Emily Taranto-Kent: Contemporary fashion designer and couturier
By Helen Farrell
You know you’re about to meet somebody with creativity coursing through their veins when you encounter a dressmaker’s dummy perched on a pole and sporting a unique logo in a Florentine window space. Boston-born Emily Taranto-Kent has called Florence her home for the last two years, and her presence—both online and off—gives a strong indication of her desire and determination to succeed professionally and personally.
Taranto-Kent’s creative streak became apparent when she was very, very young. Her mother, a trained artist and graphic designer, studied in Florence and Rome. Brought up in this expressive atmosphere, little Emily started to make shirts by hand at the tender age of 10. Taranto-Kent laughs when she remembers one of her earliest designs, ‘One was made out of metallic material with metallic shapes sewn onto it. I still have it somewhere.’
Nowadays, Taranto-Kent has a multifaceted business, all related to art and fashion. She started out designing professionally on the side back in 2005, when she was still living in Boston, and now describes her work as ‘very full-time’: ‘I work very long days; I probably have a 10-hour day, and I do all kinds of different things in that time.’ She teaches sewing and art, offers custom-made pieces for individual clients in Florence and from farther afield, and indulges her love of fine art and printmaking at the graphic art studio Il Bisonte, in via di San Niccolò. Also, rather importantly, she has to find time to walk her two dogs, Bella and Patience, both of whom were in fine fettle when I chatted to iñi in her home/atelier on via de’ Rustici, near piazza Santa Croce. ‘My day is divided between production and teaching, and walking the dogs,’ she quips.
With southern Italian heritage in her blood, Taranto-Kent’s very own fashion label is an individual and contemporary take on her family seal, a boy riding a dolphin. Taranto-Kent has modified and trademarked it to reflect herself and her lines: ‘it’s a girl riding a dolphin, which symbolizes freedom and is personal to me.’ Her ancestry from the Aeolian Islands clearly plays an active role in her creativity; last year she spent the whole summer on Filicudi Island, one of the tiny isole comprising the Aeolian archipelago off the Sicilian coast. While she chose Florence for the simple reason that she’s an artist, she clearly draws much of her inspiration from the south.
Not shy of new technology, Taranto-Kent also dedicates time to developing her own website and its online shop. Since May she has running a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed to take her creative studio ‘to the next level.’ Recently she was contacted through her website by a student enrolled on the master’s program at Polimoda to offer external fashion design consultancy.
Being a master’s student in Florence is something Taranto-Kent understands, having been there and done it herself: she studied fashion design at Accademia Italiana, in piazza Pitti. She clearly has fond memories of the experience, recalling, ‘There were only three students on the program. Usually people do 3 or 5 outfits for the show, but I did 17.’ To gain experience in the working worlds of art and fashion, Taranto-Kent also did several internships, including one with the wholesale president of Versace in New York City, in a beautiful showroom in the centre of Manhattan, where she was a ‘jack-of-all trades’; one at Kiki de Montparnasse, designers of risqué, high-end lingerie (‘Very interesting, also in Manhattan’); and one in Los Angeles, at a firm designing pet collars with tracking chips, a combo of fashion and technology.
At the end of our chat, I asked Taranto-Kent for a few words of advice to aspiring artists and fashion designers. Her response: ‘Keep trying and stay true to your own vision. Pluck along. Be the energizer bunny. Be creative and brave.’
Best bar for an aperitivo? “Rivalta or Sesto Senso at The Westin (Rooftop terrace! Enjoy the view!). Ooh, then there’s Hotel Cavour …Mmm, so many…”
Best bistecca fiorentina in Florence? “Definitely Trattoria Quattro Leoni in piazza della Passera.”
One place in Florence that makes you happy or inspires you? “Piazza Santa Trinita! Love that place. Always.”
The biggest difference between Italians and Americans? “Oh, mamma mia! The drama!”
Advice for newly arrived students? “Curiosity! Be curious. Investigate.”
Best day trip in Tuscany? “Just go! It’s all good.”
Favourite artwork in Florence? “Ha, ha! The David, because he’s hot.”
Favourite Florentine, past or present? “The answer that comes to my mind is a series of people who live in Florence, like shop owners, neighbors, and others who make my day. I’ve really grown to appreciate them.”