Anello Ciambella (coming this fall)
When you think “fine jewelry,” you might think of diamonds and emeralds, silver and gold, but when Cynthia Vilchez Castiglioni sits down to design the latest collection of Aliita rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings, she dreams of dinosaurs, robots and donuts.
Aliita is a breath of fresh air in the world of high-end accessories, blending a uniquely girlish touch with a minimal eye, crafting elevated yet whimsical looks that tell a deeper, more personal story about the wearer.
Born in Venezuela, Castiglioni founded Aliita in her adopted country of Italy eight years ago. She’s fiercely proud of her company and it’s dedicated to fine craftsmanship and quality, without sacrificing an ounce of personality.
We caught up with Castiglioni to learn more about the magic that goes into each Aliita design, and what is coming up next, just in time for this holiday season.
How does your childhood in Venezuela influence Aliita?
I grew up in Venezuela, in Zulia, Maracaibo, which is my city. It's the second most important city, so there were many things happening in Maracaibo at that time. Even though it's an underdeveloped city, when I was living there, we had a lot of influence. We had one museum and one theater, and I miss [the culture]. Even though it was already a bit dangerous in the country, because it was already not the best of situations, we learned to live with a smile. Any reason was enough to celebrate and this is something I really love. Even though you saw your friend yesterday, you see him today and you want to hug him. You saw him yesterday, but I'm making today the day, and this is something I really, really miss.
A lot of colors were part of my daily life, because Maracaibo was full of color, full of energy and full of persistence. These different things have been very influential to me, and they influence the collection colors, from the stones to the enamels, and also the fact of offering something with a message.
Aliita takes these three things from Venezuela: the colors, this idea about the feelings and showing them, and the fact of deep messages, that there needs to be something important. I really wanted that identity to be very clear in the Aliita DNA since the beginning.
Pendente coccodrill: COCODRILO ESMERALDA NECKLACE, $420
I was reading the about page on the Aliita website, and I instantly loved the story of how you chose the name Aliita from the language of the indeginious people of Venezuela.
Regarding the Guajiros, they are very close to Maracaibo, so I wanted to create a link to them. They have been one of the few indeginous groups that manage to keep their traditions, even though they have to come to the city and work with the jobs they can find, they go back to their place, which is one hour from Maracaibo, and they keep all of their traditions. I really admire that, and they are very proud and they keep using their language. I looked in their dictionary for the word that means "important objects," which is Aliita, and then it was perfect for me because it is also Italia's anagram. We are putting together these two things that are exactly the meaning of this brand, and it’s a feminine name that I really like.
Collana Ciambella (coming this fall)
What inspired you to get into jewelry design in the first place?
Jewelry has always been my passion since I was a child. I was always making little things for my mother, even though she doesn’t wear jewelry. I managed to do some courses in fine arts when I was a teenager, and I was always super curious. By the time I was expecting my first child, I was working in fashion, and it came to me suddenly. I started designing things just for myself, things I felt I needed to wear. A friend told me, “Why don’t you make more to sell?” Then my husband told me, “when we are always traveling and I can't find you, I always find you in front of the jewelry windows. So this is really your thing, just take this opportunity and start.” I was not expecting to do a big brand. I was just thinking I enjoy this, but of course, it's like another child, and it takes a lot of dedication and time, but everything came naturally.
Orecchino ciliegia: CEREZA EARRINGS, $1190
I was immediately struck by how fun the designs can be. What inspires you to create a little carrot in precious stones, or a dinosaur?
It's very much related to what I'm living and feeling, of course, as I'm taking care of the creative parts. The dino was—as I was saying, I have two children and they were just talking about dino every day. In my childhood, I was really not interested in this, so it was something totally new for me. The dino became a big part of my life, so I had to dedicate space to that.
Then, I found that there were so many women that just love the dino, and this is really interesting for me; to find some element that can connect people in different worlds with different tastes and in different age ranges. That is very nice.
It’s also important to me to change the concept of high jewelry. It's something kind of serious, kind of cold, distant, and I really want to change this. I want an elevated piece that can give you a smile, that you can feel really close to, and recognize or remember something from your life. The concept for us is to focus it on what you're feeling and what you want to represent by wearing it, or how this jewelry makes you feel when you wear it, no matter if someone else cannot even see it. It's just about you and what this makes you feel.
Ballerina: BAILAORA RED NECKLACE, $530
What's inspiring you right now?
In August, I try to travel, go to exhibitions, do a little bit of research, but also just to give myself time to think or read a book. These elements together makes me think of a collection. We just delivered a new one, it’s now in the showroom selling campaign, so this collection will come out around October. It's about donuts and sprinkles. I felt it was the time to just have fun, like literally. It's full of bright colors, but we also use a little bit more gold and natural stones with color. I felt it was really representing what we wanted to share with our clients about this happiness and joy, to be together and have fun after all these years of being apart. We love the details, the raspberry feel, the sprinkles, the chocolate, the strawberry glaze and all these things.
Can you name a few of your favorite pieces?
I really like the Deco Sandwich collection, because the pieces are so elegant and fun. I like to add a touch of irony, like the martini with the emerald as the olive and these kinds of things. Also, from the pure collection, the shark. I really like the details, because we managed to do all these teeth very sharp, very incredible. I'm so happy when I see these things.
Regarding the high end rings, I really like the diaspro, which is kind of an architectural ring because it's very square on another square. We got a rectangle which makes a big volume, but at the end, it's very empty inside this line.
Collano Corallo: Concha Necklace, $690
It’s clear you have a lot of fun with these designs. What have been some of the bigger lessons that you've learned in the process of running this business?
I think the importance of consistency, and to keep persisting and pursuing what you were looking for. Also, to be very encouraging of your team is also very important. I spend a lot of time in the office, and it's like a second family. We can really count on each other, and this is very nice as well. It's not finding employees. It's much more than that.
Your team is all in Italy, right?
Everything is made in Italy. This is something that we really care about. Even the paper we use for the packaging, the chains and everything. It's part of the consistency I was talking about before, but they are really masters. I'm so impressed, maybe because I'm not Italian, but it's incredible.
For instance, the one that does the hand carving, his whole life is focusing on flowers. I was like, “Could you please do a dino for me?” He's like “no no, I'm doing flowers.’ After two years of calling and asking, “please, please do this for me,” they decided to try it and we got something different; a classic technique but in a new and modern way. Thinking someone spent their whole life just on flowers, these details—for me, it's incredible. The dedication and the hard work, that I learned in Italy. That is definitely a big part of Aliita as well.
Collana Anguria: Watermelon Necklace, $690
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Visit Aliita online to see more of Castiglioni's designs and learn more about her unique approach to fine jewelry.
Photography by: Courtesy of Aliita