13 Questions with Marta Santambrogio

As part of our "13 Questions" series, LuxuryFacts talks to Marta Santambrogio, a creative behind-the-scenes force in high-end textile design and a leader in heralding the industry into the future. There is a bonus question too!

By: Dimitria Vitanova

Posted on: January 24, 2017

From Italy to Belgium to England to India, Marta Santambrogio, creative director of India-based scarf brand Shingora, leads a life steeped in design, textile and fashion. Not the hyped, ostensive type of fashion, though. Ms Santambrogio has fostered an extensive career away from the blinding spotlight, where creativity and chaos and true talent reside.  

Marta Santambrogio Shingora Designer

Born and bred in the mecca of ageless vogue, Milan, Ms Santambrogio nurtured her crafty nature at the Politecnico di Milano, where she pursued fashion design. Her craft took her to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium for a year as an exchange student and later, in 2008, to Etro. At the famed Italian brand, Ms Santambrogio served as a senior textile designer, conceiving and developing some 300 fabrics a season, and remained there for six years. 

Next, she moved to London, launched her own textile design consultancy Issimum Design Studio and obtained a master’s degree from the coveted Central Saint Martins in material futures, a novel program that examines the juncture of science, innovation, technology and craftsmanship. It might sound like an already busy schedule, but Ms Santambrogio made time to lead intensive workshops on “how to design a textile collection [for] luxury brands” at her alma mater in Milan. 

It was in Paris in January 2014, when the Indian thread of Ms Santambrogio’s story weaved in. She met with Amit Jain, CEO of family-owned Shingora, a legacy scarf label seeking to transition into the luxury segment. “I took my first ever trip to India [in] March the same year,” she says, “and we've been rolling since! I have been loving every minute of it and learnt so much already. It is a wonderful company and a great opportunity for a designer! Also, on a personal ethos I feel close to the family-run business and the passion that runs in them. I tend to favor those when picking collaborations and like to build long-term relationships, so that together we raise the bar with the ambition of our goals.”

Marta Santambrogio Shingora Designer

Since then, Ms Santambrogio, creative director of Shingora for three years now, has become the chief curator of The Crossing, the progressive publication of Central Saint Martins’ Design Lab, and traveled to India at least a dozen times to supervise Shingora’s design and production process, attend India Fashion Weeks and research the country’s vibrant culture.

As part of our “13 Questions” series, LuxuryFacts talks to Ms Santambrogio, a creative behind-the-scenes force in high-end textile design and a leader in heralding the industry into the future.

LuxuryFacts: What did you want to become as a child?
Marta Santambrogio: I always wanted to be a deejay!

Marta Santambrogio Shingora DesignerLF: What kind of a kid were you?
MS: Curious, curious, curious. And very responsive to visual arts and music.

LF: What was the life experience that impacted you the most? How and why? 
MS: I am to become a mother this year so I am going to save this space! But if I look back, for me it was around 21 years of age, when I realized that one could have a career in fashion different from the spotlight frenzy and glamour of the first row. I realized that a whole world existed of behind-the-scenes crafts and creativity, and knew that, that was where I belong.

LF: What advice would you give to your 18-year old self?
MS: Keep going, you'll be surprised what life brings you.

LF: What was the last thing that made you genuinely laugh?
MS: My partner was straining some spaghetti and the vapor blurred his glasses completely!

LF: What is the most exciting part of your work day? 
MS: I love my work. Because it requires to solve creative challenges. I love that it is only as much about my personal inspiration and taste. Majority is teamwork, where efforts and expertise are joined to create the best thing for the company and brand all the time. Yes - my favorite part is seeing where teamwork takes you and I am so lucky to collaborate with top professionals across all the areas in this field.

Marta Santambrogio Shingora Designer

LF: The most tedious?
MS: None really. Surely the worst is the frustration when we try to create a new product, we push the boundaries to innovate and at times, tend to go wrong as well. That’s the part of the process of innovation, however, the end customers don't get to see how much effort and failure goes into each new product that is released!

LF: How do you decompress? 
MS: I am in my element when I am in my studio, in silence, flicking through one of my many books. Inspiration starts flowing and I love that dopamine feeling and of course I sit at my piano and just improvise for a while.

LF: What is the meaning of life? 
MS: Does anyone know really? I suppose I agree with what I read once -The meaning of life is to find your potential, the purpose of life is to give it all to others.

LF: What’s love? 
MS: Love is the energy that makes you alive!

LF: What are you most afraid of?
MS: To face bad health conditions for me or my family.

LF: What is one existential, difficult-to-answer question you wished you knew the right response to? 
MS: Will I ever be able to smoothen up my sharp corners and correct my defects?

Marta Santambrogio Shingora Designer

LF: Why scarves? 
MS: Scarves because I was originally trained as an Industrial Designer and I have a passion for art. Scarves are that one fashion product that is textile but has the least to do with patternmaking and body wearability. So it is like designing a painting made of textiles. What is better than that?

LF: Which is your favorite scarf and what is your favorite way to wear it?
MS: I have a few that I equally favor, each gives me a good mood when I wear it and enhances my outfit. I would wear an outfit as background to a stunning scarf. As opposed to a scarf to top up a busy outfit. I choose the scarf first, rest follows. I like oblongs and I wear them just hanging half on each side of my neck, no rolling. They float more and elongate my figure, I am tall and always wearing quite masculine shoes, so that's my way of softening the overall outfit.

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