Sylvia Mantella’s parents don’t know what to think about her Gucci collection. Now, that’s not to say they aren’t supportive — far from it — but the vice-president of marketing, sponsorship and philanthropy at Mantella Corporation admits that they’re often at a loss for words when they’re confronted by it. “I’m not shy with my fashion, so sometimes my dad just shakes his head at what I’m wearing,” she laughs, referring to her signature 15-centimetre platforms, patterned suits and flower brooches — all made, of course, by Gucci. And considering her humble beginnings, it’s easy to see why.
Although Mantella was born and raised in Toronto, her mother and father emigrated separately from the Czech Republic in 1968. “They had to restart their lives, so we didn’t have a lot of money for clothes when I was growing up,” she reveals. As a result, Mantella would recreate low-cost versions of looks she saw in magazines in an attempt to emulate the style of “any supermodel from the ’90s.”
But despite her early infatuation with fashion, she didn’t become a gigantic Gucci fan until 2015, when Alessandro Michele took over as creative director. “No one was doing anything else like it,” Mantella shares about the now famous Fall 2015 show, which is often credited with revamping the brand and taking the gender-bending fashion movement into the mainstream. “It was so polar opposite of what former creative directors Tom Ford and Frida Giannini did that, at the time, I just needed to process it.” Once the processing was done, the purchasing began.
Mantella’s closets, of which there are multiple, feel like Studio 54 on steroids. Between the colours, sequins, glitter, sparkle and shine, they’re a visual feast of epic proportions — and just one disco ball away from Saturday Night Fever. But once you get past the sheer volume of it all, you’ll see that the environment is filled with euphoria — and that’s exactly how Mantella likes it. “I get so much joy from seeing all of my items together,” she explains, referring to herself as part collector and part curator of her own mini Gucci museum. “I remember each show, era and season, and every purchase is like a time stamp of where I was in my life.”
Her first-ever piece by Michele was a “Dionysus” shoulder bag from his debut collection. Complete with sparkly lightning bolts, sequined lips and other embellished patches, the purse quickly became Mantella’s go-to accessory, and she claims she used it “every day for a year.” Nowadays, the items she wears most often are her ’70s-inspired Gucci suits. Why? “They make me feel powerful,” she explains. “I sit on a lot of boards with a lot of men, so, for me, wearing a good suit takes my confidence level to a 10.” Extra-high heels have a similar effect. “When I’m wearing a platform, I’m over six feet — taller than most people in the room. It gives me a position of authority, and I like that.”
Mantella also credits Michele and Gucci with the evolution of her style, describing her early years as “super feminine” and her current looks as “colourful, masculine and whimsical.” But the products she purchases aren’t always based on her personal preferences. She also buys certain clothes and accessories based on what she thinks are important to the brand’s history and Michele’s legacy.
So what’s the plan for Mantella’s designer mass? She’s not 100 per cent sure. “I’ll definitely pass a few things down to my kids, and maybe someday they’ll all be donated to a museum or something,” she muses. In the meantime, she will use them as much as she can. “As a collector, you can be scared to wear pieces because you’re afraid you’re going to damage them,” she admits. “But a few years ago, I thought, ‘What am I waiting for?’ So I stopped holding back and started pulling them out.” After all, a little head-shaking never hurt anybody. Right, Dad?
This article first appeared in FASHION’s Winter issue. Find out more here.
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