By Connie Bye
Look for the lace. It’s the trademark of Maria “Chany” Venturini, from the couture clothing she designs right down to the logo for her fashion label, Venturini. “I like the old-fashioned look: 1930s or 1920s,” said Venturini, 58.
“I like the glam of that era. I want women to feel feminine, to show their figures. ”Once a stay-at-home mom, Venturini is of late causing a stir in the fashion world. After graduating last year from the Art Institute of Seattle (AI), she was voted fan favorite at Bellevue Fashion Week’s Independent Designer Runway Show.
Her designs also were featured in other events including Vancouver Fashion Week and the Couture & Cars Fashion Show in Tacoma. Some of her 2018 autumn/winter collection appeared in British Vogue.
Next up, in October Venturini’s styles will be seen at the FashionNXT Week: International Designers Show in Portland, which Time has listed as No. 1 after New York Fashion Week. Venturini, whose Bainbridge Island apartment is dominated by laces, fabrics, threads, trims, shears, sewing machines and racks of her creations, has talked with boutiques in Bainbridge and Seattle about carrying some of her garments.
And since December, she has had inquiries from Paris, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere. “For that, I need more money, ”she said. “It will come. ”Born in Peru, Venturini grew up watching her mother and grandmothers sew. “When I opened my eyes, I saw a sewing machine,” she said with a laugh.
“We didn’t have much money, so my mom sewed for us. My cousins gave us their dresses, and she’d undo them and remake them for us.” When Venturini was 12, the family immigrated to Miami where her father pursued a tennis career.
She married in 1990 and in 1998 moved to Bainbridge Island, where her life revolved around rearing daughters Catie and Sarah Muir. “They were involved with softball and soccer in high school and went to the UW,” she said.
But after a divorce in 2015 and with her daughters grown, she was searching for a new direction. Catie nudged her to look into design. Venturini called AI, learned about its fashion design program and started in October 2015.
She graduated in June 2017 with an associate degree—and a new life began. The early-20th century look that Venturini embraces is what sets her work apart, said David M. Bailey, founder and owner of Fashion District NW, which produced the Couture & Cars Fashion Show in July.
“Chany has a classic and elegant style, very much a throwback to vintage Hollywood, [which] provides something different to the show,” Bailey said in an email interview. “Chany is a very talented designer and has proven her skills to our team; we were excited to get her on board for the show.”
Venturini calls her approach eco-conscious couture, noting that 80 percent of her materials are reclaimed. She gets a kick out of discovering beautiful but forgotten fabrics at the Rotary Auction, Goodwill, yard sales and elsewhere. Some customers buy their own fabrics.
She acknowledges that Bainbridge Island’s laid-back lifestyle might seem an odd fashion incubator. But a wedding, prom or other event can cause people to think about themselves in new ways, she said.
One of those people is state Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud. She met Venturini in connection with the Vietnamese American Bar Association’s gala, a fundraiser focused on fashion. “They typically used young, fashionable models,” said McCloud, a Bainbridge resident. “But this time they asked me and a colleague to model some clothes.
”McCloud was assigned to Venturini, who designed a short dress for her to wear at the show. “There I was, a woman in sensible shoes on the catwalk,” she said. “I loved it, and the audience loved it. ”And when McCloud needed a gown for a governor’s ball, she turned to Venturini.
She said she wanted her dress to be fun but professional. Venturini’s solution: a black velvet gown. “I loved it,” McCloud said. Besides couture and special occasion dresses, Venturini does tailoring and alterations.
She even can add a distinctive touch to already-made garments, for example, by sewing pearls to a wedding dress. “My dream is to make something especially for you,” she said, “one of a kind, not a number.”