Vintage Indie would like to welcome you to our latest addition to our online magazine, Designer Profiles.
We hope to share with you independent designers who specialize in
dealing with vintage materials or an age old tradition of crafting
Today we would like to introduce you to Cynthia Cioffi, creator of and designer for the labels Mano Bello (Italian for Beautiful Hand) and Grafitti Hand wearable art.
I come from a long line of independent, creative and thrifty women. From my great grandmother who was an actress in England and the USA in the 1800’s, to my own mother, who taught me to sew as she refinished antique furniture, hunted down in thrift stores and church bazaars.
My favorite shops even as a child were those very ones. I collected antique clothing and turned then vintage pieces into cutting edge and couture fashion for my own enjoyment.
Back then, you didn’t advertise it too loudly, but, I’ve acquired my mother’s cherishing of old things, especially when it can be turned into wearable art and chic fashion!
My Italian grandmother tatted lace into beautiful bedspreads and tablecloths. Touching old lace or doilies always brings me back there, and I still love their daintiness and feminine aura. This is what led me to my love of hand stitching and embroidery. A lot of my clothes have hand stitching or embroidery and cut out work, including hand stitched labels.
Victorian and Old West styles have always been my favorites, whether it’s furniture or fashion.
I had been raised around horses and loved the smell and feel of leathers well worn and softened with use and care. In high school, my father helped me purchase my first “lot” of leather from Berman Leather Factory in Boston, MA, supporting my desire to begin sewing with leather, which I still especially love. Now, I try to only use recycled leathers, which usually end up being made into small accessories which are so beautiful, like my sculpted roses made into necklaces, and steampunky wrist cuffs! The softest and biggest pieces I love turning into beautiful totally hand stitched purses, like the peachy satchel shoulder bag in my shop, now.
My workshop was an attic bedroom in our old Victorian house with a tower wrapped with bay windows. I started selling to local boutiques in Cambridge and Harvard Square and later on, Portland and Kennebunkport. Later, it was the 35’ long basement below the Kennebunk Inn. Now it is my dining room table, which my grandfather imported from a museum in England in the early 1900’s. My antique Singer sits proudly displayed and working daily, on one end, my Pfaff and Adler collect dust back in my closet!
Throughout the years, my love of fashion, old textiles and creating has only grown stronger. After taking many years off of selling due to an almost deadly exposure to pesticides and the resulting illnesses it incurred, home schooling my only son, and caring for my elderly mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s, I have been fortunate enough to rediscover my craft with renewed support from the entire world for being eco conscious.
I love the female shape and make fashions that compliment it. Simplicity is expounded with detail. Contradictions are fused, like leather and lace, roses and leather, raw edges with structured fit, old textiles and newer finds. My clients must be confident and not followers, as I desire to create uniqueness and tickle courage for the wearer. Shout quietly. Demurely rule. Set an example chicly, through handmade, through recycled textiles, through unique fashion, through purchasing from hands, not corporations.
Visit Cynthia at her shop Cync00 for her gorgeous line of clothing and accessories.