In this series I am looking into women’s role in a highly male-dominated field of interest - motoring and motorsports - asking females involved. Part IX. - The fashion designer from Italy
Arguably, one of the most controversial aspects of the gender issues in motorsports in the 2010s an in this series is the implementation of grid/umbrella girls at racing events. Some call the phenomenon a “preposterous meat market” that “should have been left in the 70s”, while others will say there is nothing wrong with a bit of “eye-candy” scattered around the starting line - after all it’s a “men’s sport”.
To get a better grip on the topic, I asked an expert on the issue. Giulia Angelini is a fashion designer from Rome and - among many things - she specialises in creating grid girls’ outfits.
I am a freelance fashion designer and teacher of technical and artistic subjects in Italian public schools, I relate daily with young minds and that’s something very inspiring. I graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and I have always had a very strong passion for the world of fashion and sport, not all sports, but MotoGP. I’m a huge fan of the great riders - I love Valentino Rossi like everyone else sure, he’s unbeaten and unbeatable champion of our times.
Whenever it was possible I have followed the races very close and this thing can drive you crazy if you’re not an insider. I have been on the grid in 2009 at the Estoril circuit and it was an amazing experience, unique. I love designing clothes, dress for women, I think the clothes we love to wear fully represent what we want to be. The model that I follow - undoubtedly - has always been the woman warrior, strong, sexy, hard-working mother who wears the heel 12 during the day, in love with her life and the strength of her character.
McQueen, Lagerfeld, Valentino, Vera Wang, Alexander Wang, Olivier Rousteing are some of the designers and fashion guru that I love deeply and who are - for me - a source of great inspiration every day.
Only fashion for women [drew me to motorsports]. I design the uniforms of the MotoGP Grid Girls for the Suzuki Ecstar Team. I also worked for the Yamaha MotoGP Team, Alfa Romeo SBK and for the Suzuki girls at EICMA in Milan.
This experience was born from a big opportunity when seven years ago I met the sponsoring manager of Fiat Automobiles S.pA. in Turin who asked to me to design the uniforms for the victory of the ninth world championship title of Valentino Rossi in 2009 with the Fiat Yamaha Team. I had the pleasure of working for other five years with Yamaha MotoGP team. Since 2015 I have been working for the Suzuki Ecstar team.
Surely, all [designs] start from a sketch that represents my inspiration mixed with the needs of the team. It’s also important keep the mood in mind, the heritage and the look and feel of the brand that you are working for and surely all the team.
An inspiration can be Japanese manga (it was for Yamaha some years ago), the mechanic woman or the police woman. Once the way forward is decided, it is very important to think about the total look, like more interchangeable pieces and look that will suit for all the needs (weather conditions, different sizes, etc.) of each circuit from time to time - you must think about all the possible eventualities. The uniforms must be comfortable, sexy, stylish and elegant at the same time, adapted to the different bodies of the girls around the world.
[I get as much free hand in the design] depending on what the client requires. According to what is required I elaborate several sketches, the ideas are discussed and developed together with the client before moving on to the final production of the garments. It is usually a 50/50.
There is no single greatest challenge [in my work]. The biggest challenge remains always the same from year to year. The challenge is to bring a job on the grid every year that is better and better from year to year and always fresh, new and different. I continue each year to draw pieces for the girls team and ensure that during all the races there will be no problems, be sure that the work is always perfect every race at every circuit, until the end of the championship. This is my biggest challenge.
I know what it means to struggle in a world of men, I know well what it means to choose to work in a man’s world. But I also know that in MotoGP world all the girls are treated divinely and with total respect. I was specifically asked every year not to propose too short dresses or minimally vulgar. No, I don’t think [the institute of grid girls] is harmful to the image and the role of women in society, women and motors are always been together, beauty is not a crime, the important things are respect and good fair play.