I honestly feel like I spent most of my summer living vicariously through everyone else’s vacations via social media. Erica Courtney’s travels through Italy, Jim and Marcia Rosenheim’s epic-seeming trip to France and then, last week, Emanuela Duca’s inspirational trip to Italy, just to name a few. Rather than seething with jealousy over the trips I didn’t take, I figured I’d dig a little deeper into Emanuela’s trip and see in what way it may influence future collections. And obviously, given that she went to Italy, I wanted to hear about the food! What I discovered was that for Emanuela, this wasn’t just a great vacation, it was an emotional breakthrough that will have long-lasting effects on her life and work….in reading the below interview, please just imagine Emanuela’s gorgeous, Italian accent:
Couture: So tell me about your trip! Where did you go?
Emanuela Duca: I usually go back to Italy every year but this year I wasn’t planning on going. We had a home in upstate New York so I figured I’d just go there for vacation instead. But at the last minute, I decided I had to go! So we went to visit family and friends; friends I’ve had for 30 years!
Couture: Italy was calling, huh?! So which part of Italy is “home.”
ED: I was born in Rome and when I was 8 years old, my parents built a home north of the city, which is where I spent most of my life. About 3 years ago, my dad passed away and left me his home. It’s really beautiful, it’s on a park with beautiful hills and you can see Rome in the distance. When my dad was alive, he had horses, which were given to a neighbor when he died. Well, one of those horses, Nerina, kept trying to run away, she kept breaking fences until eventually the neighbor just gave up and let her run away. Well, she returned back to my dad’s house, and so when I was there I was able to take care of her. It was very hard to leave her and come back to New York. Horses are so beautiful, they have these big, soulful eyes, I felt like we really formed an attachment.
Couture: Well it sounds like you have even more of a reason to go back!
ED: After this trip I definitely feel like I need to go back to Italy. I’ve been in New York City for 16 years and this is the first time that I thought, maybe, just maybe I could make it work to live in both Italy and New York. I could continue to do my shows in the States and find new customers in Europe. We’ll see….this idea has always been in the back of my head but I was never sure how I could do it. On this trip, for the first time, I started to see that maybe it’s not an impossible goal to reach.
Couture: What was different about this trip that made you realize living “cross-continentally” was possible?
ED: I came here [to New York City] to find myself. And it took me many many years, and jewelry has been a tool that has allowed me to become myself. I built my life around jewelry, the people I met that became friends are in jewelry, I was able to find a voice with which I express myself through jewelry, so that took a big chunk of my life. For many years, I wasn’t ready; I felt I wasn’t quite Italian anymore and I wasn’t quite American, it’s such a weird feeling. But I think, for me, I wanted to create something new, within myself. So my experience here has given me some confidence, with that confidence I’m able to go back and take ownership of my Italian background. With this too, I create who I am today. I consider myself an immigrant, and with that, I carry a lot of feelings, not all of them positive. If you consider when I came here–you knew me! I couldn’t even speak English! It was really hard, you feel so isolated. But now I’m excited and I will be really happy to embrace these two worlds and let my creativity go crazy!
Couture: It sounds like this trip was sort of a spiritual awakening! How do you think this will directly influence your collection? Can you tell me more about your process?
ED: Yes it was definitely an emotional breakthrough for me, it was a very important trip. It’s hard to say how this will influence my collection since I have just come back and I’m taking care of filling orders. It’s a little bit of a slow process in the beginning and then it all happens at once. Right now, I’m processing all of these feelings, all of the beautiful things that I saw, and let them come and go through me, and then I will settle into shapes. I look at jewelry as sculpture, it’s all about shapes, three dimensional objects. Right after this holiday preparation and the stores have received the orders, I will settle in and start to work on those shapes. It will be a bit of Pompeii, a little bit of the Amalfi Coast, and a little bit of Nerina also! Horses are so expressive, they look straight at you, almost as if they can see through to your heart!
Couture: So tell me about some of the beautiful things you saw!
ED: We explored Pompeii and Amalfi Coast, went to the city and saw the Colosseum, the Parthenon, and then back to the north to this medieval town, where there is a castle that is also part museum, it was really awesome! We were not planning on going to Pompeii, but I wanted to show my boyfriend something he has mostly likely never seen in his life. It’s this village that was founded thousands of years ago, and it’s amazing how these people were so progressive, they probably already had computers! I wasn’t planning on taking pictures, I just had my iPhone, but I started putting out my jewelry in its natural environment. I feel like my jewelry is connected to the ruins in that it’s not perfect, there are holes in the structures with light coming through, it’s very fluid and, like my jewelry, nothing is precise. When I’m designing, I never know where I will end, the door is always open. The Amalfi Coast was so close to Pompeii so we went there and oh my gosh, the water is insane, the coast dives into the sea, the sky is beautiful, the blue water, the hills, it’s breathtaking!
Couture: It sounds amazing! So I’ve never been to Italy, but everyone I know who visits can’t stop talking about the food! Did you eat a lot of great food while you were there?
ED: It is really amazing food. It’s just different, it’s very simple in a way, the ingredients….they bring something very rich, and it makes the food special. And there is the thing about gathering with friends and family around food, it’s a way to connect. The thing I liked the most was the pizza, it’s just different. All of these years in New York City I never found the same quality pizza. I never had so much pizza in my life as I did on this trip, I had pizza every day, and when I came back, I had pizza withdrawal….I probably gained a couple of pounds, but I’m not going to get on the scale!
Couture: Don’t do it! Just revel in the amazing experiences you had! We can’t wait to see your next collection and how you’re going to express this last trip in jewelry!