Originally from Italy, she is the creative designer and business-minded woman behind YALI, the ethically made brand of silken robes and loungewear
A Vintage Cosmopolitan Twist
“YALI is definitely inspired by my years spent in China, that’s how I started, one-blazer-shape taken from an antique Chinese ceremonial jacket”Pia Zanardi
Pia Zanardi was born in a textile and couture-lovers family and grew up running around unique pieces from French and Italian designers. She left Italy to finish high school in New Zealand and, over the past decade, has lived and spent many years traveling between Shanghai, Beijing, and rural parts of China to learn the local traditions.
Before graduating in London, where she went to study International Business and Chinese culture, she spent a year in Beijing; that’s where Pia started making researching for traditional textiles, crafts, and where the idea for her label, Yali, was born. On this trip with her father, an art historian, she fell in love and got so inspired that she began to make jackets for herself and her friends. It was just like that: her passion for antiques quickly turn into a business. Zanardi designed a line of silken robes and loungewear made of rare materials: she sources her fabric from the Chinese cities where they’ve been historically made, using natural and local textiles such as silk from Suzhou and linen from Nankeen.
She created truly enviable blazers and jackets, mixing Italian Renaissance paintings with traditional crafts. They are inspired by the jackets worn during the Tang Dynasty – circa the 6th century, which was worn by emperors and farmers alike – known for their fit, beauty, and durability. Pia’s travels are the most significant source of inspiration, so each trip becomes continuous research: going to visit vintage stores, museums, and textile markets. She gets inspired by cultures, colors, objects, paintings.
The result is a line that combines history and tradition mixed with modern innovation and her taste, which adds timeless elegance with a cosmopolitan twist. Their designs aim to revive the antique feeling and aways tell the story of the person who wears them.
“I want to design clothes that make you feel good and special, clothes that you can have fun with and play with them, versatile for every occasion”Pia
Tell us a little bit about your career and journey.
I grown up in Italy left to finish high school in New Zealand, then moved to Shanghai for a year to study Chinese, before starting university in London where I studied Chinese and international business and spent a year in Beijing before graduating, that it is where I started making the talks and researching for Chinese traditional textiles and crafts.
How did you start your fashion line? And What inspires you?
YALI is definitely inspired by my years spent in China, that it is how I started, one-blazer-shape was taken from an antique Chinese ceremonial jacket which I have found in a store in Beijing, which I just made more wearable for nowadays, added my color taste which comes from what I have seen growing up, the scenarios of the Italian countryside, going to the opera with my grandparents, paintings from the renaissance and medieval frescos.
Describe your style and Yali’s in three words. How do they differ and how are they similar?
Mine I would say essential, colorful, feelgood. Yali’s; timeless, easy, classic. I want to design clothes that are great from morning to night, that make you feel good and special, clothes that you can have fun with and play with them, versatile for every occasion.
What are some of your ‘can’t live without’ staple fashion pieces? Hoka Sneakers, a cashmere turtleneck, Stella McCartney black jeans, Dries Van Noten jumpsuit, vintage Gucci bag.
When In Italy, what would you recommend us to do and where to go?
Go to Pantelleria and rent a villa to stay – and take a boat around the island, go for a hike in the salted lake and take the mud baths there. To eat: Osteria degli Artisti, Alta marea, Coste Ghirlanda – and to relax go to the Spa Sikelia.
What are the most important things you pack when going on a trip?
I cannot travel without a Doterra essential oils roll, Weleda skin food head-to-toe cream, Officina Santa Maria novella rose water and Argan oil. Also, I always take with me a cashmere turtle neck (even in summer), a Yali’s velvet blazer or robe and the weekend linen blazer.
Photos: Alive Velter