Written + Photographed + Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker 

The Renaissance period beginning in the 1400s in Italy produced some of the greatest minds and artisans that have ever walked the earth. An ideology from the period was the concept of a Renaissance man – a basic tenet that man is limitless in his capacities for development and should engage in as many endeavors as possible.

Today in the 21st Century it could be said the idealism is being re-birthed. The demands of our global economic climate are wiping out singular specialists and requiring multi-skilled professionals, while the digital revolution has enabled the pursuit for further knowledge and development in every area imaginable.

But for London based fashion designer, Vita Gottlieb, her journey to this current destination was as natural as possible fueled by inner desire and creativity rather than demands of external forces, which truly embodies the essence of a Renaissance woman.

Her journey and destined path was personally mapped out while living in Shoreditch, running her art gallery and working as a freelance textile designer. She had just attained her masters degree in fine art from Central Saint Martins, and previously spent seven years in the film industry moving up the ranks to director.

Unsure of which path to pursue, she grabbed a long scroll of wallpaper and immediately began creating columns for a pro and con list for every career she wanted to do. Columns for filmmaking and fashion were quite large, while ones for poet and painter were not.

“There are so many things that I love and want to do. It was quite hard to formulate what is the right career that can make me enough money to keep myself going and to be able to do other things in the future with developing new ideas and projects,” Vita recalled of her life-size spreadsheet.

She put the wallpaper away for a few days so she could come back to it with fresh eyes. When it was rolled out on the floor again, it didn’t take much realization that fashion would be her next development.

The aspiration of a fashion career stems all the way back to her childhood growing up in North London’s Muswell Hill. Her father was a lute maker and her mother a jewelry designer, glassmaker and editor. They immersed their children in creativity with Vita starting off with a sketchbook.

From clipping out images in magazines to drawing the world around her, the sketchbooks served as an artistic portal to inspiration. Images of glamorous ensembles proliferated the sketchbooks throughout her life, which she still keeps inside her home in Islington. Vita’s skills of print making, pattern cutting and sewing are all rooted from the habitual process of sketching with her hands.

For a short period there was an absence of sketching and later a lackluster approach, but it was connecting to that early childhood sketching tendencies that gave way to her re-emergence.

“I’m very much a three-dimensional person. I’m all about color and at that time the color was sort of drained out of me. I was just working in monochrome in two-dimensions,” Vita explained. “I went back to this intense graphic doodling I’ve done when I was a child. I was drawing all of these intricate patterns… What grew out of that was the need to go back into 3-D – the visual, colorful texture world that I love.”

Immediately after this revelation Vita began her freelance textile design business, but the creations were “flat” to her especially since most were being used on interiors. So when she mapped out her career lists on wallpaper, it was an easy progression into fashion.

Starting at a relatively late stage in life compared to her peers and with no formal design and business training, Vita remained undeterred as she began setting up her own fashion label.

Her relentless drive and fearless attitude is as inspiring as its success rate. She setup her production company at 23, her Shed and a Half gallery at 26, and both were done in the same manner of minimal practical experience.

“I’m very aware you only have one life,” Vita said. “I don’t think fear should hold you back.”

Vita premiered her label in February 2012 and an early vindication she was on the right path was being selected as a Fashion Fringe finalist for London Fashion Week that September.

And now with plenty of momentum behind her, Vita’s learning about 10 percent of her time is spent doing creative work in designs with the other 90 percent handling the business and promotion side. 

But when it’s time to get creative there are three things that inspire Vita most: travel, film and nature. It was on a 14 hour flight to Tokyo where she found inspiration that produced most of the looks for her Spring/Summer 2013 collection.

An abundance of layers, textures and colors across the entire spectrum are what Vita likes most in her work. Clean and minimalism is her approach to design as well as lifestyle. Her picturesque home filled to the ceilings with books and magazines is as colorful as it is intricate.

Her personal style though is based in minimalism and comfort. A solid color top with a pair of jeans is seemingly the perfect uniform as she works away in her studio creating the next look of her collection.

Vita’s approach to life, work and art is truly an inspiration and template for the 21st century Renaissance woman.


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