Sylvia Pichler grew up in Bolzano, a picturesque city, surrounded by mountains in northern Italy. With a strong family background in architecture and steel construction, it was only natural that Sylvia would study architecture but her ability to see building materials for more than building materials would draw her into the world of fashion and lead her to create Zilla. Designed and made in Italy, the Zilla brand experiments with unexpected materials to construct handbags like sponge, silicone and doormats to construct functional handbags that a things of beauty and live somewhere between the world of fashion and art. In our interview with Sylvia we delve into her creative process, the growth of her brand and the importance of fashion to the Italian woman.

Can you give us a brief rundown of how you started Zilla?
I created Zilla in 2005, and I am proud to tell you that it been an evolving and successful journey over the past ten years. But the real beginning was during my time at university. I studied architecture and I was thrilled to be surrounded by all the technical materials as it really inspired me to get creative! I hand sewed an orange rubber bag for myself, using a material that is used to smooth walls. I went to the Art Biennale in Venice with this bag and it attracted a lot of interest from many people. My first client was Penelope in Brescia, the owner of a super store in Italy with the coolest brand selection at the time.

How has the brand grown and evolved since you started?
The first bags were sewed all exclusively by hand by myself, then I had a few women sewing for me and today all the bags are made in a small factory with 15 people near Venice. Zilla is still very small, but we have a very good selection of clients and stores.

If you could describe Zilla in 5 words, what would they be?
Minimalist design, tactile surface, ironic look, experimental, avant-garde.


What sets Zilla apart from other brands?  
The material selection and the minimalist design never with a visible label.

What does the name Zilla mean? How did you come up with it?
Zilla was used in Südtirol in the past as the nickname for Cecilia, a very common old name for woman. It was normal for them to sew or stitch or knit, and handcrafting. 10 years ago I started sewing handbags by hand, but with contemporary uncommon materials for bags, a 'Zilla' in my time.

Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
I'm always searching for new materials that inspires the style of Zilla for a new collection. For me, this is the most interesting and important part of the process.  After that, I start sketching every single bag and detail just by a few lines by hand, then I meet with my production manager and he creates the first prototypes. Finally, I give him the materials and colours to finalise the finished prototypes and then the sales campaign can start.

Can you share some of the materials you’ve experimented with to construct handbags?
The craziest materials I've used are : sound isolations, natural stone, sponge, silicone, house top isolations and doormats. Now I use a lot of leather and jute covered with aluminium to have mouldable bags, and reflective foils used in photography laminated with cotton to make it resistant.


Your family has a strong background in Architecture and steel construction, does that impact your design process? If so, how?
It was never my purpose, but since the first collection I always use aluminium and different metals as I'm very attracted to design mouldable and foldable bags.

How would you describe the style of Italian women? Are there any style secrets that Italian women could teach the rest of the world?
I think well dressed Italian women have a deep intuition to combine fabrics and colours and I think to be well dressed in Italy is much more important as in many other countries, so quietly every Italian is interested in fashion and it is a popular talking point amongst Italians. Just look how many different fashion magazines we have.

What inspires you?
I am inspired when I discover new materials that evoke an emotion in me and I feel passion  to create  new collection.


What do you enjoy doing most when you’re not creating?
My two little girls, Lina will be 3 in August and Anna was born in January this year. So you can imagine that occupies a lot of my time!

What is your current state of mind?
In two weeks the new Spring-Summer pre-collection must be ready to start the sales campaign in my Milano showroom, so I'm in continuous contact with Mr. Franco to finalize every detail from the prototypes.

Where to next for Zilla?
Once my girls are a bit older and I have more time, I would love to do more trade shows around the world and also create a small men´s collection in a few styles. I also plan to open my own online store.

Shop the Zilla Collection here.

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