closest girlfriends by my side, we embarked on a journey through the streets of Milan, hoping to uncover hidden gems along the way. And that's precisely how we stumbled upon the remarkable SO-LE Studio. Nestled in the heart of the Quadrilatero della Moda, on the grounds of the Portrait Hotel, lies Maria Sole Ferragamo's jewelry studio, a true gem in the world of luxury accessories. We entered the boutique together in AWE. We asked ourselves, “Are we in a museum or a shop?”
Our eyes feasted on each piece of jewelry that gave a sense of beauty, warmth, brilliance and happiness. The intricate details of each piece made a subtle yet lasting impression. Especially given that the design of the shop was minimal and architecturally customized to breathe and bring attention to the pure vision of Maria Sole’s. Tempted to pick up the jewelry and to try everything on, I carefully reached out for what I uncovered was the Not A Knot Crystal Grey earrings and was pleasantly surprised.
What looked like a heavy piece of resistance, was in fact an unbearably light and soft ornament made of upcycled high quality leather. I was astonished and curious to learn more…
As I played dress up, I looked around, taking in my surroundings. The minimalistic yet impressive design of the boutique was astonishing, giving attention to the particularly rounded structures, lighting and counters. The structural shapes of the blank canvas walls were rounded with no sharp edges in sight, demonstrating smoothness and continuity. The walls were made of super soft and cushiony fabric, which isn’t something instantly noticeable unless you touch it. What seemed like a floor made of stone was in fact made of super light and rubber fabric. The deeper I delved, the greater my amazement grew. Every aspect and nuance of my surroundings seemed intricately designed to convey a captivating narrative about Maria’s brand and vision, steeped in romance. Little did I know that Maria was set to speak at IED Milano in just a couple of days, sharing her professional journey. Visiting her boutique happened to be the perfect prelude to this event and I couldn't wait to meet Maria.
I walked into the well-anticipated presentation at IED Milano a few minutes before it began. As I made my way to my seat that my friend saved me at the front of the classroom, I made eye contact with Maria Sole. To my surprise her excitement grew as she noticed my Luce Gold ear cuff as she pointed to her ear and announced, “I like it!”. I think I turned red like a tomato while my heart beat quicker with excitement.
Maria began the presentation with a video introducing her brand and the process of crafting her jewelry. Through this and her talk, I learned that her love for beauty and harmony has been a constant thread in her life, one that she recognizes was instilled in her from a very young age. Growing up in the picturesque city of Florence, Maria's mother gifted her a shoe box and some wire with beads, and thus began her journey of creating her own jewelry. This simple yet creative project brought her immense joy and satisfaction, and it served as a foundation for her appreciation of aesthetics and design.
Maria's fascination with design and creativity led her to study architecture at Politecnico in Milan. However, despite her love for the field, Maria found herself feeling disconnected from the process of bringing a project to life. The scale of the buildings was too big, and the process took too much time. It was then that she turned to fashion design. With a growing desire to explore the world outside of familiar Italy, Maria decided to pursue a degree in fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London. During her two years there, she worked on her thesis project crafting jewelry which set the foundation for what is now known as SO-LE Studio. This enabled her to marry her background in architecture with design to develop a product that she could touch and hold and bring to life on a smaller scale.
“Dreams need passion, desires & fear!”
- Maria Sole Ferragamo
After graduating, she was determined to explore and refine her craft of jewelry making. It was not an easy journey, but she persevered and spent several months honing her skills and perfecting her techniques. She was not content with simply creating beautiful jewelry pieces, she wanted to fully understand the process and the industry.
To gain more knowledge and practical experience, she interned at a factory that specialized in leather and jewelry making. This was a crucial step in her career growth and development, as she was able to observe the production process firsthand and learn from seasoned professionals. It was during this time that she discovered the limitations of using laser cutting on leather, as it often resulted in burnt edges. Instead, she learned to use a macchina da taglio - a cutting machine - to achieve precise and clean cuts without compromising the integrity of the material.
In addition to mastering the technical aspects of jewelry making, being exposed to the production process helped her to communicate more effectively her needs as a designer and to seamlessly collaborate with her counterparts in production.
SO-LE Studio is the realization of Maria's passion for creating jewelry that not only looks beautiful but also embodies positive energy and dynamism. Her captivating designs give the optical illusion of movement and she believes that jewelry should be an expression of individuality. Maria's creative process is a combination of intuition and observation, resulting in limited edition artisanal pieces that are full of novelty. Her philosophy that feeling good and radiating positive energy is the key to true beauty shines through in her creations. When I asked Maria how she would like for her brand to be remembered she answered,
“I want my brand to be remembered for its' beauty,
innovation and element of surprise.”
- Maria Sole Ferragamo
For students studying fashion branding, interior design, and marketing, I highly recommend referring to SO-LE Studio as a prime example of a cohesive brand that seamlessly integrates both online and offline channels. From their boutique and website to their Instagram presence and presentations (like the one I attended at IED), SO-LE Studio's overall brand message is consistently clear, coherent, concise and instantly recognizable.
For more information, check out this video narrated by Maria Sole Ferragamo as she demonstrates the intricate process of crafting SO-LE Studio jewelry.