Giuliana Leila Raggiani and Yoko Luna Are a Match Made in Turtleneck Heaven
The Giu Giu designer on her Brussels Griffon’s favorite ’60s-inspired knitwear, Fashion Week duties, and habit of sitting on strange men’s feet.
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There’s nothing cuter than a little dog in a sweater — except maybe a little dog in a sweater whose human is wearing a matching sweater. Especially when those matching sweaters are from super chic knitwear brand giu giu.
Designer Giuliana Leila Raggiani established the brand in 2013 after studying knitwear at Central Saint Martins in London and designing at Tess Giberson, Alexander Wang, and Calvin Klein. Her first piece under the new label was the simple, body-con, ribbed NONNA turtleneck. Inspired by a piece her grandmother designed in the ’60s, the sweater was a hit, and soon Raggiani had a thriving business on her hands.
Then she met Yoko Luna — her Brussels Griffon — and after struggling to find high-quality, stylish dog clothes, decided to start creating her own. Now she’s selling her doggy designs online at giugiu.world and at select high-end retailers while expanding her range to include more pieces for dogs and humans alike — all under the watchful and discerning eye of Yoko, of course.
How did you and Yoko meet?
I had been searching for a dog for over three years. I tried adoption agencies, shelters, breeders, you name it. Each time I found one, something would happen and it would fall through. Then, in October 2019, I was in Kyoto celebrating my 30th birthday, and I received a text from a breeder I had contacted months earlier letting me know there was a little runt from her last litter that needed a home. He sent me a photo and as soon as I saw her, I knew she was my girl. Those ocean eyes sent darts right into my heart and I simply couldn’t say no.
How has it been designing clothes for her?
She’s pretty demanding in the design process! All kidding aside, at first I was just doing it for fun, without any expectations, but it’s really been a success so far. There’s definitely a big love for them in Japan and it’s always such a sweet surprise to get a tag on Instagram.
Does Yoko have a favorite outfit?
Each day is a different mood, but her go-to is her celery NONNA turtleneck — paired with her hand-beaded charm necklace, of course.
Is there anything you love that she just refuses to wear?
I bought her this baby-blue puffer last winter, and for some reason she really doesn’t like it. It’s strange because she’s good with almost any garment, but this coat really bothers her. It has a hood and if I put it on her, she gets super emo and lays her body flat on the floor with her head down. Very dramatic. She’s also not a huge fan of her snow boots, but she refuses to walk in the cold rain or snow, so it’s our only solution! I’m thinking about some waterproof knits for her, since raincoats aren’t the comfiest gear. It would be nice to do something cozy that would still be functional and protect her from he rain.
You and Yoko split your time between LA and Paris. Is Yoko a good traveler?
She’s truly the best. She is so adaptable to new environments — very chill on planes — and she eases my anxiety when flying. She is a major germaphobe (like her mama), and one time, when we had an unusually long flight (14 hours plus a layover), I took her to use the public “animal relief” area in the airport, thinking it wouldn’t be possible for her to hold it that long. She took one step inside, tilted her head, and just looked at me like, “Um… are you joking?” She refused to go. She preferred to wait until the end of the journey. I was completely shocked. I didn’t think that was possible. She’s a true guru for “mind over matter.”
What’s her most unusual trait?
She has this weird thing about sitting on strange men’s feet. I don’t know why, but if we’re out in public, sometimes I’ll catch her either leaning on them or sitting on their feet. Just recently, in Switzerland, my brother and I were waiting for a train and I caught her perched on an older ski instructor’s boot while he was reading a book. He didn’t seem to mind, but it was just a funny little moment.
Why did you decide to name her Yoko?
In Japanese, “Yoko” means “ocean child” or “sun child,” and those are two things she loves most. She is a sun-worshipping water baby. Also, her big watery moon eyes made me fall in love with her from the start. Her middle name is Luna, which is what I originally wanted to name my pup, but Yoko felt a bit more fitting to her.
How has your relationship changed over the course of the pandemic?
People warned me that Griffons are called “velcro dogs” for a reason and I think we have taken that term to another level during the pandemic! We’re literally one body now. We’re always in sync — energetically and physically. I feel incomplete without her and she does without me. Some people may call it “attachment issues,” but her loyalty is something I’ve never experienced from another being and I’m beyond grateful for it.
I take it she comes to work with you, then. What’s she like in the studio?
She really wants to be a part of everything. She “clocks in” and checks on everyone to make sure they’re all keeping up with their tasks. We call her “the manager.” She also loves greeting buyers in the showroom during Fashion Week and helping with their selections. It’s so sweet to see her bring so much joy to everyone.
And what’s next for giu giu?
Top on my list, is opening an experiential shop “GIU GIU House いえ” in Japan, ideally in Kyoto. We have so many beautiful customers in Japan and it would be a dream to be able to connect more with them in person and have a physical space to host them for a full giu giu experience. I’d also like to expand beyond knits, with an emphasis on sustainability. It’s amazing how many new technologies there are in the industry, and it’s important to do my part as a designer, seeing the conditions of the Earth these days.
And more doggy designs too, right?
Or course! But we’ll have to see what exactly Yoko has in mind.
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Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.