THE day I speak to Silvia Pellegrino, the wind is whistling a haunting melody through the gaps in the office windows, the sky is dark and the forecast is threatening snow.
My first thought is why would she choose to leave her home in Rome for a stormy Glasgow? The second – this is surely the perfect kind of weather for one of her Hollyhoods?
Made in exclusive tartan and tweed, some lined in faux fur, others with a touch of punk studded detailing, the Hollyhood is a mixture of Italian styling, Hollywood grunge and Scottish practicality. A hood and a scarf in one. But while it works wonders at keeping off the wind, Pellegrino – the design talent behind Chouchou Couture – would prefer you didn’t expose it to the very worst of Scottish weather.“Actually, I see my hoods as more of an elegant combination of a casual and luxury product,” says the 33-year-old in an intoxicating Italian accent with just a hint of Weegie. “I don’t really see it as a waterproof garment because it’s wool, but it’s definitely something that can keep you warm.”
She’ll be needing her favourite Hollyhood Alex (a highly covetable oversized hood made from 100 per cent virgin wool Black Stuart tartan and fully lined in black faux fur) in a chilly but sunny New York this week, when she joins the cream of Scottish design talent at the From Scotland With Love catwalk show, the highlight of the annual Tartan Week celebrations.
She’ll be in good company, showing alongside labels like Vivienne Westwood, Harris Tweed, Judy R Clark and Joyce Paton. “I have no idea what to expect,” she says. “I’ve never been before but I know it’s a very high- profile fashion show and there will be a lot of fantastic local designers. The preparations are huge because this is a new market for us.”
She adds, “I’m so happy that at a time when everybody is trying to save their money, they’re choosing to buy quality products, whether that be Chouchou or something else. I had the luck to grow up in a culture that appreciates quality garments. My grandmother always said to me it is better to buy less, but really good quality because it makes a difference in so many ways – in the way you appear, in the way you feel and the way you act even.
“And I really want to give back to Scotland because the opportunities that have been offered to me have been just incredible. The Scots are loved worldwide – who wouldn’t love the Scots? You are so friendly and warm and fun. This is a fantastic country to live in.”
She first visited the country when she was aged around 20, on a summer holiday while studying modern languages. “I just fell in love with Glasgow – it was such an fantastic place, really inspiring in terms of the architecture but, also, I immediately noticed how different the style was to what I was used to, which is very simple, a lot of black involved, very classic. Here it is funky, it’s colourful, it’s fun. From my perspective it’s super-inspiring.”
She studied fashion design in Holland for four years, spent some time working in LA, before returning to Italy.
“But when I was faced with the choice of where I wanted my business to be set up, I decided absolutely the UK, and I chose Glasgow straight away.”Inspiration for her Hollyhoods, however, came not from downtown Sauchiehall Street but from her time in US, “and the west coast in particular, where they wear a lot of hoods as part of the culture”. She realised a similar item could work as both a style statement and as protection from the elements. But it is the use of luxury fabrics that sets her apart from the average hoodie. “When I was back in Italy, I was working for Christian Dior and some fantastic tailors – one in particular who used to work with Valentino, in the couture house – so I learned how important the quality of the fabric is. I did a lot of research and made some great contacts with fabric providers.”
She caught the attention of Vogue when she created a Hollyhood in tartan, which in turn led to a collaboration with Calzeat textiles in the Borders and Glenisla Kilts – a key player in Tartan Week and a brand that has worked with labels such as Mulberry and Prada. The results of that collaboration will be unveiled for the first time on the New York catwalk.
• Hollyhoods from £40 (www.chouchoucouture.com)