Q&A with Giovanna Ceolini

We're acknowledging the progress women have made - in every facet of life - by highlighting women who have helped lead the way.

Giovanna Ceolini

CEO of Thierry Rabotin.

Can you tell us a bit about you, your brand and how you got to where you are today?
I have spent my whole life working in the shoe industry. I have a Diploma in Accounting however at the time I was working at Cele Ferrario shoe factory in Parabiago. When I started working, I immediately became passionate about footwear. I spent hours and hours watching craftsmen in order to understand their work. Being in the office all day just wasn’t for me! I loved attending trade fairs, meeting customers, talking about the product and placing orders. In 1982, during my time at Cele Ferrario shoe factory, I met Thierry Rabotin. Thierry had the visionary idea of ​​creating elegant shoes, that are simultaneously able to give the sensation of walking barefoot. That meeting changed my life forever.

I became the Sales Manager at both Cele Ferrario and at Conceria Buscatese, where Rabotin put his creativity into practice deciding on new colors to present to Linea Pelle.

In 1995, alongside Thierry and Karl Schlecht, was when my entrepreneurial adventure really began. This adventure culminated in 1999 with the opening of Parabiago Collezioni shoe factory. Today our brand is distributed in more than 600 stores all over the world.
Do any women inspire your work or designs?
My mother is the woman who inspires me every single day. I don't come from a wealthy family, so my mother has always supported my father by working in a local shoe factory. Even when she came home tired, she would always tell me about her day. She would tell me about all the challenges she faced at work which in turn, taught me to never be afraid of problems or run away from responsibilities. This became my philosophy throughout life. Together with my colleagues, both male and female, we deal with different challenges every day. These can be to do with production or customer-related - We have to support and respect our customers. This approach flows on to the people working with me.
What kind of initiatives has your brand taken to empower women in the workplace?
Women are fundamental to us. In fact, there are many women holding key positions within our company, from the beginning to the end of the production process. Women have a totally different sensitivity and an eye for detail that their male colleagues sometimes do not have.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual. What does this mean to you?

It means total respect for women. This is enclosed in our philosophy and summarised by a beautiful quote by Thierry Rabotin: "I like to design shoes that envelop the feet giving the pleasant sensation of walking barefoot". It means creating comfortable shoes that provide all women the freedom to feel elegant and casual in the workplace, just like men.
What message would you like to convey to women thinking about working in the footwear industry?
Don’t feel inadequate or inferior because with our own hands we are capable of creating wonderful products, appreciated all over the world. We must turn our skills into our strengths. 

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