An immigrant named Henry A. Mignini moved his family from Terano Nuovo, Italy to start a new life in America. His family is one of many artisans who make up my ancestry.
I am particularly proud of my Italian heritage; especially the traditions of Sunday night dinners, large(and loud) family holiday gatherings and the potential for sketchy mob-related activity. (I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to ki....well, you know.) ;)
It also inspires me to think that my ancestors were willing to leave the home they knew, to bravely face the adventure that was before them- living in a new country, speaking a new language, pursuing a career in a new place.
My great grandmother traveled by boat from Italy with her three children; all under the age of 6! That, no doubt, is a special form of bravery!
I've learned in the last few years that several of my family members were involved in the fashion and garment industries. My great-grandfather, grandfather, uncles and cousins have been cutters, tailors, & clothing specialists.
(Maybe that explains why I had such a deep desire to pursue this Gemma dream. It's in my blood!)
My mom recently sent me an article written in the Baltimore Sun about my second cousin, Henry A. Mignini, Jr. (the son of the aforementioned Italian immigrant). Written at the time of his death in 1994, it chronicled his life and the imprint he had on the tailoring business in Baltimore.
At the beginning of his career suits could cost $30... and at the end-- up to $1,000. His wife remarked that he was one of a dying breed- he cared deeply about the perfection of his work, and found custom tailoring to be an art.
Henry Mignini Jr. worked hard to achieve his success.
He joined the US Navy in 1944, and served with naval forces on Okinawa. After the war, he returned to Baltimore and began his career as an apprentice cutter to Dominic C. Capezio, who operated Capezio's Custom Tailoring, which boasted a client list that included Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Jacqueline Kennedy. When Mr. Capezio passed away in 1967, Henry purchased, and began running the very store he apprenticed in.
He was also a man of principal. He had clients from all different walks of life, but he cared just as much about the simple uniform he made for a security guard, as he did the $500 suits for a CEO.
Most people who buy clothes today don't necessarily think about how they are made, or the work that goes into it. The current fashion industry also mostly consists of grinding out more of the same things for the masses. I am, of course, one of those who buys the mass produced. But as I've worked on Gemma pieces, I've learned to appreciate the work and care that can go into making a single piece of clothing, and even accessories like scarves or jewelry.
I am inspired by, and so thankful for, the generations that have gone before me. People who worked hard to build a new life in a new, foreign place; to take care of and provide for their families; & to make well-crafted apparel for all kinds of different people. People who believed in leaving a legacy of high standards and strong work-ethic behind them.
I'm also glad I get to play a part in leaving that legacy.
We have so much opportunity to do so many great things for the world around us; even if it's something as simple as serving a cup of coffee, sewing a hole in a pair of jeans, filing someone's taxes for them, or creating art of any kind- it matters! You may never know the impact you can make on the world by just being YOU, but being you is ENOUGH. Years from now, you might even inspire your own grandchildren to pursue their dreams, simply by having lived out yours.
Whatever you do, do it well.