Celebrating Thirty Years of Avant Toi…

Siblings Fiorella and Mirko Ghignone founded Avant Toi in Genoa in 1994. For the past thirty years, they have developed the brand into a fashion house that has revolutionized the world of knitwear, changing the way cashmere is created and perceived. 

On the Port of Genoa’s hilltops, overlooking the Italian maritime city and its gulf, sits Avant Toi’s production facility. 

Continuing the family tradition begun by their mother Lia Gambetta, Fiorella and Mirko’s team uses experimental tactics while building on decades of knitwear expertise, to create one-of-a-kind cashmere. Today, Avant Toi is one of the world’s most advanced companies in the fabrication of precious yarn manufacturing.

The Genoan spirit is one of innovation, experimentation and exploration. Genoans are also a resilient people — once one of the greatest naval powers on the continent, the Ligurian city was hit hard by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. However, in the years that followed, Genoese trade not only revived but expanded, growing to encompass the Far East and the Americas. 

In 1947 post-war Genoa, Avant Toi’s matriarch Lia Gambetta took a tremendous chance at just 20 years old, founding a knitwear company that would become Liapull. Working first in mohair and wool and later specializing in cashmere and silk, Genoa’s pure waters supported the rinsing and thickening necessary for the production of the highest quality cashmere. 

Avant Toi’s hallmark is its refusal of the status quo. Like their mother, siblings Fiorella and Mirko are unwilling to produce anything but the highest quality products and maintain the Genoan spirit of pragmatism: leaving nothing to waste even in their threadwork. The two would prefer to respool their yarns, repair their fabrics and redo an entire production system to make it work, prioritizing a culture of care and carefulness, and rejecting throwaway culture with aplomb. 

Enamored by color and action painting, Mirko moves seamlessly from fashion to art, atelier to gallery. “We had just created the Avant Toi brand, but something was missing. Then the idea: to paint cashmere. To inundate with color using an airbrush, like I do with my artworks. To completely rethink it. We wanted to eliminate the boring and bourgeois character that cashmere represented at the time, in order to endow it with a new and unexpected beauty. From there the adventure commenced.” 

Rejecting sartorial canons, Avant Toi cashmere is approached with the intrepid Genoan spirit — the textile is splattered with paint, torn, destroyed and completely reimagined. Using innovative techniques and precise manual processes, Mirko and his team create new ways of wearing and interpreting clothing as pieces of contemporary art. Continuing the rich “Made in Italy” tradition, Avant Toi remains grounded in the solid foundation of the Liapull knitwear factory. 

“Every garment is like a painting,” Fiorella explains. “After 30 years we continue to follow the same idea, though we always manage to develop products that are always different and evolving. For every collection we use new techniques. We can use a paint roller, paint brush, airbrush, color throw and color dripping. We can also create the same effect of clay and plaster left to dry and then peeled off the surface of the garment,” continued Ghignone.

At Avant Toi, Fiorella manages economics, finances and sales. She has grown the brand tenfold by expanding it into international markets, sharing her family’s legacy with the world. “My passion derives from the fact that our dreams, even the most adventurous ones and for this reason the most exciting, can be realized.” 

If Fiorella is the head of Avant Toi, and Mirko its heart, then Lia Giambetta is its soul. Thirty years since Avant Toi’s founding, and 77 years since Liapull began, Lia Giambetta’s resounding impact on her family is palpable. Still, she chooses to pay it forward. “What moves me the most and gives me great happiness is to think of my granddaughter Giulia as the third generation, who will continue our journey, with an enriched knowledge and with our same enthusiasm.”

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